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Farmer Sale Turns the Page

November 30th, 2012

The high lot of the Farmer sale was this set of sterling flatware from Tiffany & Company in the Audubon pattern, which first appeared in 1871. The set is from the 20th century and consists of 101 pieces that are not monogrammed. The set is not old, but it is sterling, and it is Tiffany. The 151.53 troy ounces of silver flatware sold for $12,650 (est. $4000/7000).

The North Carolina sideboard from the first quarter of the 19th century is constructed of walnut with yellow pine and poplar secondary woods. It has a scalloped backsplash, a two-board top, a wide center drawer with double-door storage below, and a center section flanked by sets of three drawers. The skirting is scalloped and highlighted with carved fan elements. The drawer sections are divided by carved and turned posts that terminate in modified ring-decorated feet. Carved oval medallions accent the upper drawer section, and the doors of the center storage compartment feature applied fan carvings in the corners of the center flame-grain panels. The sideboard measures 41" x 72" x 23½" and is in overall good condition with a few repairs and an old refinished surface. It sold to an Internet buyer for $1770 (est. $3000/6000).

Ken Farmer Auctions and Appraisals, Radford, Virginia

by Walter C. Newman

Photos courtesy Ken Farmer Auctions and Appraisals

Ken Farmer held his usual fall estate and collector auction on September 30 at his company's salesrooms in Radford, Virginia. Surprisingly, the event may have been the final such sale for the foreseeable future.

The recently reported business association between Farmer and Falls Church, Virginia, auctioneer Paul Quinn is likely to change how the Radford location will figure into the firm's future sales (see M.A.D., November 2012, p. 9-A).

Farmer told me that the cataloged sales we are accustomed to in Radford will be held in the new Quinn & Farmer salesrooms in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Radford location will continue to operate, hosting its regular uncataloged "treasure" auctions. Specialized catalog sales such as firearms and coins also will be held at the Radford location.

It is probably fitting that this final sale was truly a "generalist's generalist" auction. The 373 cataloged lots covered virtually all of the categories that we have seen cross the block on the sales floor at 105 Harrison Street. And as has been the case many times, there was no category that outpaced the others.

It will come as no surprise that there were some bargains to be found in the furniture category. A very nice and sturdy 19th-century country child's Windsor rocking chair with arrow-back spindles and an old green-painted surface sold for half its estimate at just $58 (includes buyer's premium). A late 19th-century eight-drawer hanging spice cabinet in chestnut brought $92, near the top of its estimate. A candlestand constructed of poplar with a nicely turned central shaft brought $115, half its low estimate.

Baseball memorabilia collectors had seven lots to choose from. There were two 1930's autographed Detroit Tigers baseballs that sold for $374; two scorecards from the Philadelphia Phillies and four from the Washington Senators that sold as a single lot for $138; and a dozen 1930's and 1940's New York Yankees scorecards that changed hands for $259. All were within estimates.

The high lot of the sale came from among the silver items and was not a particular surprise. A 101-piece set of Tiffany flatware in the Audubon pattern, some pieces still in unopened retailer's bags, sold for $12,650 (est. $4000/7000).

The only real surprise came from among the Oriental rugs. A 30" x 44" tribal rug proved to be a "must-have" item for two telephone bidders. The gallery watched as a bidding duel went on for what seemed to be hours. In reality, it was probably only five minutes. Eventually, one of the bidders had to give in, and the rug sold for a surprising $8050 (est. $100/200).

My trips to Radford have been delightful, and I will miss those members of the Farmer staff who may not be commuting to the Charlottesville location for future sales. They have always made me feel welcome.

For additional information, call (540) 639-0939 or visit the Web site (

The 3" x 9¾" x 4" carved sandalwood box is Chinese, dates from the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and is very intricately carved. The images are predominantly floral and landscapes with groups of figures. The carving appears to be influenced by Moorish and Buddhist styles. The box sold to the telephone for $863 (est. $100/200).

