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Northeast Opens Antiques Week in New Hampshire with $2.3 Million Sale

David Hewett | August 2nd, 2013

Collector and dealer Gary Green of Moravia, New York, chased this 47" long copper and zinc sulky, horse, and driver weathervane until it was his for $49,200, the auction’s top price. The weathervane had a history of ownership by the Paul Weld estate and Connecticut dealer Jeffrey Tillou.

A noted New Hampshire furniture guru and economics prognosticator knew that this slant-lid oxbow-front desk with a Benjamin Frothingham label had sold in 1930 for $3600 as part of the Philip Flayderman collection. (When Northeast Auctions offered the desk in August 2009 with a $30,000/50,000 estimate, it remained unsold.) He remained pessimistic and predicted it wouldn’t break $10,000 here. He was wrong. It brought $42,000 (est. $10,000/20,000).

This New Hampshire Queen Anne highboy from the Dunlap school of cabinetmakers is another old friend to Northeast Auctions, which sold it in October 2007 for $30,160 to a Massachusetts dealer. This time it sold for $31,200.

This wasn’t the highest-priced hatbox in the Wilson collection, but it may be the rarest. Steve Corrigan of Stephen-Douglas Antiques, Rockingham, Vermont, said the paper covering the box may have been meant to advertise Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, because of the highly unusual list of buildings and area attractions printed around the exterior. Corrigan paid $2880 for it. Hewett photo.

These miniature watercolor paintings of the Bartlett family, each roughly 3½" high, depict a Revolutionary War captain and other family members. The main interest was the artist, the celebrated 19th-century jack-of-all-trades Rufus Porter, a painter of portraits and full wall paintings, a printer, an inventor of scientific instruments, and more. Julie Lindberg, the creator of the Rufus Porter Museum in Bridgton, Maine, in 2005, claimed the lot for $25,200. Wilson collection.

As expected, this 9½" high Liverpool jug with a black transfer image of a member of the Boston Fusiliers was the top-priced jug lot. Skinner had sold it in June 2002 for $11,163. Pennsylvania dealer Bill Kurau, who was the buyer in 2002 and had sold it to the Millers for around $15,000, bought it back at Northeast for $11,400. Miller collection.

This Massachusetts reverse serpentine- front chest from the Boston-Salem area had a desirable 34" wide case and strong ball-and-claw feet front and back. It brought $20,400 from a phone bidder.

If you had attended the free lecture by John Zak on Saturday evening in the Center of New Hampshire hall, you would have known that the couple depicted in the cutter (a sleigh for two people) in the 1853 N. Currier large-folio print The Road, - Winter. were none other than Nathaniel Currier and his wife, Laura, and that there are two versions of the print, one with a gold cutter and the other with a red cutter. This one had the red cutter, and it sold for $24,000.

This Fritz Vogt pencil drawing on 19¼" x 26¼" paper depicted the residence of Mrs. Clarissa Hilsinger of Carlisle in Schoharie County, New York. Ex-Bert and Gail Savage, the drawing carried only a $3000/5000 estimate, but several people wanted it, and a phone bidder won it at $19,200. Miller collection.

Northeast Auctions, Manchester, New Hampshire

Photographs courtesy Northeast Auctions

Ron Bourgeault of Northeast Auctions seemed a bit apologetic at times during his three-day sale in Manchester, New Hampshire, held August 2-4. His auction leads off the events known as Antiques Week in New Hampshire, and he didn’t have enough of the type of offerings he usually has for the event. At times, it seemed that even the facilities were conspiring against him.

Just after Bourgeault was forced to pass several lots in the middle of Saturday’s sale, including a Jacob Maentel painting with a $25,000/50,000 estimate and an English Regency four-pedestal dining table with a $15,000/20,000 estimate, the entire white paper backdrop behind the row of phone bid handlers decided to self-destruct. The approximately 7' high x 30' long sheet of paper covering the plywood wall slithered down onto the people there, leading to more than a few squeals of alarm from them. Bourgeault looked up from his catalog, noted the situation, nodded his head, and murmured, “How appropriate.”

By Monday morning, however, when all the figures were in, and the crew was back in Portsmouth with time to assess the results, it became evident that despite the lack of a standout folk art collection to sell, Northeast had managed to accrue a respectable $2.3 million for the nearly 980 lots offered. For an auction that had no lot selling over $50,000 and had only ten lots surpassing the $20,000 mark, there were still encouraging points to note.

“We had a tremendous number of new buyers, and in many cases the brown furniture did better than I expected,” Ron Bourgeault noted when we met him on the floor of the New Hampshire Antiques Show a few days later. “The number of individual bidders surprised me. I dropped off to sleep the other night holding a huge stack of bidder registration slips,” he said.

Last year, Bourgeault had the Ciccotellis’ folk art collection to offer, and the 75 lots in that group alone brought $1.067 million, which boosted the 2012 summer sale total to $2.975 million. The year before that, Northeast had two strong folk art collections up for bid, the Kellogg collection and the Claire Cook collection, which helped the 2011 summer sale total reach $4.554 million—the best year since 2008. But this is 2013, and nothing of that caliber was available, so Bourgeault took what he had and made what he could of it.

Friday’s short session featured the country collection of Eve and Bruce Wilson. It was a collection heavy with wallpaper-covered hatboxes, baskets, seed boxes, and the like, along with blue-painted county furniture and New England paintings and fabric.

