Craftsman era sells strong at Rago Auction

By Beth Mauro – For Antique Trader

Fans of Craftsman furniture and decorative arts were out in full force at the Craftsman Arts & Crafts Auction Weekend held March 11-12 at the Rago Auction House in Lambertville, N.J. In addition to the crowd in the standing-room-only hall and the 115 people who left absentee bids, “There were 162 phone bidders, a record for an Arts & Crafts sale,” reported David Rago. “There were 500+ online bidders on Saturday and nearly 800 on Sunday. Ebay has more impact on Sunday than Saturday with $2,000 being the cut-off bidding level for most of them.”

The auction was a grand tour of American art pottery, featuring an alphabet of makers from Arequipa and Atlantic to Zark and Zsolnay. The room was awash in fine examples of sturdy oak furniture and lighting fixtures that looked as contemporary today as they had 100 years ago.

The auction got off to an exciting start with 58 lots from the Reingold collection that were presented for the first time in a generation. Dr. Marvin and Eileen Reingold have amassed an encyclopedic collection including pieces from the rarest and most important companies and studios. The first lot, a George Ohr tall vase with ribbon handles and a red and green mottled vase, soared to $70,000.

That was followed by an Arequipa vase decorated in squeeze bag and enamel for $15,000 and a Marblehead teapot by Arthur Baggs featuring a geometric pattern in black on dark green. Lively bidding on a Shearwater baluster vase incised with birds, beetles and flowers in black and brown on an ivory ground, believed to be by Walter Anderson, doubled its high estimate at $12,000.

Newcomb College had many fans for the early or rare examples. A tall and early vase carved by Harriet Joor sold at $30,000. An 11-piece tea set by A.F. Simpson drew $10,000. Winning this auction’s best backyard find was a large and fine transitional vase with a landscape carved by Sadie Irvine. It was discovered in a San Diego backyard two months ago and it sold for $9,500.

Furniture offerings included chairs, rockers, settees and a variety of tables from Gustav Stickley, L. & J.G. Stickley, Charles Stickley and Stickley Brothers. There was a particular interest in the earlier Gustav Stickley lots. A poppy table with floriform lower shelf and stem shaped cut-out leg brought action in the room on the phone and online with the hammer coming down at $13,000. A pair of V-back billiards chairs with original finish garnered $16,000. Absentee bidders drove an extremely rare cellarette attributed to Harvey Ellis, circa 1903, up to $19,000 and it was finally won by a bidder in the room.

Limbert, Lifetime and Harden were represented with pieces as well. Roycroft collectors were in a spending mood as they jockeyed for a bird’s eye maple vanity with pivoting mirror and matching chair from the Emerson room of the Roycroft Inn in East Aurora, N.Y., well exceeding the top estimate at $12,000. An important sideboard with leaded-glass cabinet doors over a mirrored back with original copper hardware brought $35,000. The sideboard was custom built at the Roycroft shops for the Sharp house and hailed from the estate of Miriam Hubbard Roelofs. A rare hammered copper and silver four-sided vase designed by Dard Hunter garnered $8,000.

Following the trend at shows, lighting sold well. A Quezal brass table lamp with 11 branches topped by Quezal floriform shades bought $4,750. A Gustav Stickley floor lamp with silk-lined wicker shade on shoe feet with a hammered copper arm sold for $9,500. A rare Fulper faceted lantern made to imitate copper or bronze complete with faux rivets and straps surrounding leaded glass panes generated plenty of interest. Only three are known to have survived; this one sold for $4,500. An Albert Berry hammered copper and fossilized walrus tusk lamp base earned $7,000.

Both days held some surprises. “I thought that the record prices for the Newcomb and Ohr Vases were higher than I’d expected and the Marblehead pieces were surprisingly strong. The Handel lamp at $50,000 (including premium) was jaw-dropping,” said Rago.

On Saturday, the crowd was riveted to the battle for a one-of-a-kind Tiffany lot of 28 gold Favrile glass pendant prisms. Estimated between $1,600 and $2,200, the lot finally sold for $13,000. Even a hairline crack didn’t diminish the appeal of an Adelaide Robineau porcelain vase covered with blue crystals on a celadon green with the artist’s medallion carved on its side. It sold for $11,000. An Arts & Crafts sign of repousse copper for the Pond Applied Art Studio, which had been owned by Theodore H. Pond in Baltimore, Md., from 1911-1914, went for $6,500.

Many attendees may have passed by the unassuming lots of Grueby tiles, but a clutch of folks were definitely paying attention. On Sunday, many of the lots sold at the high end or well past the estimates. For example 44, 4-inch tiles with a raised cross and border pattern in yellow and blue, sold for $1,100. Another lot included 56 border tiles embossed with leaves and stems sold for $1,900. Rago wasn’t surprised by the activity. “Grueby tiles are typically strong. This seemed like more of the same to me,” he said. “These are usually bought by collectors rather than people installing them, excepting the box lots in the Sunday session. Those were mostly for installation.”

The auction was an unqualified success. “It was our strongest Arts & Crafts auction ever,” shared Rago. “We were over 95 percent sold at the hammer and brought over the total high estimate for the auction by several hundred thousand dollars. There were virtually no weak spots. Only bookcases seemed soft. But across the board, with ceramics, metal, lighting, wood, prints, etc., the sale was as solid as we’ve seen.”

Rago Arts and Auction Center, 333 N. Main St., Lambertville, NJ 08530. (609) 397-9374. Fax: (609) 397-9377.