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November Crocker Farm Sale Caps Off Remarkable Year for Company

Karl H. Pass | November 2nd, 2013

This recently discovered 9¾" long molded redware Moravian fish bottle with copper and manganese decoration was attributed to Rudolph Christ of Salem, North Carolina. It was the first lot of the sale and sold for $23,000 (est. $10,000/20,000) to Pennsylvania collectors. Both the large size and the streaks of green copper and purplish-brown manganese glaze over a yellow clay ground make the fish bottle unique. Most Moravian fish bottles were done in a smaller 4½" size and possess a solid green glaze. The glazed surface was in excellent condition. It had a hairline along the base and wear to the spout including flakes and chips.

The “J.S. NASH” alkaline-glazed stoneware ring jug attributed to Milligan Frazier at the Jefferson S. Nash shop, Marion County, Texas, circa 1865, sold for $8050 (est. $5000/8000). The ring-form jug with pedestal base has an applied strap handle. The upper end of the handle has an applied ring of clay around the base of the spout in a “lasso” configuration. Nash was trained in Edgefield, South Carolina, and had a shop in Marion County, Texas, in the mid-19th century. According to the Zipps, the mottled brown alkaline combined with a running clear glaze on this piece is distinctive to Frazier, who was a freed African-American slave in Nash’s shop. Frazier’s son provided information pertaining to the glazing process in a 1974 article in the Longview Morning Journal, a Texas newspaper. The stamped ring jug was fresh to the market,  having descended in a family in Florida.

This ovoid and footed redware vase with a slip-decorated eagle design and braided handles sold for $9200 (est. $15,000/25,000). It was attributed to John Betts Gregory of Clinton, Oneida County, New York, and made circa 1820. Gregory was born in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Crocker Farm, Sparks, Maryland

Photos courtesy Crocker Farm

The Zipps’ November 2, 2013, stoneware and redware sale had 636 lots. The sale grossed $647,795 (including buyers’ premiums). There were 597 total registered bidders, 224 of whom registered through LiveAuctioneers. This fall sale, the third of the year for the family operation based in Sparks, Maryland, was its second-highest grossing sale ever, finishing a strong calendar year for Crocker Farm. The specialty firm grossed $2,242,120 in 2013, not including its three-session antiques auction on May 4, 2013, that included “The Maryland Sale,” textiles, and Americana. This further establishes the auction house as a prominent player in the field of American stoneware and redware pottery.

“We had a great year, and are already optimistic about next year,” said Tony Zipp. “The totals were good. Some prices were not what we had hoped for, but the specialty pieces, especially fresh-to-the-market things, are doing well.”

Brandt, Luke, and Mark Zipp all work for their parents, Tony and Barbara, and write the catalogs. They write extensive condition reports for each lot and do their own photography. No one in the auction industry takes a more scholarly approach to the field of ceramics.

This sale marked a change in the auctioneering. The company’s regular auctioneer had a late scheduling conflict. Auctioneering is another aspect of the operation that the family would like to eventually bring in house as well.

The fall auction included a strong group of northeastern U.S. stoneware, particularly quality material from Whites, Utica, J. Norton & Co., and F. Stetzenmeyer. A collection of early Pennsylvania sgraffito redware sold too. It was consigned by elderly collectors in Ohio who bought it primarily in the late 1930’s and 1940’s. A few notable pieces of midwestern stoneware were sold as was a good selection of southern pottery.

This specialized field has an active and widespread collector base. The top of the market is hungry, and several people in attendance commented that they think the middle market is experiencing both good buying and selling opportunities. “We had quite a few new people participate in this sale, which is a good sign,” said Tony Zipp.

The opening lot was an unusually large Moravian molded redware fish bottle with mottled glaze, attributed to Rudolph Christ of Salem, North Carolina, and measuring 9¾" long. Most Moravian fish bottles are in solid green glaze and 4½" long. It was recently discovered by a New England couple and sold for $23,000 to Pennsylvania collectors.

