Purchase Story

Autumn Estates Sale in Atlanta

Ahlers & Ogletree Auction Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia

Photos courtesy Ahlers & Ogletree

There are various ways of selling antiques, and the Atlanta firm of Ahlers & Ogletree—named for Robert Ahlers and his wife, Christy Ogletree Ahlers—has most of them covered. From their facilities on Miami Circle in the stylish Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead, they manage the live and online Ahlers & Ogletree auctions on the premises, Peachtree Battle Estate Sales & Liquidations and Peachtree Battle Antiques & Interiors on Peachtree Road, and Black Bear Antiques in Ellijay, Georgia.

Founder Robert Ahlers and director of consignments Kim Hong stand near a fountain at the entrance to the salesroom. Albertson photo.

Robert Ahlers recounted how the company evolved: “I’ve been in the business about twenty-five years. I was born here in Atlanta and started as an antiques dealer in 1991. I was just getting into the business; I was a generalist, buying whatever I could find and make a profit on. Eventually, I opened an antique mall and two years later a second one. I had as many as three antique malls at one time. My background has been in managing antique stores.”

Ahlers, however, felt there was a need for an auction house in Atlanta that would handle local and regional estates, while reaching out online to an international audience. He explained, “My goal was to create a reputable auction house that could handle the local business with the intention to cover the entire region. All the Atlanta estates were going either to Asheville [North Carolina] or South Carolina, because there was no one here in that business. Now we’re probably more competition to other firms than they are to us locally, in the sense that a lot of the estates that were going out of Atlanta to the regional auction houses are now staying here with us. To sell things from Atlanta in Atlanta is a plus for us and the consignors.”

In a selection of Asian art on the sale’s second day, a Chinese double-gourd vase with a Xuande mark (1426-35) and a Spink & Son label brought $1452 (est. $300/500).

All of these sterling silver pieces are marked “The Loring Andrews Company / Cincinnati U.S.A.” for the Ohio firm founded in the 19th century. In the Gilded Age years at the beginning of the 20th century, the store was a successful retailer of fine jewelry, clocks, and spectacular repoussé silver. Although usually marked with only the name of the retail store, the silver flatware and hollowware was supplied by major manufacturers, including Durgin, Gorham, Dominick & Haff, and Baltimore maker S. Kirk & Son. The pair of candlesticks in the Castle or Landscape pattern brought $2722.50; the floral fruit bowl, $2420; both lots came from the Atlanta estate of Rita Shanton Granger.

Three lots of sculptural vessels were made by the Moulthrop family, artists in rare woods, now based in Marietta, north of Atlanta. This signed black walnut vessel by Philip Moulthrop (b. 1947) sold for $2178. Two lots of swelling donut-shaped vessels (not shown)—one in figured tulipwood, one in orangewood—by Ed Moulthrop (1916-2003) brought $2722.50 each.

After holding auctions since 2013, Ahlers knows his market well: “If you go up to Baltimore, places like that, it’s all about American antiques—Atlanta, not so much. It’s about a decorative look, not as concerned with period pieces but perhaps content with something that looks like a period piece. In our part of the country, the trends are changing so quickly. A lot of the period furniture, brown furniture—French, English, and American—you’re not seeing it in the decorating magazines like you used to. Architectural Digest and Veranda are big here in the South. It’s trending more decorative and contemporary.”

“Twentieth-century modern is extremely hot. We always try to have a group of modern lots, although we’re at the mercy of what is coming in. We use LiveAuctioneers, Bidsquare, and Invaluable. Our offices are on one side of Miami Circle, and the live auctions take place across the street in our other building; that’s where the material is displayed for previews.” Of the three online platforms, LiveAuctioneers accounts for the majority of the bids. The sales draw a good crowd on the floor, although collectors interested in a particular item may preview, then bid on the phone.

Walking around the preview exhibition before the September 23 and 24, 2017, auction, director of consignments Kimberly Hong pointed out that the sales usually offer around 1200 lots over a two-day weekend, with material drawn from almost 200 different consignors.“You want enough material to get interest and have people carve out some time from their busy weekend. A lot of the regulars will preview and then come back for the auction. We have food and refreshments. There are people who just come to mix and mingle, but they may bring in other people so a friend gets exposed to an auction house,” Hong explained.

“Learning to buy at auction can be a gradual process. We have a sister company, Peachtree Battle Estate Sales, and two multidealer antique stores. So, we have people come in who are used to shopping in one of those venues. Through that relationship, they learn about the auctions. One couple used to buy at the stores, and then they came in and learned about how to bid. Now they’re confident bidders at every sale.”

This bronze gymnast, The Flair, by Richard MacDonald (b. 1946), signed and dated 1995, is a smaller version (20½" high) of a public piece produced by the artist for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta; the inspirational sculpture brought $3025.

An attractive aid to collections management, this vintage dental cabinet (54½" high) with three glass doors above 22 wonderful drawers of various dimensions brought $1089 (est. $300/500). Storage for tiny tools becomes the jewelry box you always wanted.

