Tiffany Studios stamp box, gilt bronze and Favrile glass, bronze and glass scarabs on the cover, marked, 2" high x 4½" wide, one scarab missing a leg, the other scarab adhered to the lid, $33,350.
Weller Gardenware "Happy Ducks" lawn sprinkler, marked, 14 5/8" high (ceramic portion), original fittings, fine overall crazing, $6325.
Mark Peiser paperweight vase, tropical motif with three palm trees, marked, dated 1979, 9½" high, a few minor scratches, $14,375.
Rookwood Aerial Blue scenic vase by Amelia Sprague, 1895, fishing boat with seven men, 7 1/8" high, light crazing, $9487.50.
Humler & Nolan, Cincinnati, Ohio
by Don Johnson
Photos courtesy Humler & Nolan
At a time when prices continue to be stymied by the lingering downturned economy, the good news might not be that things are getting better. Instead, it's that they aren't getting worse. During the auction held by Humler & Nolan on June 2 and 3 in Cincinnati, Ohio, gallery director Riley Humler noted that the market isn't losing ground.
Among the Rookwood offered were pieces sold ten to 15 years ago by the company's predecessor, Cincinnati Art Galleries. "It did pretty much what it had done before," Humler said. "That's indicative that the market hasn't been devastated."
Throughout the three-session saleRookwood XXII, Keramics 2012, and Art Glass 2012the better items, for the most part, did fine.
"Good things held up. Nice pieces did well," said Humler. "Obviously we had a Tiffany box that blew the doors off of everything. That happened to be an extremely rare piece, and we're really happy about that."
The Tiffany Studios stamp box was the high lot of the auction, realizing $33,350 (includes buyer's premium) during the art glass session. In gilt bronze with miniature Favrile glass brickwork veneer, the box had slanted sides and was topped by a lid having a bronze orb flanked by a pair of three-dimensional scarabs, each having an amber glass body and bronze legs. The box was estimated at $8000/10,000.
"Obviously it was Tiffany, and it looked nice," Humler said. "We did some quick research and found one that sold for about fifteen thousand [dollars], and that was the only example we could find. That was something that sold a number of years ago."
There were other strong lots from the session of art glass, including a Mark Peiser paperweight vase from 1979 that brought $14,375. It featured a tropical motif consisting of three palm trees under a speckled sun.
"We had sold a Peiser piece years ago for more than that. He's very well thought of in the contemporary market, and those things don't show up very much. According to the person who bought the one before, the first one was the most elaborate scene that Peiser had ever done. [The same buyer] wanted this one as well. He bought it at a lesser price, but it was a sweet amount of money."
Also among the art glass was a Meisenthal handled vase by Burgun, Schverer and Company that sold for $5750. The 9" amber vase had a scene of a maiden clinging to a gladiator. "It's very rare, extremely rare," said Humler. "It rarely shows up."
As with the art glass offered, the art pottery included a mix of American and European, led by a Weller Gardenware "Happy Ducks" lawn sprinkler at $6325. Other hard-to-find objects were easier on the checkbook. A Weller Glendale wall pocket with an integrated flower arranger, described as extremely rare, sold for $920.
Of the English pottery, a Royal Doulton Chang vase created by Charles Noke and Harry Nixon in a multicolored drip glaze, 10¼" high, sold for $6037.50. The back story was as good as the sale price.
"It was bought at another auction in the Midwest in a box lot within six months of our sale for a hundred bucks," Humler noted. "It's one of those things that I don't know how anybody could have missed it. It was marked with a huge two-inch diameter Chang mark. You almost have to pick it up even if you don't know what it is."
The Rookwood session, always the highlight of the weekend, resulted in several five-figure prices, but there was no over-the-top bidding. The best item was a Standard glaze vase with a portrait of Hollow Horn Bear, a Sioux chief. Decorated by Olga Geneva Reed in 1900, the 11¾" vase realized $16,675.
Not far off the pace was a "watercolor"-style Porcelain vase showing five odd-looking fish, an E.T. Hurley decoration from 1923. At 14¼" high, the vase sold for $14,375.
Although the session had a few no-sales of prime lots, most notably a Sea Green vase showing rooks in a ginkgo tree (est. $17,000/22,000), the work of Matt Daly in 1899, there were also a number of unusual items that changed hands, even when bidding didn't measure up to initial expectations. Among them was an Iris glaze tyg, the work of John Dee Wareham in 1899, carved with poppies that extended up from a base having electroplated copper bats plated in gold. The vase sold for $9200, slightly less than its low estimate.
The sluggish economy continues to affect not only the Rookwood coming onto the market (or not coming, as the case may be), but also what Humler's staff pursues.
"I am very reluctant to offer pieces in the twenty-thousand-plus range because I really see a ceiling right now for collectors that once you get really above fifteen thousand, there are not many people buying. It doesn't mean those pieces don't exist...I know where some of those pieces are, but I'm hesitant to offer them. If you put it out there, and nobody bids on it, that's a strike against it. I don't want to expose something that's really nice that somebody paid thirty thousand dollars for that no one is interested in. I'm not seeing the collector base going after those kinds of pieces with the vigor they did ten or fifteen years ago."
Humler continues to seek the right pieces for the existing market at a time when some potential consignors are afraid to sell. "The world hasn't come to an end; it just slowed down a little bit," he said.
Overall, Humler was satisfied with the auction. "We sold ninety-plus percent, which is good. We were pleased with the offering, pleased with the results, and are moving forward."
Next up for Humler & Nolan is the "Holiday Sale" on December 1 and 2. For more information, phone (513) 381-2041 or visit the Web site (www.humlernolan.com).
Rookwood carved Mat Arts and Crafts-style vase in a Vellum glaze by Rose Fechheimer, 1905, a pair of fish in turbulent water, 12" high, faint crazing, $8337.50.
Brilliant cut-glass pedestal vase, 18" high, faultless, $4025.
Rookwood Black Opal vase by Harriet Wilcox, 1927, white tulips, 14 5/8" high, uncrazed, excellent condition, $10,062.50.
Rookwood Iris glaze tyg with electroplated copper bats plated in gold by John Dee Wareham, 1899, carved pink poppies extending from the base, exhibited at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, 9 3/8" high, fine overall crazing, minor loss of gold plating, $9200. The catalog noted, "We have only seen gold on one other piece in 35 years. Keep in mind that the electroplating was done at Rookwood and not done by an outside firm."
Rookwood Vellum glaze vase by Carl Schmidt, 1914, Venice scene with sailboats at anchor, 15" high, faint crazing, hairline at rim, $10,350.
Fred Robertson table lamp, ceramic with butterfly-shaped glass inserts, marked, 14 7/8" high, overspray on shade and base indicates some restoration, $6900. One of only a few known to exist.
Rookwood scenic Vellum plaque, "Winter in the West," by Sara Sax, 1916, 10½" x 8¼" (sight), fine crazing, $10,637.50.