Crocker Farm reaps record price for stoneware auction

YORK, Pa. – When Anthony and Barbara Zipp and their sons Brandt, Luke and Mark agreed they held the best piece of stoneware they had ever handled, they made the early Albany, N.Y., cooler lot No. 1 in their Crocker Farm auction March 21.

The buyer, New York dealer Leigh Keno, concurred, bidding the uniquely decorated cooler to $103,500 (prices include a 15 percent buyer’s premium). It represents the highest price ever paid at a stoneware specialty auction.

“We sold another cooler for $88,000 about three years ago and we all agreed this piece was better than that,” said Anthony Zipp. “This was just a super piece; very rare and fresh to the market.”

The cooler was consigned by a man from North Carolina, who had been told by the elderly couple who sold it to him about 20 years ago that it was made in Albany, Ga. When he learned it was a Northern piece, he decided to consign it to Crocker Farm.

“I’m sure when the consignor found out what it sold for he probably fell over,” said Zipp.

The cooler was incised Albany, August 7 1817 and stamped BOYNTON, the mark used by brothers Calvin and Jonah Boynton at their pottery on Washington Street in Albany. The approximately 2-gallon keg-form cooler was decorated on the front with a finely incised fish and a crested bird. Below them was a second smaller bird and fish.

“Everybody who commented on it said they had never seen one with two fish and two birds like that before,” said Zipp, adding that he was not greatly surprised the cooler topped $100,000. “It was really top of the market for stoneware. It had everything going for it. The condition was super. They size was great, just 13 inches tall.”

Zipp said stoneware collectors responded enthusiastically. “We had a lot of people call and say they were going to come and bid on lot No. 1. We had a bunch of people in the room and six phones going,” said Zipp. It ended up between Leigh Keno and a Midwestern collector, and Keno won out.”

The top redware item, a glazed figure of a lion, was a surprise, selling for $15,524. “That was a really strong price considering the ears had broken off. If the ears had been on it, it would still be a strong price,” said Zipp. Otherwise, the 5 1/2-inch-tall figure was in excellent condition. Zipp believed the Lion was made in Pennsylvania in the third quarter of the 19th century. A Midwest collector outbid a Pennsylvania dealer for the clay beast.

A Shenandoah Valley glazed redware syrup jug incised A.W. Bacher sold to a direct descendant of the Winchester, Va., potter for $7,705.

“It was a neat piece. The color was strong and bright, the condition was excellent and the form was unusual for Bacher. You don’t often see that maple syrup jug form on Virginia pieces,” said Zipp.

Though lot 290A was a late addition to the sale, the rare Virginia stoneware plantation jar incised Smith / Airville / Va sold for $14,950. The inscription refers to the Airville Plantation of Gloucester, Va., located near historic Williamsburg. Thomas Smith, a merchant and delegate to the Virginia legislation, owned the plantation during the early 1800s. Only a few examples of Smith Airville stoneware have survived, this possibly being the finest example, said Zipp. The 3-gallon ovoid jar originated in Baltimore in the 1820s.

One of the most unusual stoneware forms in the auction was a dated 1812 Connecticut presentation bank, which was decorated with an incised bird. Documentation accompanied the bank stating a Connecticut potter made it for his grandson. “The owner, an elderly man, called here three or four years ago and described the bank and said he wanted to sell it someday,” said Zipp. “He passed away. His wife called saying he told her that if anything happened to him to give the bank to us.”

In mint condition and decorated with an incised bird, the bank sold for $5,980.

Zipp said he was pleased with the auction overall. “It’s the same for stoneware as it is for everything else in the market. The lower and midrange are kind of spotty. Some of the low-end and midrange did very well; a lot of it didn’t do so well. But all of the good pieces sold for strong prices.

“If you have good merchandise there are people waiting to buy. They money is out there to buy the good stuff. The better things are going through the ceiling,” said Zipp. “Collectors who have been in this a long time are stepping up to the plate and wanting the high-end pieces. They might have been spending $15,000 or $20,000 on things for years; now they’re willing to spend $40,000 or $50,000 for something.”

A half dozen items with reserve bids did not sell.

“The significance is people just won’t bid against reserves. We hear it all the time. People comment: ‘I really like that piece, but I’m not bidding against the reserve,’” said Zipp, who discourages sellers from placing reserves on their consignments.

Longtime show dealers, Anthony and Barbara Zipp named their stoneware and redware pottery auction business “Crocker Farm” after their golden retriever Crocker and after finding a 19th-century sign painted Crocker Farm. Joined by their three adult sons, the family conducted their first live specialty auction in July 2004.

“It hasn’t been five years and we’ve just grown by leaps and bounds. People consign really good things to us. These things come out of nowhere,” said Zipp.

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