Gorsuch Barn has been transformed by the Zipps. Since the family now owns their own facility, they have diversified and have started holding general antiques sales. Karl Pass photo.
One of the rarest items ever sold by Crocker Farm was this stoneware face pitcher attributed to Samuel Bell, likely Strasburg, Virginia, circa 1840. The ovoid pitcher had a heavily tooled rim molding, and the front was decorated with an applied face with a pronounced chin, arching curved ears, pointed nose, pierced eyes, open mouth, and high semicircular forehead, all highlighted with cobalt. Bell family tulip decoration surrounded the other side and the collar of the 10¾" high pitcher. It was missing its applied handle and had chips to the spout and right ear. The right side had a large in-the-firing dry spot. It sold for $63,250 (est. $15,000/ 25,000) to a private Shenandoah Valley collector bidding on the phone. The item came from a consignor in Ohio. It sold for $670 at a sale in New Market, Virginia, in either the late 1960's or early '70's, according to Tony Zipp.
Crocker Farm, Inc., Sparks, Maryland
by Karl H. Pass
Photos courtesy Crocker Farm
The Zipps of Crocker Farm, Inc. held a stoneware and redware auction in their Gorsuch Barn facility in Sparks, Maryland, on March 3. The diversity and strength of consigned material for the 386-lot sale drew a large crowd. With 357 total registered bidders, including 84 absentee bidders who left a total of 511 bids, the sale grossed $495,057.75.
In terms of rarity, one of the rarest items sold at any of Crocker Farm's sales was the stoneware face pitcher attributed to Samuel Bell that sold for $63,250 to an advanced private Shenandoah Valley collector bidding by phone. According to Tony Zipp, the pitcher had sold for $670 at a sale in New Market, Virginia, in either the late 1960's or early '70's. "It's the only Shenandoah Valley face pitcher we know of," stated Zipp. One of just two face pitchers known from the state of Virginia, it is believed to have been made in Strasburg, circa 1840. The other known example, belonging to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, is a large ocher-decorated pitcher by an unknown maker. The only other stoneware face pitchers found in the South were produced by the Decker family of Tennessee. This piece was missing its large applied handle, which had broken off. It also had a large in-the-firing dry spot on the side and a chip on the pour spout.
Because of its rarity, the face pitcher represents an important piece in the field of southern folk ceramics. Well-known scholar and author Dr. Gene Comstock agreed the pitcher was by Samuel Bell and out of Strasburg around 1840. "It is an auction record for Bell family stoneware and for Shenandoah Valley stoneware," noted Tony Zipp following the sale.
A Pennsylvania stoneware face pitcher sold for $81,900 on October 25, 2008, at the Richard and Rosemarie Machmer sale held at Pook & Pook. Elements of the applied face, including the high semicircular forehead, pronounced chin, pointed nose, and arching curved ears, were stylistically the same as on the Virginia pitcher. The small pierced dilated-like eyes on the Virginia pitcher are quite different, however. The Machmer pitcher was cataloged as from Philadelphia and attributed to Richard Remmey, but some ceramic scholars believe it was made by Joseph Remmey while he was employed at the R.J. Grier Pottery in Chester County.
At any Crocker Farm sale very few lots, if any, hold reserves. This particular sale had two. One was a stoneware jug with an incised head bust or "devil's bust," likely of early 19th-century Manhattan origin. A known piece within the wide fraternity of pottery collectors, it was once owned by Barry Cohen and sold for $3300 on June 27, 1991, at Sotheby's. The three-gallon ovoid jug is illustrated in Sumpter Priddy's 2004 book American Fancy: Exuberance in the Arts, 1790-1840. In the book, Priddy discusses the devil's head motif as likely evocative of the "demon rum" it was made to contain. Holding an aggressive $25,000/30,000 estimate and having undergone restoration to the body and handle, the jug failed to sell.
The second reserved lot was an Albany slip-glazed Anna Pottery pig bottle dated "1893" with light wear to the spout; it sold to a collector in the salesroom for $4887.50 (est. $4000/6000).
Many of the items Crocker Farm sells come fresh to the market. With a high number of things offered having been off the market for at least a generation or two, overall interest levels in the sale increase. "It really takes a thing to be unique to do well today, and if it has been shown around, it doesn't help," mentioned Tony Zipp. The company gets consignments from all over the country and strives to bring a variety of material from many regions to their sales. The captions showcase some of the diversity of things in the sale and several of the highest selling lots.
Crocker Farm will hold a general antiques sale on June 9 and a pottery sale July 21, and the second annual "Maryland sale" will take place in September. Contact the Zipps at (410) 472-2016; Web site (www.crockerfarm.com).
An intriguing lot was the early and large ovoid stoneware jar with vertical handles. Probably from either lower Manhattan or Cheesequake, New Jersey, the jar dates to the mid-18th century. Colonial American stoneware is obviously rare, and this decorated jar, recently discovered in New York state, makes for an interesting study. A large checkerboard pattern sunflower plant and urn cover the front. On the side are the initials "I P R." A section had been re-glued at the rim. It sold for $28,750 (est. $10,000/20,000) to a dealer bidding on behalf of a private collector by phone.
This presentation stoneware bank with incised bird and floral design and initials and a date, "A.R./ March 28/ 1874," had a carved vertical coin slot on the shoulder. It stands 6 3/8" high. The Zipps believe the initials may refer to Agnes Remmey, the wife of potter Richard Clinton Remmey. It is known that the Remmeys produced presentation items for members of their family. The deep cobalt and fine incised decoration is especially desirable to collectors. The rare bank sold for $28,750 (est. $15,000/25,000) to a phone bidder. The buyer was a private collector in New Jersey.
The stoneware Centennial presentation mug with incised Liberty Bell sold for $4600 (est. $800/ 1200) to a phone bidder. The Zipps believe the incised name "Seithers" refers to Philadelphia tavern owner Charles Seithers, and the name "Radley" incised underneath refers to Philadelphia potter Aaron Radley. The circa 1876 mug, standing 4½" high, was in very good condition.
A Cowden & Wilcox 1½-gallon stoneware pail with a metal and wood bail handle was one of the highlights of the day because of its decoration. "It had four birds. Three are rare enough, but many collectors of Harrisburg pottery said they never saw one with four," stated Tony Zipp. The batter pail was also in excellent condition with just some light staining to portions of the piece and a very small nick to the spout. Dealer Greg Kramer in the salesroom bought it for $31,050 (est. $10,000/20,000).
This 5-gallon stoneware churn with a fine decoration of a peacock was fresh to the market, having descended in a Rochester, New York, family since its manufacture. It sold for $19,550 (est. $5000/8000). The "JOHN BURGER/ ROCHESTER" piece had a restored crack around the midsection.
A molded stoneware fish pitcher nearly 13" high and likely of Midwestern origin sold to a phone bidder for $5405 (est. $1000/2000). It had finely detailed scaling and a purplish slip, possibly a combination of cobalt and either manganese or iron. It had a chip to the base and spout, and the unusual form was probably copied from an example of majolica. The buyer was a collector from the Midwest who said it was made in Akron, Ohio, according to Tony Zipp.
A very rare and unique stoneware flask with cobalt signature "David Parr/ May 5 1823," from Baltimore and in excellent condition, sold for $5750 (est. $2500/4000). Parr (1786-1832) was one of Baltimore's most prolific potters. This is the only known hand-signed example of Parr's work.