This tin lithograph windup roller coaster was made by the Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and sold under the name "Jet Roller Coaster." It dates from the 1950's and features a repeating spring-wind mechanism that allows the self-contained unit to continuously load and run the futuristic style coaster car. The roller coaster has its original paint details, and directions for its operation are printed on the bottom. It measured 4½" x 12" x 4½" and sold for $104 (est. $40/60).

This letter from Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis was written to Mr. W.M. Cumming and dated December 15, 1878. It is a message of general good wishes. The letter has been laid down on a larger piece of paper with Confederate flags, a shield, and a photograph of Davis added. The document is framed and measures 9" x 7¼" (sight size). The letter heading indicates that it was written at "Beauvoir/ Harrison Co., Miss." Davis lived in a guest cabin on Beauvoir plantation, near Biloxi, Mississippi, at the time the letter was written. The following year he inherited the plantation from his host. An Internet buyer purchased the autograph letter for $560 (est. $300/500).

This letter from Confederate Brigadier General J. Johnston Pettigrew, signed and dated February 1, 1863, a single sheet in Pettigrew's hand, expresses his thanks to R.J. Holmes for information regarding the mapping of an unspecified area. R.J. Holmes is not identified, but there was an individual by that name who was involved in mapping areas of the American Southwest prior to the Civil War. As for General Pettigrew, he is remembered for his involvement in the disastrous engagement known as Pickett's Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. Pettigrew died on July 17, 1863, from wounds suffered during the Confederate withdrawal from Gettysburg. The letter is stained, but the ink and the signature are clear and bold. The 9" x 5¾" letter is not framed and sold to an Internet buyer for $4720 (est. $1000/2000).

This autographed portrait photograph of President Warren G. Harding is inscribed to Howard Hathaway. It is not dated, and it is unknown whether it was autographed during the 29th president's term. The photo was taken by Harris & Ewing, a prominent photography studio in Washington, D.C., that was referred to as the "photographer of presidents" for the first half of the 20th century. The 11" x 8½" profile portrait has a clear and bold signature. It has some surface wear and a small tear and sold to an Internet buyer for $354 (est. $100/200).

This unsigned stoneware pitcher from the late 19th century is decorated with an abstract cobalt leaf form at its lower handle terminus and additional cobalt marks. The 9" high pitcher is in overall good condition and sold in the room for $575 (est. $100/300).

This little (30" x 44") rug was quite a surprise. The catalog listed it as "wool on wool tribal Oriental rug." It is woven in primarily white, blue, and burgundy, and the design features nine medallions within a border. It exhibits significant overall wear to the fringe. It is unknown whether this is a remnant of a larger rug. Intense bidding from the phone pushed the rug to a surprising $8050 (est. $100/200). As soon as the lot sold, a group gathered around the rug, looked at it, and shook their heads. One of the group stated the obvious, "Someone knows something we don't know."

These two carved ivory figures attracted intense interest among several bidders. Although they are not a pair, they were sold as a single lot. Each is highlighted with gold-painted accents. One stands 10" high, and the other, 9½". Each is mounted on a teak base. The two carvings sold to an Internet bidder for $1180 (est. $200/400).

This black glass wine bottle dating from the early 19th century displays an embossed imprint label that reads "I.L.M. Smith/ Wine Mercht/ Baltimore." The paper label is handwritten and reads, "Madeira/ Lacock/ Impt. 1802." The catalog describes the bottle as having an applied "blob" top. The bottle is in very good condition with a small chip at the top of the raised ring surrounding the imprinted label, and bits of the original sealing material are adhered to the bottle's neck. The bottle sold to the phone for $403 (est. $200/300).

Signed lithographs from Associated American Artists (AAA) have become quite popular and collectible. This one by Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), Threshing, 9¾" x 14¼" (sight size), has been matted and framed. Benton created this reverse image version of his colorful 1939 original for distribution by AAA. It was issued in 1941. The lithograph is in very good condition with some burn from the original mat and is signed in graphite on the lower right outside of the image. It went to the telephone at $3738 (est. $1800/2400).

Originally published in the December 2012 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2012 Maine Antique Digest
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