Ivory and rhino-horn trove from TV’s Storage Wars in Presley March 5-6 auction


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A partial representation of the ivory jewelry and horn objects to be offered. Photo courtesy Don Presley Auctions.

ORANGE, Calif. – The biggest hit to emerge from this season’s roster of antiques-related TV shows is an unpretentious dark horse that quickly overshadowed a field of glossier contenders. Each week the rough-hewn but addictive reality show Storage Wars pits four veteran buyers against each other as they bid “blindly” on the contents of storage units whose rent has gone unpaid. Sometimes the winning bidder ends up with worthless junk that goes straight to the dumpster; but other times the contents are of considerable value and end up in high-profile auctions – like the trove of Chinese antiques to be auctioned March 5-6 at Don Presley’s gallery in Orange, California.

Presley, who has conducted on-air appraisals for Storage Wars, received the Asian consignment from David Hester, whom he jokingly describes as the “villain” among the regulars appearing on A & E’s popular Wednesday night show. Hester’s storage-locker find includes an extensive selection of Chinese ivory necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pendants; rhino- and buffalo-horn pendants, and a pair of foo dogs. Collectively, their value is estimated to be as much as $10,000.

tall french carved case clock
French tall-case bronze ormolu clock, 7ft. 3in. tall, with cherubs and paw feet, estimate $20,000-$35,000.

“David was not even sure that what he had was ivory, but when he brought it in for an appraisal, I told him he had hit a home run,” Presley said. “Whoever bought the pieces in that storage locker obviously bought a lot of ivory as well as horn of various types, but they may not have known that what they had was rhino horn, which is rare and very valuable. It can sometimes be mistaken for a much more common type of horn.”

Upon receiving the Hester consignment, Presley set about gathering other Chinese antiques from private estates in Beverly Hills – a turf he knows very well. From one upscale estate, he received a 5½-inch rhino-horn libation cup with carvings of rabbits, estimated at $15,000-$25,000; plus a pair of stamps (seals) and a rhino-horn snuff bottle, encased in silver and decorated with carved lions, complete with a curved ivory dipper.

A Chinese family with whom Presley has had prior dealings contributed to the sizable Asian section of the sale a superb 19th-century carved-ivory bust of a female deity wearing a crown with five bas-relief carvings of goddesses. The finely detailed bust is mounted on a rosewood base inscribed with Chinese writing, and is estimated at $7,000-$10,000. The family also consigned a nicely carved ivory bridge and ivory figures of an emperor, 1000-Hands Bodhisattva and several Immortals.

Presley’s March 5-6 auction also includes European fine art, antiques and quality collectibles, almost all of which are fresh to the market. A Joan Miro (Spanish, 1893-1983) lithograph and two particularly desirable hand-signed and “H.C.”-annotated Miro artist’s proofs came from a Las Vegas estate.

The sale also includes an array of authenticated French advertising posters from the Art Nouveau period. The posters promote a variety of products, including wine and vermouth, and an especially nice example features a dance hall girl climbing up a ladder. The art section also includes oil paintings by noted fashion artist Huldah Cherry Jeffe (American, 1901-2001), watercolors, and Louis Icart lithographs.

Presley’s gallery has been filled with the sounds of ticking timekeepers from a consignment that includes a boulle mantel clock, a 7ft. 3in. French bronze ormolu tall-case clock with cherubs and paw feet (est. $20,000-$35,000); Sevres porcelain and candelabra garniture sets, a cloisonné clock topped by a horse figure, and a Sevres-style clock with champleve face and matching candelabra.

“There is a historically important French gilt bronze mantel clock in the sale that appears to have been given as a gift to a European military hero,” said Presley. “It’s dated 1856, hallmarked, and has porcelain Roman numerals and three winged cherubs, as well as an inscribed dedication on the front to General Leopold Heinrich von Wedell of Luxembourg. We expect it to sell in the vicinity of $15,000 to $25,000.”

Several examples of ever-desirable antique Louis Vuitton luggage will be offered, including a flat trunk, circa first decade of the 20th century, which may have been used to transport rifles. It retains its original lock and key, and has a Louis Vuitton Exposition Universalles Paris 1900 label inside. Its exterior is marked “Second King’s Royal Rifles, Sgt. W.H. Heath.” The trunk is estimated at $8,000-$12,000. Also to be auctioned is a serial-numbered Louis Vuitton hatbox with the LV Paris and London label.

The highest estimate in the sale – $200,000-$300,000 – has been applied to a GIA-certified emerald specimen carved to replicate a muscular, rugged-looking man climbing a large rock. The chunky emerald clustered in black mica schist weighs over 22 lbs. and measures 28.30 by 24 by 18.70 cm. (11.14 x 9.45 x 7.36 inches). Quite likely, it is of Brazilian origin. The carving was probably executed more than a century ago, Presley said, and the piece has been in the same Colombian family’s possession for 50 years.

Some lucky bidder will be cruising home in a luxurious 2005 Bentley Continental GT Coupe. When not being driven, the meticulously maintained one-owner car has been housed in a climate-controlled Newport Beach garage. The car has a 12-cylinder, 550-h.p. engine and has clocked up only 80,000 original miles.

Other auction highlights include a Baldwin medium grand piano with bench, heavily adorned with gilt bronze ormolu, estimated at $25,000-$40,000; more than 30 lots of sterling silver, and a beautiful selection of Tiffany Studios vases, boudoir lamps and other glass creations. Additional highlights include a pair of 19th-century Sevres gilt bronze mounted, covered urns, hand painted and artist signed, $18,000-$25,000; and an extremely desirable, circa-1880s Regina table-model disc player with cabinet and five 27-inch discs. “Usually you’ll only see that size disc with Regina upright models,” said Presley. The early musical rarity is expected to make $15,000-$20,000 on auction day.

All forms of bidding will be available for Don Presley’s March 5-6 auction, including live via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers.com. For additional information, call 714-633-2437 or email info@donpresleyauction.com. Visit Don Presley Auctions online at www.donpresleyauction.com.

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More Images:

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Carved-ivory deity on rosewood base with Chinese inscription, estimate $7,000-$10,000.
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Pair of signed 19th-century Sevres covered urns, estimate $18,000-$25,000.
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GIA-certified emerald in black mica schist carved to replicate a rugged-looking man climbing a large rock, weighs over 22 lbs., measures 11.14 x 9.45 x 7.36 inches, estimate $200,000-$300,000
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Circa-1880s Regina table-model music box with cabinet and five 27-inch discs, estimate $15,000-$20,000.
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Baldwin medium grand piano and bench with gilt bronze ormolu adornment, estimate $25,000-$40,000.
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French gilt bronze cherub clock dated 1856 with inscription to 19th-century military hero Gen. Leopold Heinrich von Wedell, estimate $15,000-$20,000.
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A selection of antiques that includes three rhino-horn libation cups (upper right) and a silver-encased snuff bottle (left).

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