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The Seventh Annual Ohio Valley Auction

Don Johnson | May 17th, 2013

Sawbuck table in mixed woods, three-board top, 19th century, 29" x 72", old refinish, $4406.

Reward of merit folk art bookplates, attributed to Ohio, watercolor and ink on paper, both in the same hand: One with a bird facing right on a branch, signed and dated “Benjamin Florey 1837” on the back, 6½" x 6", framed between glass, $2820; the other having a bird facing left on a flowering branch, the backing paper having the name William Frey (probably the student the award was made for) and the date 1834, 5½" x 4¾", framed, stain, glued to the backing, $3525. The on-line catalog noted, “Of five known by this hand, each has a different name and date.”

Portrait of a woman, attributed to Jasper P. Miles (1782-1849) of Connecticut and Ohio, oil on wooden board, unsigned, with a faint pencil inscription on the back noting that the sitter is Mrs. Homer Brooks and it was painted in Berlin, Erie County, Ohio, 1846, by a Mr. Miles, 9" x 6¾" plus frame, good condition, $8225.

Butter print, unusual carving of a two-story house with flowers, no handle, American, mid-19th century, 4" diameter, $2350.

Decorated candlestand in mixed woods with original paint, including a yellow checkerboard on the circular top, the sides of the gameboard with the four names, one drawer, probably of Ohio origin, 19th century, 27½" high x 20½" diameter, $14,394.

Two-piece poplar cupboard in its original orange and red paint decoration with green trim and stenciled accents including stars, “1883” and the initials “SY” and “JY,” probably northern Indiana, 82" x 57", some molding restored, minimal edge wear and scratches, $18,800.

Early 19th-century chest of drawers with contemporary paint decoration by Tom King, former executive vice-president of Garth’s, 37½" x 37", $2938.

Garth’s Auctions, Delaware, Ohio

Photos courtesy Garth’s

When Garth’s Auctions held its seventh annual Ohio Valley auction on May 17 and 18 in Delaware, Ohio, Saturday’s packed house was unusual. Traditionally, that’s the day when only the diehard collectors and dealers stick around after everyone else has limped home following Friday’s stint in the gallery.

By tinkering with the order of the sale, moving the Ohio Valley session to the second day, Garth’s all but assured a standing-room-only crowd on Saturday. When it comes to the auction house’s regulars, no one misses the Ohio Valley sale. That would be like finishing a glass of champagne at a quarter till midnight on New Year’s Eve and then going to bed before the ball drops at Times Square.

The Ohio Valley sale has rightfully earned a reputation for great mid-American antiques, more so than at any other Garth’s auction throughout the year or, quite frankly, any other venue. “Ohio Valley” has become synonymous with Garth’s, defining an event as much as a location. Accordingly, the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd during the Ohio Valley auction could be credited to the great heartland merchandise offered.

Or maybe not. “The Ohio Valley session kicking off Saturday was a serendipitous success,” said Amelia Jeffers, president of Garth’s. “It had more to do with the volume of Americana than the Ohio Valley material.”

She had a point. Get past the day’s first 170 lots, which made up the Ohio Valley items, and there was still plenty of good stuff in the remaining 250 lots. It was simply great Americana, regardless of where it originated. And that’s not counting more than 280 lots offered on Friday.

Even so, there was something special about the Ohio Valley material and what it now represents. When the Ohio Valley auction began in 2007, it was a novel concept. Garth’s put together a session that made fair game of any quality antiques from the watershed area of the Ohio River. This wasn’t stuff from Philadelphia or Baltimore, unless that’s New Philadelphia, Ohio, or the long-abandoned village of Baltimore, Indiana.

At that first Ohio Valley auction, collectors from outside the area might have shrugged their shoulders at all the commotion over items from the Midwest, the perception being that real antiques originated in New England, the East Coast, the South. The Midwest had long been considered the home of colored glassware and towns with oddball names. It was hard to take a person seriously who came from a place called Gnaw Bone.

Over the years, perceptions changed. Credit Garth’s staff for that. Collectors and dealers have come to understand that there’s a wealth of great Americana that originated well away from the traditional center of the antiques universe.

“Ohio Valley, for us, it’s where the rubber meets the road; it’s where research meets the real world,” said Jeffers. “It happens to be a particular passion of folks on staff.”

