Purchase Story

Americana and International Auction

Pook & Pook Inc., Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Photos courtesy Pook & Pook

When Pook & Pook’s warehouse is overflowing, a sale is necessary. That’s why Pook & Pook scheduled a catalog sale for Saturday, January 27, and an online sale on the following Monday, January 29. It was just two weeks after Pook & Pook’s sale for Roland and Marilyn Kemble and a week after the Americana sales in New York City. The sale was billed as an “Americana & International” auction, but it was mostly Americana, and there was still an appetite for more.

Stained-glass panel and sliding door, circa 1912, probably Pittsburgh, 78¾" x 35" and 79" x 48¼", recently removed from a house in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where they were installed in 1912, sold for $46,360 (est. $4000/6000).

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, mahogany and cherry dwarf clock, circa 1830, with a broken-arch bonnet, eight-day works, and painted dial signed “Geoe. Eby / Manheim,” above a reverse-painted panel, the case with front cabriole legs terminating in trifid feet, 40½" high, sold for $24,400 (est. $20,000/30,000). Very few examples of this form are known.

American maple cello, dated 1763, bearing the label of Johann Antes, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, thought to be the first bowed string instrument maker in America. Few examples of his work survive, including a violin at the Moravian Historical Society, Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and a viola in the Lititz Moravian Congregation collection. This cello could be the earliest American-made cello. It sold in the salesroom to a descendant of the maker for $20,740 (est. $5000/10,000).

Wilhelm Schimmel (1817-1890), carved and painted rooster, retaining its original polychrome decoration, 6⅜" high, sold for $10,980 (est. $6000/9000).

Painted “Eggs” trade sign, 19th century, 5½" high, original paint, good condition, writing is only on one side, sold for $7320 (est. $200/400).

The auction house statistics showed that 350 people bid either in the salesroom, on the phone, or by leaving a bid with the auctioneer, and many more bidders placed 753 bids on Bidsquare, of which 82 were winning bids. This resulted in 95.2% of the lots selling for a total of $657,127 with buyers’ premiums (estimates were $432,400/711,400 without buyers’ premiums). There was plenty of stoneware (42 pieces were illustrated on the back cover of the catalog), some Chinese export porcelain, rugs, and American furniture, and a few dozen paintings, and the sale began with 46 slot machines.

The generally conservative estimates were spot on, but as in any well-advertised auction with easy access to online bidding, there were some surprises. What is thought to be the earliest American-made cello sold for $20,740, well above the $5000/10,000 estimate. Made of maple and dated 1763, it had the label of Johann Antes, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Few examples of Antes’s work survive. There is a violin at the Moravian Historical Society in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and a viola at the Moravian Congregation church in Lititz. The buyer in the salesroom was a descendant of the maker.

Centre County, Pennsylvania, painted pine dower chest, dated 1817, inscribed “Daniel Houser,” retaining its original decoration with two large trees, love birds, and flowers on a salmon ground, 24½" high x 47½" wide, hardware replaced, repaired breaks to foot facings, sold for $19,520 (est. $8000/12,000).

Stoneware pitcher, probably Maryland, with cobalt floral and grape decoration, 10¾" high, chip to spout, hairline across base and around rim of base, sold for $3172 (est. $400/700).

This collection of English carpet balls sold for $1830 (est. $1000/2000).

Hooked rug, early to mid-20th century, decorated with animals, letters A, B, C, and D, numbers, and “Francis” and “1949,” 58" x 38", mounted and in good condition, sold for $2928 (est. $400/600).

There was an audience for musical items at this sale. A Patek Philippe singing bird music box, made of tortoiseshell and gold, with an enamel cover, sold for $19,520 (est. $5000/8000), and an English glass skeleton musical clock, missing its dome, sold for $9150 (est. $3000/4000).

A few other lots went well over estimates. A silver tureen and cover, circa 1828, made by Samuel Kirk in Baltimore sold for $8540 (est. $3000/5000), but a bigger surprise was the $46,360 (est. $4000/6000) paid by a private buyer for two pieces of stained glass, offered as one lot, a panel with a design of peacocks and a sliding door with an abstract design. They were both recently removed from a house in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where they were installed in 1912.

Even more surprising was $7320 (est. $200/400) paid for a 5½" high shop sign in the shape of an egg with the word “EGGS” painted on one side.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, painted poplar hanging cupboard, circa 1760, retaining an old red surface and original wrought-iron ram-horn hinges, 36" high x 25" wide, sold for $5856 (est. $5000/10,000). At Pook & Pook’s sale of the collection of Donald and Esther Shelley on April 21, 2007, it sold for $18,720.

Jennings 5¢ Peacock slot machine with custom base, 61" high, sold for $3172 (est. $2500/3500).

Eastman Johnson (1824-1906), oil on board of a man smoking a pipe and sitting by a fire, signed lower left and dated ’68, in its original gilt frame, inscribed with the artist’s name, 19" x 14½", sold for $11,590 (est. $12,000/18,000).

Pennsylvania walnut high chest, circa 1770, with a broken-arch bonnet with applied carving, the lower section with a shell-carved drawer, supported by cabriole legs terminating in ball-and-claw feet, 95" high x 41½" wide, sold for $21,960 (est. $20,000/30,000).

The sale opened with a collection of 46 slot machines that brought a total of $43,000. The most expensive were two Jennings machinesthat each sold for $3172. The sale closed with a collection of more than 60 Oriental rugs that sold for a total of $42,000. An 8' x 3'8" Shirvan carpet, circa 1900, sold for $4880 (est. $1500/2500), one of the few rugs that sold over estimates.

The pictures and captions show what was in demand. The catalog with prices realized can be viewed online (www.pookandpook.com) as can the catalog for the online Americana auction held on the following Monday. Fifteen of the online sale’s more than 600 lots sold for more than $500. A 43-piece Gaudy Welsh tea and coffee service sold for $2500, and two goose decoys made $1750. A Pennsylvania green-painted bucket bench brought $1100. An oil on velvet painting of a stylized eagle with tulips in each claw by David Ellinger went for $600. These online sales play the role of the Sunday flea markets of yore. Instead of getting up in the dark and shopping by flashlight, buyers can bid in their PJs and slippers.

English brass musical skeleton clock, mid-19th century, retailed by A.W. Bezant, Hereford, England, 23½" high, missing its dome, some bent parts, sold for $9150 (est. $3000/4000).

Baltimore, Maryland, silver tureen and cover, circa 1828, with the touch of Samuel Kirk, with horse-head finial, chased and repoussé floral bands, and female bust handles, 12" high x 16½" wide, 104.6 troy ounces, sold for $8540 (est. $3000/5000).

Originally published in the May 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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