The weekend after Thanksgiving proved once again that antique collectors and aficionados are looking to be fed by sales of fresh to the market, quality furniture, art and decorative accessories. Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers’ 50th Annual Thanksgiving Americana sale Nov. 26-27, which featured the renowned Quaker Hill collection of Richard and the late Sue Studebaker, nourished that desire drawing over 1,100 registered bidders, including 10 percent who were new clients to Garth’s, an indicator of the slow and steady resurgence of the market.
Regularly driving the prices to levels beyond the estimates were a dedicated group of 300 people who filled the saleroom on "Black Friday". Traditionally a day for “big box,” retail stores, the Friday attendance was an excellent lesson about the power of a name. The sale combined the Studebaker notoriety (as pillars of the Ohio collecting community) with Garth’s reputation (as the only place to sell a premier Ohio collection), creating fireworks – of the best kind.
With the saleroom at “standing-room-only” capacity, friends and admirers of the Studebakers bid fiercely in their attempts to take home their own piece of Quaker Hill. The top lot of the Studebaker session was a portrait by American artist, Rembrandt Peale. Painted circa 1800, the portrait depicted Jacob Walsh, Jr. (1772-1843), a well-dressed merchant from Baltimore in front of a window revealing a harbor view (with one of the ships flying a US flag). Measuring 36 inches high by 27 1/2 inches wide, the portrait was estimated at $20,000-30,000. With its strong provenance and appearance in Miller’s, In Pursuit of Fame: Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860), it sold for an outstanding $29,375 after a battle between two phone bidders.
The session’s next top lot was a highly desirable Ohio sampler – one of twenty-five examples offered from the Studebakers. Beyond her love of filling their home with all manner of objects, textiles and the study of schoolgirl needlework in particular were the focus of Sue Studebaker’s collecting habits. Her book, "Ohio is My Dwelling Place," was accompanied by a landmark exhibition at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster. Appearing as figure 129 in that book, a fine Ohio sampler by Hannah Scudder of Piqua(Miami County) was executed in 1836 and adorned with a two-story home with shuttered windows flanked by a palm tree, baskets of fruit, birds, and flowers. The similarities with works completed by students from the Waynesville School in Warren County may have helped drive the price to $15,275 against an estimate of $1,500-3,000. Another sampler by Achsah Carter of Smithfield, Jefferson County, Ohio also appeared in the book and sold for $4,218. While some may have preferred documented examples, equally strong prices were garnered for samplers that were not included in the book, including a silk on linen worked in 1831 by Sarah Homes Schenck of Piqua, Miami County, Ohio. Sarah signed and dated her sampler above four sets of intricately worked alphabets and in the pictorial portion, she centered an overflowing floral urn, birds flying above, two hearts, diamond motifs, and a two-story house, all elements driving the price to $7,168. A lot comprised of a cotton and linen show towel with traditional needlework motifs wrought by and a related fraktur made for Anna Fundenburg of Montgomery County, Ohio made an excellent pair and sold for well above the $300-600 estimate at $3,408.
“The Studebakers bought with a good eye and a bit of forgiveness for condition," said Garth’s CEO Jeff Jeffers. "In today’s market, that can hurt a collection, but it didn’t seem to matter to the bidders, who, at this auction, were clearly more interested in provenance than they were in original finish.”
Items listed in the catalog with “imperfections” included a Hepplewhite inlaid tall case clock dating to the late 18th century. Even with unsigned works, the clock made $6,463. A group of four printed Pennsylvania fraktur by Heinrich Otto and Frederick Krebs all from the same family had handcoloring and some foxing, but still brought double the estimate at $1,998. Two table top globes, one marked “Loring’s Terrestrial” from Boston and the other “Kirkwood’s New Terrestrial” from Dublin, brought $2,531 and $3,525 respectively, the latter fetching triple the estimate. An 18th century high chest with an old red flame grained surface was attributed to new Hampshire and sold within estimate for $7,833 despite replaced brasses.
Other lots showed the diversity and whimsy of the Studebaker collection. A boxed set of George IV playing cards with handcolored engravings of maps, portraits and more with each suit representing a different part of the world realized an impressive $3,995. Attributed to Connecticut and once published in a 1963 issue of The Magazine Antiques, a red oak and white pine dovetailed box with original iron hinges and relief-carved decoration of tulips and the name "1716 Ruth Allen" sold for an outstanding $8,225. Several lots of early firearms sold well including a European flintlock pistol with engraved lock and crowned initials for $2,772 and a 19th century flintlock full-stock rifle attributed to Pennsylvania with an engraved patchbox for $2,820. A late 18th century Massachusetts leather fire bucket was decorated simply with just a name and the year 1794, but it still surpassed its estimate selling for $2,350.
“Selling the family collection has been, of course, an emotional process for Richard and his sons," auctioneer Andy Richmond said, "but they were quite pleased not only with the results of the sale, but of the presentation of the collection in the catalog. Richard was particularly touched with the tribute to him and Sue in the front of the catalog, but we wouldn’t have done any less for such good, and long-time, friends of the company. We were honored to have handled the collection.”