We came up with an unofficial count of 73 hatboxes. The highest-priced example featured a view of the U.S. Capitol with  a flag and troops and had a charioteer and lion depicted on the cover; it sold to an Internet bidder for $4800 (including buyer’s premium). The rarest hatbox in the collection, according to Vermont dealer Steve Corrigan, who once paid $11,000 for a unique red one at auction and who sold it to a collector for a similarly astounding price, was the second lot offered. It featured views of Wesleyan University, and Corrigan bought it for $2880.

The top-priced item on Friday was the horizontally framed oval portraits by Rufus Porter of five members of the Bartlett family of Massachusetts (two women facing right, three men facing left). Julie Lindberg, who in 2005 established the Rufus Porter Museum in Bridgton, Maine, outlasted the five telephone bidders to take the choice grouping for $25,200.

Saturday’s session opened with the collection of Suzanna and Milton Miller of Baltimore, which featured one of the larger private collections in this country of transfer-printed Liverpool pottery with American historic scenes. Buyers of Liverpool ceramics spend a lot of time in examination during auction previews, as, inevitably, there are pieces with repaired damage. Repairs are not the kiss of death to porcelain and pottery items, but they are a factor in the final prices.

A perfect piece, such as the 6" high creamware mug bearing an ornate portrait of George Washington, will bring a premium. New York state dealer Jesse Goldberg went well over the mug’s $1500/1800 estimate to win it at $4080. “I’m so happy with what I bought,” he told us. “I don’t have to apologize for the condition to my customers.”

The top-priced Liverpool piece was a 9½" high jug bearing the image of a member of the Boston Fusiliers. Skinner had sold it in June 2002 for $11,163 to Pennsylvania dealers William and Teresa Kurau. They sold it to the Millers for around $15,000 and bought it back at this auction for $11,400.

One of the rarities in the Millers’ collection was a monumental Staffordshire enamel-decorated and transfer-printed handled jug of 1804-15. These greatly oversized jugs are thought to be factory-made samples advertising the types of printing available on the pieces they produced for retail outlets. Northeast’s example carried a $2500/3500 estimate and sold to a phone bidder for $10,800.

Two of the lots offered following the Miller collection portion of the Saturday session aptly illustrate the drastic loss of value of some antique objects in today’s market. That was part of the reason that Northeast owner Ron Bourgeault was less than optimistic at times during that session.

A Connecticut Pilgrim-Century blanket chest in salmon paint that had sold for $20,000 at Sotheby Parke Bernet’s auction of the Stewart Gregory collection in 1979, and was passed at the $16,000 level when Northeast Auctions offered it as part of the Fine collection in 2010, sold this time around for $9600. A painted fireboard attributed to Rufus Porter, which was passed at the $90,000 level by Bourgeault as part of the Fine collection in 2010 and was passed at $26,000 at a Northeast sale in 2011, was passed yet again, this time at the $17,000 level.

There were winners on Saturday too. A cast zinc horse, sulky, and driver weathervane brought the auction’s top price when it sold for $49,200 to a Moravia, New York, collector/dealer.

There was also a charming watercolor on ivory miniature portrait of a little girl holding a basket of strawberries while sitting beside her canary, painted by the notable Mrs. Moses B. Russell (Clarissa Peters Russell). Miniature portraits by that artist are very favored at present, and even though Northeast gave it a $4000/8000 estimate, dealer Jack O’Brien, bidding for Leigh Keno on the phone, had to go to $30,000 to take the prized portrait.

Sunday’s session was 489 lots long and began with 129 lots of Currier & Ives prints and associated material. John Zak, president of the American Historical Print Collectors Society, spoke about Currier & Ives and showed slides in an hour-long program on Saturday evening. Anyone who stayed for that talk will probably remember its closing moments for a long time.

Accompanied by the “Russian Dance” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite over the sound system, color photos of all the known Currier & Ives prints were flashed on the screen at an ever-increasing, dizzying pace. When it ended, you wanted to stand up and cheer, “Huzzah-Huzzah for the Currier and Ives boys, go get ’em!” Or maybe not.

Six of the prints went over the $5000 mark, with the large-folio handcolored lithograph of The Road, - Winter. going to a collector in the audience for $24,000. It had sold in 1930 as part of the famed Philip Flayderman collection for a very respectable $3600 (roughly $50,350 in today’s money).

On Sunday, when the majority of the furniture was offered, we sat in front of Ronald Trapasso, whose furniture restoration service in Lynn, Massachusetts, is called Attwill Furniture Company. Trapasso told of the lack of interest in period furniture among the younger generation.

He reacted to the prices that furniture was bringing with a series of comments that ranged from “Oh, that’s encouraging,” when a New Hampshire tiger maple Queen Anne highboy brought $31,200 (est. $20,000/30,000), to “That’s dirt cheap,” when a pair of New England Queen Anne maple side chairs with Spanish feet sold for $720 (est. $500/800). He said he feared for the future of antiques collecting when Bourgeault was forced to pass for lack of any interest several cherrywood pieces made in the Connecticut River valley, including a Deerfield, Massachusetts, chest with a typical scalloped-edge top and a tea table with a heavily scalloped apron.

Considering what he had to sell, Ron Bourgeault produced as good an opening act to the Antiques Week in New Hampshire road show as was possible in 2013.

For more information, contact Northeast Auctions at (603) 433-8400; Web site (

This 6½' high carved and painted wooden Indian maiden cigar-store figure, attributed to New York City carver Samuel Robb, sold for $19,200 to specialist dealer Rusty Donohue of Americana Antiques, Oxford, Maryland.

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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