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Purchase Story

A Feast of Smalls at Laughlin's Summer Sale

Walter C. Newman | July 22nd, 2017

Laughlin Auctions, Edinburg, Virginia

Photos courtesy Laughlin Auctions

While covering sales at Laughlin Auctions, I have learned that with three auctioneers working simultaneously throughout the building, it is impossible to see it all. No one can be in several places at once, and with only a rough idea of the sequence of the sale (“We’re going to clear these tables, then go down that wall and across to the back wall…”) a miscalculation in timing will prevent you from being present when a specific item is offered. With that in mind, I decided to settle into the main salesroom of the July 22 sale and concentrate on the wide variety of items that would cross the block there.


This pumpkin-form Halloween parade lantern with handle and attached bracket was the most sought-after lot of the day. The jack-o’-lantern measures approximately 9" in diameter and probably dates from the late 19th or early 20th century. Its painted face features a handlebar moustache and an open mouth with defined teeth. The translucent backing is missing from one eye and part of the mouth. This lantern lit up the sale, selling for $3700.


This 13" tall salt-glazed stoneware cooler displays an impressed “2” gallon capacity mark. There is no maker’s mark. The cooler features brushed cobalt leaf decoration on both sides and cobalt accents to the handles. There is a vent hole in the finial and only one opening near the bottom, where the spigot would be fitted. The cooler brought $825.


This shelf clock displays a paper label that reads “MODERN IMPROVED / CLOCKS, / MADE AND SOLD BY / RILEY WHITING / WINCHESTER, CONN.” A caveat printed below reminds the buyer that the clock is “Warranted, if well used.” The 19th-century timepiece stands 30" tall and features a reverse-painted naval battle scene on the lower panel of the door. The case crest is a carved eagle. The applied half-round stiles are heavily carved. The clock is raised on carved paw feet. It sold for $1050.

Laughlin’s midsummer sale was at its Edinburg, Virginia, gallery and showroom. One look around the sales floor confirmed what I had seen on the Laughlin Auctions website. This would be a sale where dealers would have an opportunity to replenish their inventory of smalls and where collectors would bid to acquire the same items before they hit the retail floor. The two adjacent galleries offered large consignments of firearms, decoys, and shorebird carvings, but the antiques dealers’ stock in trade was in the main gallery. Here were baskets, pantry boxes, tinware, brassware, crocks, and box lots of who knows what. There was enough traditional furniture around the walls to make things interesting, but smalls were going to be the category of the day.

Hoyle Laughlin moves his sales quickly. There is no Internet bidding, and telephone and absentee bids are rare. If the item that is offered does not draw immediate interest, another item is put with it to sweeten the pot. The sales environment is reminiscent of an on-site farm or estate auction. The winning bidder takes immediate possession of and responsibility for his/her newly acquired property.


There was stiff competition for this bull portrait. The oil on canvas is neither signed nor dated. The subject is not identified as a specific animal but is likely an Ayrshire breed. The painting has an old, possibly original, beveled wooden frame. The bull sold for $675.


Here is a nicely proportioned 29" x 42" x 20" mixed-wood dry sink with an old red finish. The open sink well is fixed to the base with through-tenon joinery. The fielded-panel doors open to reveal a single storage shelf. There was significant competition for this piece, and it finally settled at $500.


This 60" x 13" storage cupboard has a surface with an old red wash/paint. The cupboard appears to be constructed of pine. The fielded-panel doors display through-tenon joinery. There are five shelves, and the case is raised on slightly compressed ball feet. The cupboard sold for $325.

All auction sales are educational. Sometimes you may learn the distinguishing characteristics of a particular potter or perhaps how to spot a well-repaired chair leg or a replaced brass pull. At this sale I learned one trick of the antiques trade itself. Like me, dealers cannot be in two places at once. So what do they do if they want to bid on something that will come up at some unknown time in another gallery and still remain active in the main salesroom? Simple. They leave an absentee bid, although they are “absent” by only 50 feet. There is no sense in allowing emotion to enter into the equation and finding yourself caught in a bidding duel. With an absentee bid, your limit is set, and the chips fall where they may. That is a great life strategy.

There were no blockbuster items among the smalls and furniture lots. Perhaps the big surprise of the day was a pumpkin-form Halloween parade lantern that sold for $3700. Laughlin Auctions does not provide estimates and does not charge a buyer’s premium. The lantern sold in the adjoining salesroom, and an unsuccessful bidder filled me in on its sale.

For additional information, contact Laughlin Auctions at (540) 984-8080 or visit the website (www.laughlinauctions.com).


Not all critter catchers are created equal. That is certainly true in the case of this tin mousetrap. The trap is embossed “TRADE MARK / CATCH-EM LIVE / MOUSE TRAP” and displays a patent date of 1873. Two determined bidders vied for ownership. The winner paid $725.


Several brass stencils were offered at the sale. This example was the top performer. “D.C. Little’s / Improved / Bee / Hives” was a hit among the auction gallery. The stencil generated spirited bidding and ultimately sold for $190.


This red and black game board must have been the property of a serious checkers player, willing to take on all comers. The board is fashioned as a personal lap board and reinforced on the underside with battens. The board brought $120.


This large (20" long) green oval pantry box has a hand-planed lid. Its large size and excellent condition pushed the price to $350.


This large blue-green slide-top box is approximately 20" in overall length and features an unusual extended overhanging lid. The box displays face-nailed construction. The lid is hand planed. In overall very good condition with no losses or repairs, it sold for $430.


This bucket bench in its original blue-gray-painted surface has shelves assembled using through-tenon construction with corner bracing to the lower shelf. This bucket bench sold for $350.


This continuous-bow Windsor chair was a bit of a head-scratcher. The chair displays a relatively low back and 15 turned spindles. The arm terminals are vertical and display finely turned decorative elements. The chair appears to have been painted several times and has bright red showing in several places. The puzzle is that the legs and stretchers show little or no wear. Still, this Windsor sold quickly for $600.


Originally published in the October 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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