The passion shows in the consignments that the staff procures. But what’s happened since the inaugural Ohio Valley auction is a blurring of the lines. It’s not so much about great Ohio Valley stuff as it is about simply great stuff. That’s what’s driving the marketplace. And that’s what’s putting believers in the pews, so to speak, when Garth’s opens its doors.

“The seats were totally full on Saturday,” Jeffers noted. The crowd reflected an appreciation of the furniture, artwork, textiles, and other items offered. “We made note of it for next year that we will definitely put it on Saturday,” she said of the Ohio Valley session.

Kicking off that session was the top lot of the auction, a paint-decorated stepback cupboard in original orange and red graining with green trim and stenciled accents that included stars, initials, and the date 1883. Probably from northern Indiana, the cupboard sold for $18,800 (includes buyer’s premium).

Decorated furniture did well throughout the Ohio Valley session, but nothing was more surprising than a 19th-century candlestand having a yellow checkerboard on the round top. The outside edge of the gameboard showed the names Frank Smiley, Fred Henry Lewis, and Daniel Hilbrant Wood. Likely from Ohio and estimated at $500/1000, it sold for $14,394.

Also selling above expectations was a cherry bookcase believed to be of Ohio origin, 1825-50, the upper section having unusual glazed doors that formed a circular design when closed, the radiating mullions giving the appearance of a ship’s wheel. Considering the bookcase descended in families from Marietta, Ohio, which is located on the Ohio River, maybe the nautical theme wasn’t accidental. It realized $11,045 against an estimate of $2000/4000.

Smalls included objects of intrigue, including an 1841 sampler from Richmond, Indiana, bid to $2290, and an impressive 24½" high two-level bottle whimsy dating to the early 20th century. The bottle, made by Charles C. Hoke of Ohio, showing a farmhouse and a schoolhouse, realized $3615. The whimsy, however, also reflected the erratic nature of the marketplace, having sold at Pook & Pook in 2005 for $6325.

Outside the Ohio Valley session, there was plenty of Americana to draw a crowd. Early in the sale came a 19th-century pine chest of drawers with a contemporary paint decoration that included a snake climbing a tree, the work of Tom King, former executive vice president of Garth’s. Estimated at $200/400, it sold for $2938.

Folk art has been a pillar of the antiques market for years. The chest decorated by King suggested that while age was certainly important, buyers were also able to appreciate the workmanship of the modern embellishments.

At other times, old-fashioned standards prevailed. For an 18th-century spoon rack with a scalloped crest, three slotted rows for spoons over a lift-lid box, pine in old gray paint, complete with eight pewter spoons, bidding went to $5288 on the strength of the design. Ditto for an American butter print carved with a two-story house, mid-19th century, 4" diameter, that brought $2350.

“Here’s the deal with that folksy category,” Jeffers explained. “The reality is, when you’re talking about the folksy side of Americana…the major dealers are watching us the same way they’re watching Skinner, Pook, anyone else. We have a great audience of people who have grown up in that salesroom, buying just this kind of stuff.” Other categories have blossomed at Garth’s, but folk art, in its various forms, continues to flourish.

“We can sell folk like you can sell water in the desert, I guess. I’m not trying to be a braggart, either. I love it,” Jeffers said. “They’re building collections with us.”

No doubt, Garth’s will continue to build on its Ohio Valley auction. For more information, phone Garth’s at (740) 362-4771 or visit (

Unusual two-piece library bookcase in cherry and poplar, possibly Ohio, 1825-50, 107" high x 54" wide, refinished, replaced pulls, lower drawers rebuilt with original fronts, corner fans reglued, other imperfections, $11,045.

Wrought-iron trammel, dated 1765, punched decoration and initialed “WS,” found in a tavern in Delmont, Pennsylvania, 37" long, original surface with a few areas of light rust, $4700.

Bottle whimsy made by Charles C. Hoke, Ohio, early 20th century, the two-level design incorporating a clapboard farmhouse and schoolhouse, each level decorated with beads and supported by wire posts, on a carpet-covered wooden base, having several handwritten and printed labels identifying the maker as Charles Hoke of Center, Ohio, 1904, including a label for “C.C. Hoke’s Museum of Artistic Wonders,” 24½" high, $3615.

Spoon rack in pine with old gray paint, rosehead nails, American, late 18th century, 34" x 13", losses, splits, paint wear, with eight assorted pewter spoons, $5288.

Paint-decorated two-piece stepback cupboard in poplar, original brown over cream paint including faux bird’s-eye and curly maple, Ohio, mid-19th century, 88½" high x 92" wide, $14,100.

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

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