Late 19th-century full-bodied cow weathervane in copper with verdigris surface, attributed to New York, 27½" high x 43½" long, bullet holes and surface damage, $24,675.
Paint-decorated poplar blanket chest with original pinwheels and flowers on a red ground, dated 1835, Centre County, Pennsylvania, 25½" high x 49" wide, repaired hinge rail, minor losses, paint touch-ups, $50,525.
William Matthew Prior (1806-1873), double portrait of George C. Hodgson Jr. and Matilda Hodgson, signed and dated 1858 on reverse, oil on canvas, 24½" x 30½" (plus frame), some repairs and repaint, $24,100.
Angel Gabriel weathervane in copper, late 19th or early 20th century, regilt, minor seam separation, 22½" high x 56" long, $10,243.
Two-piece poplar corner cupboard with electric blue paint over old red, second quarter of the 19th century, 87½" high x 52" wide, $16,450.
One-piece paint-decorated pine store cupboard or apothecary with open shelves and 28 drawers, original oak graining and floral decoration on the drawers, hand-painted labels, red sides, mid-19th century, 86" high x 77" wide, $10,845.
Garth’s, Delaware, Ohio
Photos courtesy Garth’s
When Garth’s held its country Americana auction on January 12 in Delaware, Ohio, the small but specialized sale hit the market with Herculean force. Not that Garth’s hasn’t had great sales in recent years, but this one was beyond special for its selection, quality, and color.
The vast majority of the 466 lots came from a consignor in Texas who would rather have been buying than selling. “Stuff happens to people, and they have to sell,” explained Amelia Jeffers, president of Garth’s. “He was not building a collection in order to churn it. He had some life events—if you're a spiritual person, possibly acts of God—that were out of his control. Selling his collection was one piece of the puzzle for him. He did not want to sell the stuff.”
Jeffers said the collection produced strong results, in part because it was assembled based on appreciation for the objects, not as an entity to be flipped. “It’s an important distinction. If he had built this collection without that pure love of the material, it wouldn’t have done as well.”
Garth’s did its part in marketing the merchandise. It placed the sale in early January, returning to a time slot that had worked well for the company in the past. Held just before Americana Week in New York City, the auction served as a prime buying opportunity for dealers looking for additional inventory to take to Manhattan.
When it came time to hold bidding paddles in the air, the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd was ready. Jeffers said the collection was in the right place. “I don’t think there was anywhere better to sell it than Garth’s. This speaks directly to the kind of audience that has been cultivated for sixty years, not just the past seventeen,” she said, the latter period referring to the time that she and her husband, Jeff Jeffers, have been associated with the auction house.
“I am proud of what we’ve done in seventeen years,” she continued, “and a good portion of that seventeen years was with [former owners] Tom and Carolyn [Porter]. I think this auction speaks of what we have done in that time.”
It certainly said something. Strong prices were the order of the day, with buyers particularly interested in original paint, great form, and whimsy. Plenty of all three was available, leading to solid results.
Not that Jeffers was surprised by the outcome. “It’s always held true for us,” she said. “It’s sort of like tiger maple. I don’t know why you sell it anywhere else. We rock that stuff.”
While the color-form-whimsy combination isn’t a magical formula specific to Garth’s, it did work even better than usual at this sale, showing what Jeffers called “an acceleration of this marketplace.” Folk art was the common thread of the auction, stitching together all manner of antiques, whether weathervanes and paint-decorated furniture, game boards and advertising signs, or paintings and carnival games.
What would have been the auction’s highest-priced lot was a 79" high cigar-store Indian princess from the Texas collection. It was hammered down at $65,000, but according to Jeffers, the sale was canceled because of a question of the paint’s originality. It was among the consignor’s recent purchases.
Several paint-decorated blanket chests saw strong bidding. A poplar one with pinwheels and flowers on a red ground, dated 1835 and from Centre County, Pennsylvania, sold for $50,525 (including buyer’s premium), and a miniature poplar example with red and gold flowers on a green ground, attributed to western Virginia, 11¼" high x 17½" wide, made $41,125.
The best of the paintings was an 1858 oil by William Matthew Prior (1806-1873) depicting two young siblings, seven-year-old George Hodgson Jr. and 11-year-old Matilda Hodgson, each holding flowers. It brought $24,100. The double portrait had previously sold in May 2010 at Keno Auctions for $9520.
Unusual smalls did well as a whole. For example, an early 20th-century cast-iron owl shooting gallery target in original red and white paint, 16" tall, flew to $6169 (est. $600/900).
While general store furnishings also saw competitive bidding, some brought less than the prices originally paid by the Texas consignor, who had aggressively bought from some of the nation’s leading dealers.
“Some of the big case pieces where we got good money, a retailer can hang onto it a little longer and make more money,” said Jeffers.
The largest item in the auction was a two-piece store cabinet with four sliding glass doors in the upper section and 60 drawers in the base. Standing 7'11" high and 16'3" long, it realized $6025, still well above Garth’s estimate of $2500/4500.
While Garth’s clients did their part to ensure the auction’s success, Jeffers also credited her staff. “I’ve never been at Garth’s when people were more nose down, plowing forward, and drilled down on one goal and focused. That part of it feels really, really good—pushing that hard and seeing it pay off,” she said. ”It was a tremendous reward for our staff to do that well.”
How well did things go? Only two lots besides the cigar-store Indian didn’t sell, and neither one was of prime importance.
Needless to say, Jeffers was encouraged. “I’m eternally optimistic. This is a good sign we’re heading in the right direction, and there is some acceleration of that market.”
For more information, contact Garth’s at (740) 362-4771; Web site (www.garths.com).
Cast-iron owl shooting gallery target in original red and white paint, the figure with target holes and two iron “ringers” in the back to indicate a successful shot, early 20th century, 16" high, wear, $6169.
Early 20th-century Onion Cigar sign, “Smoke an Onion Popular 10 Cent Cigar / C.H. Guppy Co. Portland Me.,” painted tin in a wood frame, 55" x 38½", original paint with some crackling, minor stains, and scratches, $7050.
Early 20th-century double-sided tin sign in original paint, “Imperial Res’t Home Cooking,” made by McSavaney Company, Springfield, Ohio, the pierced letters originally illuminated from the interior, 43" high (with hooks) x 60" wide, wear, $3643.
Two bucking “Pony” figures from a carnival game, oilcloth on wood frame with broom-head mane and original paint, first half of the 20th century, 39" high x 61" long, wear, $7833.
Originally published in the April 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest