The gilt copper and zinc lyre-form bannerette weathervane, 59¼" long, was the second lot in the Scotts' collection and carried a $3000/5000 estimate, but the phones quickly pushed it to $10,073. Paul Scott said that he'd given Stephen Fletcher provenances for the pieces, thinking it would lighten up the sale. This piece was sold to him by picker Peter Carswell, who found it in a garage in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Read the story to see Paul Scott's explanation for why the yellow color surface remained on this 20¼" high butterfly weathervane by J.W. Fiske. Four phone bidders wanted it; one paid $41,475 to own it.
The J. Howard & Co. cast zinc and copper "Index" horse, 24¼" high x 29" long, came to the Scotts from dealer Bruce Emond. A phone bidder paid $44,438 for it. It was prices like these that raised the sale total to around $500,000.
The J. Howard zinc and copper rooster weathervane in old weathered paint went to a dealer at $11,850.
The wallpaper-covered trinket box, made by Phebe Osborn, granddaughter of cabinetmaker Moses Osborn, sold to Arthur Liverant for $2489.
Are collectors still chasing painted baskets? They are when they believe the paint is old and the basket is all straight. The Scotts bought the 7" high green basket at a 1977 auction in Wilton, New Hampshire. A lot of bidders wanted it in 2012, and the $600/800 estimate meant nothing. Somebody paid $4148 to take it home.
An early New Hampshire tavern table with later grain paint ended up with the Scotts after dealer Randy Loomis called to say he was about to strip a table and wondered if they wanted to see it first. They snapped it up, and it brought $9184.
Skinner, Inc., Marlborough, Massachusetts
by David Hewett
Photos courtesy Skinner
The Sunday, August 12 sale at Skinner, Inc. in Marlborough, Massachusetts, opened with the collection of Cheryl and Paul Scott-280 lots of material that the Hillsborough, New Hampshire, couple saved as favorites while dealing antiques over much of their adult lifetimes.
The Scotts have been active in New England antiques for almost 40 years. Although neither was born in New Hampshire, their ties to it are many and solid. Paul was introduced to the world of antiques and dealing when he took a one-day-a-week course in antiques and history in his junior year at New England College in Henniker. Cheryl's parents ran a year-round open antiques shop in Amherst, Halverson's Antiques on Route 101, and she worked with them.
Paul joined the Richard Withington auction firm in Hillsborough Center as a runner around 1975. Cheryl and Paul began bumping into each other at various antiques shows, shops, and auctions; nature took its course, and they became a couple.
That has changed. Cheryl is still actively dealing, now under her own name (she had a booth at the New Hampshire Antiques Show), and Paul plans to continue dealing. They stipulated that their collection would be sold after the New Hampshire show closed.
The world changed for both of the Scotts when Paul took a tumble in the garden on May 10, 2009. The dizzying fall has left him confined to a wheelchair. It was a freak accident, but we'll let Paul tell it in his own words.
"It turns out that in your inner ear you've got these little hairs, little cilia that have crystals on the end; they call them rocks," he explained. "Well, every now and again one of those rocks will break offnine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand that rock just gets embedded in the ear canal. Once in a thousand, or a million, times, whatever the odds are, it just floats around and doesn't find a home, then all of a sudden it hits your inner ear, and you lose your equilibrium.
"I was outside planting tomato plants with Cheryl, and she called me. I turned to her, and the jerking motion of my head sent this thing flying. I collapsed down on myself, and my head hit the grass. It turns out I had spinal stenosis; I didn't know it at the time, and I broke my neck in three places, and that was the end of it."
In an instant, Paul became a quadriplegic.
Cheryl said about the emergency, "I knew it was serious, more than serious. He couldn't move anything; he'd fallen forward onto his arm, and he couldn't move anything."
"They took me to Concord after it happened," Paul said, "and Cheryl worked some of her connections in the antiques field and the next day got me taken down to Boston Medical [Center]."
"My best friend knows some people who have had to deal with these injuries, and they checked around with people," Cheryl said. "They said Boston Medical had one of fourteen in the country spinal cord injury-rehabilitation programs. He had the very best doctors for that kind of injury that there weredoctors from around the world, doctors from Russia; his surgeon was a doctor who just does necks."
"I was in intensive care about five weeks before they operated," said Paul. "They ran every test in the book, looked at heart, brain, everything. They ended up with the theory that the thing with the rock in the ear caused the fall."
Paul does have some limited use of his forearms now, which permits him to use a wheelchair and drive a specially built Honda equipped with all kinds of advanced controls.
"It took them three months to build my Odyssey," Paul said. "It has a front and back control for my left hand, a stick shift, forward for brake, back for gas; the other hand fits into a brace on the steering wheel so it can't slip off; it has other controls on the driver's side door that I hit with my elbow. It's really something. It took me six weeks of lessons to learn to drive all over again. But I aced my driving test, thank you very much!"
The changes to the house came later. "We had some ramps put in," Cheryl said, "and some things taken out, so when he got home he could function; they won't release them unless that's done. I don't know about right now, but after I left he had people come in about ten hours a day. Once he's in his wheelchair he's very independent."
There were other issues to deal with.
Cheryl said she took the opportunity to look within. "When there is something catastrophic that shakes up your life, you do end up looking at life differently. I looked at the choices I'd made and the choices I was going to make in the future. I just realized that I wanted something different."
Then they talked about the auction.
Paul said, "I didn't want people to feel bad about what happened; that's why I included all the stories [about legendary pickers and provenances] in the catalog. I was trying to make it a sort of feel-good situation. I didn't want the overall theme to be, 'Oh we're getting a divorce,' and all that stuff. We didn't necessarily buy the greatest stuff available, but we bought the stuff we liked. Value wasn't really the issue; it was stuff we liked."
"We had always talked, as anybody would, about your favorites," said Cheryl. "The five things that I treasured the most were things that made me happy to look at.
"The butterfly [weathervane], the Windsor armchair, the little green and yellow box, the Black Hawk weathervane, the first one that soldI bought that at a Bill Hubbard sale-that was a real favorite thing; then the Phebe Osborn box, the one with the written 'P.O.' and wallpapera handful of things you put in a room and sit there feeling pleased. We're all visual people, and those were the items that made me happiest."
Nonetheless, the favorites went to auction.
The Scotts' favorite chairs were scattered about the floor of Skinner's salesroom. Cheryl settled into a red-painted slat-back rocking chair and watched the sale unfold. The chair sold for $830 (includes buyer's premium).
Paul said he watched the sale on the Internet.
Cheryl rents a residence in Derry, New Hampshire, now. She does antiques shows and shows her stock at Keepers Antiques in Chichester, New Hampshire, along with five to six other dealers.
Cheryl said, "I'm going to take my time now about making any large decisions. I'm learning things all over again," she said in a near whisper. "I'm one of those people who keep on trucking. A friend of mine told me I was stoic. I don't know what that means; maybe it means dopey, I don't know. You just have to do what you have to do. At that time we had to deal with the situation that we had in front of us the best we could. And we did."
In a wheelchair or not, Paul remains a kidder. He cannot resist the opportunity for the quick comeback, the jaw-dropping nail-you-in-your-shoes response when an opening occurs. "I've had a lot of calls from dealers after the auction was over, from up and down the East Coast, congratulating me," Paul said. "One guy, a top dealer, said, 'What prices!' and I said, 'Just imagine, we culled out the collection and kept the best stuff.' Silence on the other end. I told him, 'I'm just kidding around.'"
One staple throughout the Scotts' dealing years were weathervanes; they have sold dozens and dozens and dozens of weathervanes over the years. There were at least 17 in the 280-lot sale at Skinner. The second-highest-priced was a J.W. Fiske-attributed copper butterfly. It opened at $8000 and sold to a phone bidder for $41,475.
Paul spoke about the surface on the butterfly. "That was the beauty of that thing-it was that gesso yellow. It had been on a roof, and for some reason it came off the roof, and the process stopped. It had been stuck in an attic. When I saw it at the [Hercules Pappachristos] auction I had to blow the dust off it. You hate to use the term '[in] a time capsule,' but during the process of its corroding or whatever, it was taken down and saved."
The highest-priced weathervane was a J. Howard & Co. cast zinc and molded copper "Index" horse, 29" long, that was estimated at $8000/12,000. It opened with an $11,000 bid and ended up selling to a phone bidder for $44,438.
Paul described it. "It was the same way with the surface on that horse. The gilt left it right at the join lines. Again, that was a thing that was just stopped in the process. And you know, collectors and dealers, we all just love that kind of thing. We're used to really having to look closely at things, but this is so obviously right that at ten feet away you can buy it."
Many of the same dealers who had participated in the New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association show were in attendance for the Scotts' sale and the following session, but they had a lot of competition.
|A maple and cherry tall chest made by Weare, New Hampshire, cabinetmaker Moses Osborn, 63" high x 38½" wide, sold for $17,775. The Scotts bought it from a descendant of Osborn, sold it to Bill Samaha, then later bought it back. The samplers were made by sisters Abigail and Phebe Osborn; one is dated 1830. A dealer took both at $948.|
A New Hampshire tiger maple six-drawer chest went to Arthur Liverant at $7110. Jonathan Trace chased the Scotts' fan-carved and string-inlaid slant-lid cherry desk, but a phone bidder took it at $8295. A J. Howard zinc and copper rooster weathervane appeared to go to dealer Michael Whittemore, seated at the rear of the room, for $11,850.
A few days after the sale, there was a call from dealer David Schorsch, who said, "I wanted to tell you that I got the leg." A quick flip through the catalog
didn't turn up a leg. We weren't certain that we were even talking about the same sale.
A patient Schorsch waited for a response, then added, "The Bartlett school leg and foot," and suddenly the fog lifted, and it all made sense. Lot 607 in the Scott sale was a compactly sawn and carved maple Queen Anne foot for a high chest of drawers. Walter Backofen had photographed the foot for his 1988 book on the products made by New Hampshire cabinetmaker Peter Bartlett.
It carried a $300/500 estimate in the catalog. Schorsch has bought some great fragments in the past, so it made perfect sense that he would pay $2844 to claim the leg. It's a great sculptural piece of country cabinetmaking.
Paul said he'd talked with Stephen Fletcher about it after the sale. "That's a pretty good price for a foot, isn't it? It makes you wonder," he said he told Fletcher, "if maybe you should buy a piece of furniture, knock it apart, and sell it foot by foot."
Paul is still the joker, and he is not done with antiques, not at all. Asked about that, he answered with a question, "What the hell else would I do? It's all I know. I've got over thirty years invested in the business.
"I've still got the mojo for it. I bought some of the things that were at the [New Hampshire] dealers' show this year, and they've found new homes, so I think I still have the knack.
"Hey," he said with a touch of the old Paul slipping in a wisecrack, "I might even apply to do the New Hampshire dealers' show next year. There is a precedent, you know..."
Paul wanted to add a serious comment. "And those people involved in the antiques world for ninety-nine percent of the time, those folks have been so supportive of both Cheryl and me with so many offers of help, asking whatever they can do; it's overwhelming. I know we're all competitors, but when it comes right down to humanity, they are quite a group.
"I tell my friends now, forget the small stuff, your life can change in an instant. We all have heard it a thousand times, and we all worry about the small stuff, but in the big scheme of things, believe me, it really ain't important."
For more information, contact Skinner in Boston at (617) 350-5400 or in Marlborough at (508) 970-3000; Web site (www.skinnerinc.com).