The Maitland-Smith furniture company, based in High Point, North Carolina, makes modern classics that take inspiration from 17th- and 18th-century English models. This Roman architectural desk of mahogany, burl walnut, brass, and leather was made 1999-2002, item #5530-175, and bears the firm’s plaque. Consigned from an Atlanta collection, the handsome desk sold for $5747.50.

In her role as director of consignments, Hong has become skillful at predicting what will probably excel on a sale weekend. Before the September auction, she said, “People really like the Paul Evans cabinet—lot 341. A lot of people looked at it, and they asked me if it was signed. We pointed out the initials and the date on the underside. People are coming in to look at the jewelry; we have a number of consignors, including several estates. The jewelry counter was busy yesterday. There’s a lot of interest on the Ben Smith drawings on the online platforms—he’s a contemporary Atlanta artist—and serious interest in the William Aiken Walker and the southern pie safe.”

Hong pointed out a personal favorite with strong local appeal: “It’s always such a strange mix of what I’m drawn to. I’m a big ball fan, and there are two pieces connected to the Atlanta Crackers, who used to play at Ponce de Leon Park, which is walking distance from where I live.” A minor league baseball team with a long, varied history, the Crackers was the town’s home team till the Braves moved from Milwaukee in 1966. As it turned out, a framed pennant from the team’s latter years sold for a reasonable $302.50 (with buyer’s premium).

Speaking after the auction, Hong was happy with the results: “Overall, the sale did really well. I was very pleased with the Paul Evans cabinet—it sold for $14,520. I was excited about that because we haven’t dealt with any of his major works before. The William Aiken Walker sold for $10,285, exactly what I thought it would do. We tend to have a good market for that artist.

Top lot of the September sale was a sculptured metal cabinet created by American artist Paul Evans (1931-1987) in 1971, which sold for $14,520. Possibly a custom order, the 78" high work of bronze and composite is mounted on a chromed steel Cityscape base and bears the date and sculptor’s initials. Albertson photos.

“Something that caught me by surprise was the M.L. Poum Malakoul [French/Thai, 1910-1973] landscape with figures, which brought $3932.50, over an estimate of $600/800. I feel like that market is really growing. We’ve had some Thai and Balinese paintings before. We estimate them pretty conservatively, and over the last six to nine months, they’ve all overperformed. That’s an interesting market, which is booming right now. The Roman architectural desk, which came from a private collector in Atlanta, sold for $5747.50 [est. $2000/4000]. The great thing about that piece was that nothing similar has hit the market recently—it had a wonderful look, and it was in fantastic shape. Our buyers here in Atlanta really resonate with contemporary makers that have a good look—classic with a twist.”

The 19th-century marble-topped pier table, 37¾" x 46" x 17 1/8", with gilded bronze mounts and winged caryatid supports, bears an old inventory label and is said to have once graced the president’s house at Princeton University. Sold for $8470, the artifact is going on a long sea voyage; it was the single purchase of an Australian bidder. Albertson photo.

While the auction featured many pieces of gem-laden estate jewelry, this lot of 32 English Victorian hatpins was a surprise winner, selling for $1210, more than double the $300/500 estimate. With some examples a foot in length, hatpins are often the weapon of choice for steampunk heroines.

The small oil painting by South Carolina artist William Aiken Walker (1839-1921), 6" x 12 1/8" (sight size), depicts a simple cabin scene on laundry day with cotton fields beyond. Walker’s works are strong sellers in the region; this example drew early bidder interest and brought $10,285 (est. $8000/12,000).

Robert Ahlers agreed with her assessment of the auction: “The sale went very well. We had a good in-house crowd, which was nice, and they held through the weekend. That was a plus. We felt like the jewelry did what we hoped it would. We have a lot of repeat business—retail customers, designers, dealers that are regulars. Modernism always does well. We’d love to focus more on the mid-century modern pieces and jewelry and fine art—we do well with those. Furniture is tougher these days; even really nice furniture is softer than it used to be. In this market, there is plenty of volume, but not as many choice pieces. Here, where we are, the market is more diverse and eclectic, so our sales have something for everyone. I’m already heading out to look at more estates. I’m always beating the bushes. We have a one-day estate sale [in November], but we’re saving some special lots for a big sale January 6 and 7, 2018.”

For more information, visit (www.aandoauctions.com) or call (404) 869-2478.

Bidders had a selection of decorative mirrors to choose from throughout the sale, but one of the most desirable appeared late on the second day. This large 19th-century convex mirror in a molded gold frame, 40½" diameter, brought $2722.50 (est. $700/900) from a buyer with the right spot for its display.

On the second day of the sale, this painting of an unidentified young woman in what may be the original oval frame (38½" high), signed by Thomas Buchanan Read (1822-1872) and dated 1860, brought $1936. Born in Pennsylvania, the artist and poet executed portraits of many important figures of the day, from Abraham Lincoln to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Worthy of research, the identity of this sitter could be an interesting discovery.

Originally published in the January 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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