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Americana Auction at Garth's

Don Johnson | November 29th, 2013


This Federal Pembroke table, attributed to the Goddard family of Newport, Rhode Island, circa 1810, is mahogany with urn and bellflower inlay. It may have been refinished and has some surface wear. It brought $36,000.


Chippendale chest of drawers in cherry, Massachusetts or Connecticut, circa 1780, period brasses and old finish, one foot cracked, one back foot missing the lower 3½", age split to one side, $9000.


William and Mary gate-leg table in walnut, 30" high, American or English, 18th century, replaced hinges, age cracks, one leg split, color not consistent across the underside of the top, $4920.


New Hampshire sampler, Hillsborough County, 1827, silk on linen, alphabets, numbers, and a pious verse, yellow house, trees, and rose vines, signed “Wrought by Nancy Wason AD 1827 ag’d 10 yrs,” 16½" x 19½", no evidence of having been framed, minor fading and staining, $11,400.


A 7½" long pie crimper carved from bone by a sailor, having six wheels, heart cutouts, and a pierced handle that includes a star, American, early 19th century, varnished, $2040.


Chippendale wing chair in mahogany, Massachusetts, circa 1770, 46" high, holes in the front feet filled in with new wood, metal buttons added to all four feet, $5100.


Historical blue Staffordshire covered chamber pot, “Views of the Erie Canal,” English, second quarter of the 19th century, 8½" high, repaired rim, crow’s foot to interior, some staining and glaze flaking, $2160.


Set of six Federal chairs, attributed to Annapolis or Baltimore, Maryland, circa 1800, mahogany with bellflower inlay, consisting of one armchair and five side chairs, various imperfections, $6000.

Boston Federal tilt-top candlestand, mahogany with inlay including lunettes, circa 1790, 28½" high, old finish, minor veneer splits and separation on top, $3960.

Garth’s Auctions, Delaware, Ohio

Photos courtesy Garth’s

In a way, it was a blue-collar and brown-furniture kind of day when Garth’s Auctions held its 53rd annual Thanksgiving Americana sale on Black Friday. That’s not a bad thing. Reduced to a one-day event this time, the November 29, 2013, auction featured a variety of formal furniture and accessories, but it was largely a roll-up-the-shirt-sleeves sale that showed Garth’s continues to adapt to the marketplace. The schedule was a perfect example.

“We went down to a one-day auction,” said Amelia Jeffers, president of Garth’s. “We think it’s hard to get people to stay over the Thanksgiving weekend that second day. We decided to go for quality over quantity. We had a full house as we always do that Friday after Thanksgiving. It was standing room only.”

The auction featured about 660 lots, compared to roughly 1200 during the 2012 two-day sale.

Brown furniture topped the day, with a Federal Pembroke table attributed to the Goddard family of Newport, Rhode Island, selling for $36,000 (includes buyer’s premium), four times its upper estimate. Circa 1810, the table was mahogany with urn and bellflower inlay. It came from a couple in Cleveland, Ohio, who had purchased it from Bill Samaha. Jeffers described the collectors as longtime clients of both Garth’s and Samaha.

“Bill Samaha’s name on it is the seal of approval,” Jeffers added. The price, she noted, was reflective of the current market. “In another economy, it would have been a lot more than that. In today’s economy I thought it was a pretty good price. The names of the people bidding are the best names in the business for handling that kind of material.”

Other furniture also did well. “We were satisfied with what brown furniture did that day,” said Jeffers. However, value remains relative. While prices have increased, they often still lag behind the level of interest shown in the past—something that can unnerve sellers, especially those out of touch with the market in recent years. “If they bought in the eighties or nineties and checked out for a while and now are ready to sell, it’s an awakening.”

Other top lots included a Chippendale chest of drawers in cherry with a reverse-serpentine front and ogee bracket feet, of Massachusetts or Connecticut origin, circa 1780. It sold for $9000. Jeffers pointed to the chest as an example of a piece of New England furniture that sold well in the Midwest. “I have a chip on my shoulder for the Midwest,” she said. “We continue to get that pushback of people who say their stuff needs to sell in the East.”

A set of six Federal dining chairs with rounded backs and bellflower inlay, consisting of one armchair and five side chairs, sold for $6000. “I think that was a good buy for somebody. Definitely they didn’t go wrong,” said Jeffers.

Seating did well as a whole. “There was a nice recovery on chairs,” Jeffers noted. A Chippendale wing chair of Massachusetts origin, circa 1770, sold for $5100. Provenance again came into play, as the chair was ex-Samaha. “You can’t go wrong with a Bill Samaha provenance. His name is like an insurance policy,” Jeffers added.

Also trending among the furniture were stands. “One-drawer stands did well in this auction,” said Jeffers.

The variety of furniture included less tiger maple and original paint—two hallmarks of Garth’s—than is normally offered at many sales. “That is somewhat by design,” said Jeffers. “Thanksgiving is normally a bit more formal for us. We generally hold back some of the brown stuff and more formal for Thanksgiving.”

While not abundant, curl and paint weren’t overlooked. A refinished tiger maple Queen Anne slant-lid desk, possibly from Rhode Island, circa 1760, sold for $3900, while an early 19th-century American cant-back cupboard with an open top, pine with old Spanish brown paint over earlier red, brought $5100.

Added to the mix was English furniture. “The English we had spoke to the Americana aesthetic,” Jeffers said. “Most of the English in that auction wasn’t an English collector’s English.”

Among the smalls, Americana prevailed. A New Hampshire sampler sold for $11,400 (est. $2200/3200). Made by ten-year-old Nancy Wason in Hillsborough County in 1827, the needlework was silk on linen with alphabets, numbers, a verse, a yellow house, and a border of vining roses.

“A lot of that price is design-driven and condition-driven,” Jeffers said.

A mid-19th-century redware pie plate with “Marys Dish” in slip, 9¼" diameter, sold for $2280. A pie crimper carved from bone by a sailor in the early 19th century, having six wheels, heart cutouts, and a pierced handle that included a star, brought $2040.

“I loved the scrimshaw pie crimper,” said Jeffers. “It was a neat little thing that elevates the pie crimper form.”

Other smalls included a George III tea caddy in the form of a pear, English, late 18th or early 19th century, at $2520, and an English carpet ball with yellow stripes and in black transfer script “for a good boy,” from the mid-19th century, 3¼" diameter, at $270.

The Thanksgiving auction was among the sales closing out the year for Garth’s. Jeffers headed into the new year with cautious optimism, largely because of an inconsistent economy. “It feels a little shaky to me going into 2014. The end of 2013 seems to be a little more uncertain than I like,” she said.

What can be controlled is a blue-collar work ethic. “The market is there if you work hard enough for it,” she said. “The days of just throwing stuff up and thinking you can put it out there and they will come are over. You have to work harder than that. You can’t just stick it on a Web site, slap it in a catalog, and expect things to bring great money. It takes a lot of work.”

For more information, phone Garth’s at (740) 362-4771 or visit (www.garths.com).

Chippendale tall-case clock in walnut, New York, late 18th century, eight-day brass movement, brass and silvered dial marked for Thomas Lear-sall, New York, 90" high, $5700.


Originally published in the March 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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