Freeman bidders cash in on Americana

‘Peace’ medal brings lofty $106,425 at April 12 sale in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA — Plucked from a box of coins consigned by a local family, a George II peace medal inscribed “to the most high” brought a lofty $106,425 at the April 12 sale at Samuel T. Freeman & Co.
The sale total was $1.1 million, including a 19 1/2 percent buyer’s premium; the pass rate was 24 percent. More than 20 percent of the nearly 500 lots went to eBay Live Auctions bidders.

Originally presented to Native American chiefs by Quakers, the silver medal depicted a colonist handing a peace pipe to a brave and was engraved in Philadelphia by Edward Duffield with the words, “Let us look to the most high who blessed our fathers with peace.”

Consigned by the Sansoms, a prominent Philadelphia family, the medal was estimated at $400-$600. But Lynda Cain, Freeman’s Americana specialist, had a strong feeling the lot would go for far more.
“We had wild interest in the piece before the sale, calls from all over the country,” she said.
A single bidder in the gallery dueled with several would-be buyers on the phone, with the most tenacious phone bidder prevailing.

Another offering from the Sansoms — a set of three circa 1808 medals designed by Joseph Sansom, a Quaker merchant, and engraved by Joseph Reich — depicted busts of Ben Franklin and George Washington. The trio realized $65,725, more than 10 times the low estimate.

Franklin came home — or at least his portrait did — via an 18th-century Scottish School painting consigned through Lyon & Turnbull of Edinburgh, Freeman’s strategic partner. The unsigned oil on panel likely was painted by Caleb Whitefoord, a diplomat, amateur artist and Franklin’s neighbor in London, and fetched $33,460, going to a New Jersey collector who outlasted representatives from a historic house.
The collector was vacationing in an exotic locale, making bidding by phone an iffy proposition. Fortuitously, the connection lasted long enough for another prime purchase, a Federal inlaid mahogany secretary and desk attributed to John Aiken, a Philadelphia furniture maker active from 1795-1810. That check was made out for $22,705.

A 19th-century painted and incised salt box with arched back was decorated with tulips and swirls and had been in the same family since the 1950s. The box was missing some molding but still zoomed to $86,040 against a $6,000-$8,000 estimate.

“It had a wonderful old dry surface and great stylized flowers,” Cain noted.

Fueled by offerings from the collection of D. Virginia Roosevelt Armentrout of Ambler, Pa., and the estate of Dr. Benton Hines Marshall of Philadelphia, fresh-to-the-market Classical American furniture received a warm welcome in the City of Brotherly Love. A circular mahogany table with sectioned flame veneer on a ring-turned and urn support brought $38,240, more than seven times the high estimate. A lot of 17 circa 1820 dining chairs with tablet crest — a set of 14 with three associated chairs — realized $29,675. A Queen Anne walnut highboy, Pennsylvania circa 1760, made $20,315. A mahogany breakfront circa 1825 with molded cornice above four glazed doors garnered $35,850.

“It’s not often that one finds an American breakfront of that period,” Cain said. “Usually, they’re English.”
A silver-hilted eagle head Revolutionary sword wielded by Capt. Michael Whitley of Lancaster, Pa., cut a fine figure, making $33,460, within estimates. Two portraits of American ships by Thomas H. Willis (1850-1925) were depicted in embroidery, silk, velvet and oil on canvas and sailed to $10,755 against a $1,000-$1,500 estimate.

Despite some chips, a flurry of bids flew far past the $300-$500 estimate for a Pennsylvania 19th-century cobalt-decorated bird feeder, finally landing at $4,183. A set of five slip decorated redware plates in various sizes from the same period showed wear, rim chips and flakes, yet doubled estimates to $717. Bidders poured it on for three gallon size, circa 1860 Pennsylvania stoneware crocks, all decorated in cobalt with chips to the rims, with the winner paying $2,629, more than five times the low estimate.

Bidders rallied ’round a painted cast-iron “Shake Hands with Uncle Sam Strength Tester,” charging past the $2,500-$3,500 estimate to $14,340. The early 20th-century coin-operated arcade machine, cracked and repainted, went to a buyer from California.

Cain was pleasantly surprised when what was thought to be four panels of 19th-century French wallpaper actually turned out to be four walls. Vues d’Amerique du Nord featured scenes from West Point and Niagara Falls and was originally purchased in Philadelphia by Sarah Davis Cochran for use in a house in Youngstown, Ohio, and later in a country house where it stayed until 1979.

Stored between boards, the paper sustained some water damage and holes were cut in some pieces to accommodate electrical outlets. The bidder who will take the paper to its third home paid $4,481 for the lot. Cain said the winner might have to invest a similar amount to bring back the panels to their original splendor.

“It will take a lot of money to restore them — but the colors were so bright and beautiful, it will be worth it,” she said.

Samuel T. Freeman & Co., 1808 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19103. (215) 563-9275.
Fax: (215) 563-8236.