The Saturday session brought together over 600 lots from other consignors and continued the run of strong prices. The competition for folk art in the auction was particularly notable. A group of Lodge and Odd Fellows items attracted many bidders with a 61 ½ inch long, carved “heart in hand” staff retaining the original gold and blue paint and darkened patina soaring to $16,450. A late 19th century advertising sign, also retained original paint, with the design of an owl perched on a burning cigar surrounded by the words “Owl Cigar NOW 5¢”. Signed by the artist “Abe Abram,” the 60 inch tall sign sold for $5,875. A bakery trade sign in the form of a pretzel was decorated with old gold paint and only measured 20” wide, but tripled its estimate reaching a hammer price of $2,468. An ebony wood and bone carving of a church by Illinois artist Conrad Grasshoff exemplified the best of the artist’s work and it sold for $7,931. Carved entirely by hand, it was started in 1872 and finished in 1914 with working doors, glass windows painted to resemble stained glass, a removable roof, and a detailed interior complete with people dressed in their Sunday clothes and a minister preaching at the pulpit. An imaginative carved wooden figure of plane in the form of a bald eagle, with spread wings, tin propellers, and the original red, white and blue paint in a star and stripes motif soared past estimate to $5,053.
Traditional and formal pieces produced fine prices, as well. An American Chippendale mahogany tall post bed with acanthus leaf carved details surprised everyone selling for $5,875, while a 19th century gilded girondole mirror with elaborate carving and two candlearms made $2,585. A selection of early glass yielded substantial results with the top lot having been sold once before at Garth’s in 1997. The American glass lamp with the opalescent font and blue overlay on an opalescent blue base had a molded patent date of 1862 and a final bid of $3,290. Two blown, amber glass bottles, each with twenty-four swirled ribs sold for $1,175 and $940. A green sunburst flask from Keene Malboro Street Glassworks in New Hampshire realized $1,528 and a Pittsburgh glass scroll flask by John Robinson and Son Manufacturers, which was noted to be “scarce”, sold for $1,410.
The paintings in the Saturday session were led by a portrait of a brown haired girl wearing a vibrant blue dress and holding a small red book. Measuring 14 1/2"h. 11 1/2"w., the portrait was attributed to William Prior of Massachusetts and although unsigned, it brought triple the estimate selling for $15,275. A still life of corn by Kansas/California artist Alfred Montgomery and a hunting scene of two dogs on point by Indiana artist William McKendree Snyder were each estimated at $2,000-4,000, but sold for $4,994 and 9,106, respectively.
The power of a name was yet again shown when the top lot of the Saturday session was a battle flag which had belonged to Lt. Commander James Parker from the Second Battle of Fort Fisher. Estimated at $25,000-30,000, the flag, pennant, and the documents in the lot had remained in the possession of Parker’s descendants until consigned to Garth’s. According to tradition, it was raised at Fort Fisher( in the port of Wilmington, North Carolina ) upon its capture by the Union Army and Navy during the Civil War. Parker was commended for his actions during the battle. The provenance and the outstanding condition of the flag brought a winning bid of $29,375 from a private collector.
Eclectic Sale Serves as “Dessert” For the Thanksgiving Auction Feast
A quick six days later Garth’s held an Eclectic auction on December 3rd. With over 1200 lots, the enthusiasm and dedication of the crowd was extraordinary throughout the entire Friday session. Despite the cold weather outside( or perhaps because of it ), it was Garth’s top Eclectic sale of 2010. The sale also served as the debut of Garth’s newest apprentice auctioneer, Justin Arnold, who manages and catalogs the Eclectic auctions as his “day” job.
A group of four carved and painted duck decoys included examples by the Dodge Decoy Co., Percy Perkins and one attributed to Mason. The lot glided to a sale price of $1,928. Among the large selection of dolls and toys (most appropriate for the time of the year), a two-part W.S. Reed chromolithographed toy train chugged to a sale price of $940, while a group of WWI metal toy soldiers, tanks & accessories won a bid of $1,175. A group of signed dollhouse accessories with replicas of period furniture filled someone’s dollhouse nicely for $999.
On a larger scale, a two-piece Victorian bedroom suite with a 92 inch high, carved headboard was taken home for a reasonable $1,146. A Southern pine pie safe with twelve geometrically punched tins, porcelain pull and high tapered legs realized $1,528.
As is typical at Garth’s, the sale of silver was robust, with one group of miscellaneous sterling selling for an amazing $3,525. A 13-piece silver tea service in a swirl pattern with foliate accents sold for $2,115. Eight lots of nice flatware sets by makers such as Gorham and Towle each brought prices ranging from $740 to $1,116 to $2,115.
Garth’s is currently accepting consignments for its 2011 auction schedule. For additional information, call 740-362-4771 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Garth’s is located at 2960 Stratford Road, Delaware, Ohio.
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