An early Manhattan stoneware jar stamped “COERLEARS HOOK/ N. YORK” by Thomas Commeraw, with deep blue cobalt decoration and both vertical handles restored, sold for $14,950. A large ovoid stoneware jug from Manhattan with distinctive incised floral and fruit design work sold for $4600. It had restoration and other condition problems, yet it was attributed through its design to the same maker as the Elizabeth Crane punchbowl in the American Folk Art Museum, which is currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

One of the finest slip-trail decorated pieces of stoneware known from the Washington, D.C., region sold mid-sale for $7475. The three-gallon ovoid jar, stamped “B.C. MILBURN/ALEXA,” with flared collar, oversize handles, and a stepped foot, was made in Alexandria, Virginia, circa 1850. The decoration included lavish fern-shaped leaf design work, large tulips, and chain links around the shoulder and collar. A fine decorated large six-gallon Milburn ovoid jar recently discovered in North Carolina sold a few lots later for $2415.

A large 19" diameter molded “Bardwell’s/ Root Beer” punch bowl with pedestal base and raised designs from Whites, Utica, New York, sold for $977.50. A stoneware molded frog-on-clamshell inkwell from the Anna Pottery, signed and dated 1859, sold for $5520; it is possible the incised “5” was actually an “8.” Most Anna frog inkwells were made in the 1880’s. It had a 7/8" base chip. A comparable example sold on October 11, 2013, at Pook & Pook in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, for $10,073.

Eight lots were passed; not all had high estimates.

The company has a collection of over 100 pieces of stoneware and redware consigned from an estate in Texas and one of equal quantity from an estate in Washington, D.C., for its next sale. It is scheduled to take place on March 1, the same weekend as the popular Baltimore Bottle Show & Sale.

For more information, call Crocker Farm, Inc. at (410) 472-2016; Web site, (

This rare redware flask in three-color slip, probably Pennsylvania or possibly Ohio in origin, had been purchased by the consignor for $5 in 1947. It sold to New Jersey collectors in the salesroom for $23,000 (est. $3000/5000).

This rare tanware figural spaniel with slip decoration and on a pedestal base sold for $3162.50 (est. $1500/2500). Incised in script “R.H. Rumble,” the Greensboro, Pennsylvania, piece had extensive losses to its base and traces of yellow paint throughout. Robert H. Rumble (1870-1893) was listed as a potter beginning in 1889. Few pedestal-based spaniels from western Pennsylvania are known. An important stoneware example was on the cover of the catalog for the popular Made in Pennsylvania: A Folk Art Tradition exhibition held in 2007 at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. It bore the initials “MR” and signature “Jas H. Atchison.” The Atchisons and Rumbles were related by marriage. These two examples were also likely produced from the same mold. The Atchison spaniel, in a league well above and not comparable to the Rumble spaniel, sold at the 2008 Winter Antiques Show in the six figures.

This 12" diameter redware dish, dated 1824 and sgraffito-decorated with five roosters, fish, and tulips, sold for $4600 (est. $15,000/25,000).

This 10" diameter Pennsylvania redware sgraffito-decorated plate in excellent condition sold for $13,800 (est. $6000/10,000) to the trade, bidding on behalf of a collector.

This uniquely decorated Fulper Brothers two-gallon stoneware crock from Flemington, New Jersey, depicting a hadrosaurus or duck-billed dinosaur, sold for $17,250 (est. $15,000/20,000). (A hadrosaurus skeleton was discovered in New Jersey in 1858, and in 1991 the hadrosaurus was designated the New Jersey state dinosaur.)

This Shenandoah Valley redware dish, inscribed “JE/ his Dish/ 1808” and attributed to potter Peter Bell, sold for $10,350 (est. $10,000/20,000) to a Maryland collector. Alvin Rice and John Baer Stoudt, in their 1929 book The Shenandoah Pottery, attribute the 14½" diameter piece stylistically to Peter Bell because of the grape cluster or fish-scale decorative motif. This dish is illustrated in the book. Attributing it to Peter Bell (1775-1854), who worked in both Hagerstown, Maryland, and Winchester, Virginia, remains challenging. Few Bell examples have survived, and only two “P. Bell” stamped pieces are known. This one contains losses to the slip floral decoration in the center, as expected with age, and has some rim chips. It was once in George Horace Lorimer’s collection and then in Donald Shelley’s collection. It sold on April 21, 2007, at Pook & Pook for $18,720 to a bidder on the phone.

This 10½" diameter slip-decorated redware plate with tree stump and rail fence decoration sold for $1610 (est. $2000/3000). It was purchased by the consignor in 1958 at the first of four catalog sales Walter Himmelreich had at the Pennypacker Auction Centre. Himmelreich was a well-known Pennsylvania dealer and collector.

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

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