Pre-holiday sale at Brunk Auctions was largest and most varied sale in firm’s 25-year history

Genre paintings, those intimate depictions of everyday life, have great appeal to collectors. At Christmas, none was more charming than Timoleon Lobrichon’s painting, Jouets. It was the crown jewel at Brunk Auctions sale Nov. 8-9. The large painting depicted seven well-dressed, curious children peering through a closed shop door at a marvelous collection of toys. The young girl with her hands pressed to the glass defined Christmas anticipation and excitement. The 44 3/4-inch by 33 3/8-inch French painting opened at its $50,000 reserve and sold to a phone bidder within estimate for $92,000 (all selling prices include buyer’s premium).

Toys like the kind in the Lobrichon painting were also included in the sale. All were deaccessioned from The Toy Museum at Old Salem, N.C.. Tin ruled the day. An Althof Bergmann tin horse and jockey pull toy with graduated front and rear wheels ran off at $2,760. Close on its heels at $2,530 was a Hall and Stafford push toy with a painted tin horse pulling a sulky and rider. Both top selling toys were from the third quarter of the 19th century and attributed to American manufacturers.

Many in the gallery wanted to take home a bit of royalty from the 90-lot House of Schartzenberg collection. They left empty handed. All of the silver, portraits, maps, books and watercolors owned by the late Princess Anna Schwartzenberg (1897-1954) sold to the phones or on the Internet at prices far exceeding their high estimate. Princess Anna’s 1627 hand-crafted and hand-drawn book of Austrian maps and castle views originally prepared for Archduke Leopold of Austria, brought $34,500 (estimate $4,000-$8,000). Her set of four Viennese .800 fine silver candelabra marked “JCK” (Joseph Carl van Klinkosh, Vienna, active 1843-1884) lit up the room when they sold for $14,950 (estimate $2,000-$4,000). “All this is about provenance,” said principal auctioneer Robert Brunk. “When we can document who owned it, bidders respond.”

For the numismatist, the sale offered 550 Morgan silver dollars. The Morgans topped every other coin and currency in the sale. Included in the large collection from Virginia was an ultra-rare proof 1895 Morgan graded PR-60. It “caused fireworks,” said one dealer when it brought $50,600 (estimate $20,000-$30,000). An 1893-S Morgan, graded XF-45, the rare survivor of only 100,000 minted, hit the top of its estimate at $11,500. A brilliant uncirculated 1894 Morgan graded MS-64 sold within estimate for $8,970. A similarly graded 1879-CC Morgan was close behind at $8,740.

If anyone needed silver flatware for that someone special, it was available in abundance. “In 30 years in the silver business, I’ve never seen so much flatware,” said Joann Morton, a dealer and appraiser from Columbia, S.C. Most pieces came from a large Charleston, S.C., collection. Makers included Tiffany, Gorham, Albert Cole, Reed and Barton, Unger Brothers, Kirk and Stieff; Chantilly was the most frequently occurring pattern. The star lot was 210 pieces of Tiffany Palm without monogram in a fitted Tiffany one-drawer case on a later cabriole leg base. The silver and case sold for $20,700 (estimate $5,000-$10,000). Among the Gorham Chantilly, the top lot was a 134 piece collection, some with monograms, at $1,610.

 Nathan Harsh, a Gallatin, Tennessee attorney and co-author of the classic book, Art and Mystery of Tennessee Furniture and its Makers Through 1850, was on hand to watch a portion of his collection cross the block. All came from Wynnewood, a historic site in Sumner County, Tenn., damaged in a February 2008 tornado. Harsh had earlier loaned the furniture to Wynnewood. A few pieces were illustrated in Harsh’s book; others were featured in the movie, The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James. An 1835-1850 Tennessee sugar chest fitted with a single divider from Linden, Tenn., was the top Harsh lot. A phone bidder who jumped into the bidding at the last second bought it for $7,475.

The sale concluded with the 129-lot Ron Kiser collection of surveyor’s transits, compasses and tripods. Most of the 19th and 20th century brass instruments had their original finish. The pre-sale estimate of $6,000-$12,000 for an 1858 Gurley solar compass proved accurate. The earliest known Gurley solar compass with its original tripod and dovetailed case brought $14,950.

 “This is the largest and in some ways the most varied auction of the year for us,” said Auctioneer Robert Brunk. The sale also featured exceptional rugs, rifles, jewelry, Audubon prints, Chinese porcelain and furniture. There were even six lots of silver inlaid gaucho spurs that sold for $115 to $345. Final hammer price for the sale, without buyer’s premium, was $1,891,160.

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