Old-time Discovery Auction at Cowan’s offered great buys

CINCINNATI — About 100 antiques lovers attended Wes Cowan’s Discovery Auction on July 19. It was an old-fashion style auction with no preview catalog or Internet bidding. A cornucopia of antiques, collectibles, and modern furnishings was offered, and as Graydon Sikes, Cowan’s fine arts specialist, said, “It [was] a fun, everything must go, kind of auction.”

Numerous local dealers were on hand, as they got the opportunity to bid without competition of the Internet. Five hundred lots were offered that included furniture and art from the collection of the National Bank of Fremont, Ind., which is liquidating its assets due to financial and legal problems; a large assortment of Parian sculpture and Victorian furniture from a Toronto estate, and Victorian furniture from DePauw, Ind. Another featured item of the auction was a large number of Toby jugs, which are traditional containers and mugs from England fashioned in the form of caricatures of famous people like George Washington, or fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes.

Bidding was brisk, and bidders who hesitated occasionally failed to make their bid before the closing. Prices reported here include the buyer’s premium of 15 percent. Good values were obtained generally across the board and prices seldom exceeded $1,000.

Offerings ranged from typical collectibles like a Shirley Temple doll or a carved folk art coconut to unique and unusual antiques. A walnut Victorian chamber pot with an upholstered seat sold for $92 and a country store coffee bin made by the extinct C.F. Ware Coffee company from the extinct town of Payton, Ohio, sold for $460. Other unique items included a pair of mounted elephant tusks for $604; a Victorian child’s rocker for $357; and a Tang dynasty, carved carousel horse, for $150. A black cat whirligig, one of those ornamental objects of Americana that illustrated the natural wonder of the wind, went for $351.

Collectors had a field day: There was, in addition to the Parian sculpture and Toby jugs, some Van Briggle pottery; a collection of 27 toy cannons that sold for $317; a lot of 31 advertising tins that went for $288; a lot of 34 pieces of colored overlay and cut glass that brought $161; a lot of 40 windup and friction trains and trolleys; and 38 pairs of ceramic, African American salt and pepper shakers coupled with a collection of plastic Aunt Jemima and Uncle Moses shakers, which reached $207. The last were made between 1940 and 1960, with some coming from Japan. Antique collectors also were offered opportunities like an 1830s pie safe in old blue paint with a punched tin door that sold for $805.

Great buys included two pairs of matched French brass candlesticks that went for $230; a circa 1840 New England Empire dresser that went for $230; a Victorian-style Turkish couch that reached $144; a striking handmaid Star of Bethlehem quilt with a gold star and purple etching and borders against a white background that sold for $345; and a Federal style shaving stand with mirror, circa 1830 that reached $155. Bargain hunters were not disappointed either, with six carved and upholstered Victorian chairs going for only $144, and set of four mid-century display cabinets that sold for only $29. One couldn’t expect prices like the latter, even at Wal-Mart.

Numerous works of art included an Impressionistic Western landscape by Hal Empie that appears to be unfinished, whose original price was $19,000 and which sold for $1,150 to an absentee bidder with no one in the audience offering a bid, even after Cowan’s reported its original price. Another great buy was two Currier and Ives prints of shipwrecks that went together for only $81. Also among the artwork was a substantial collection of 19th century portraits. An interesting print that caught my eye was that of a bald eagle by contemporary artist Ray Harm that sold for $47.

Little boxes and baskets also were in abundance, as were tea sets, sterling silver, and other kitchen accessories. A significant addition to a buyer’s collection was a lot of 44 pieces of Flow Blue Hampton china that sold for $1,725. And one should not forget to mention the Victorian bookcases, china cabinets, dressers, sideboards, tables, bed frames, and hanging lamps that were among the numerous selections.

It was a buyers’ market with many good buys. As Diane Wachs, director of Fine and Decorative Arts at Cowan’s said, “There was something for everyone.”