Purchase Story

The Sale of Mark and Marjorie Allen’s Estate

Pook & Pook, Inc., Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Photos courtesy Pook & Pook

On July 1, the morning after the first session of the sale of Mark and Marjorie Allen’s estate at Pook & Pook, an image of a large pine server with well-worn blue paint was posted on Instagram announcing its price of $15,120 (includes buyer’s premium), well over the $2000/3000 estimate. The news provoked a slew of comments on Americana Hub, a gathering place on Facebook for scholars, collectors, dealers, and anyone interested in Americana, with nearly 1200 members.

Large painted pine server, 19th century, retaining an old blue surface, 38

Large painted pine server, 19th century, retaining an old blue surface, 38" x 74", sold on the phone for $15,120 (est. $2000/3000).

“I’d like to see it before they cut the top off” was the first comment. “Money and ego are a dangerous combination at auction” was the second. “Buyers with more dollars than sense” came next. “Good Grief,” read another, followed by “OMG, where is the sense of it?” “Two collectors must have wanted it,” wrote someone else. These comments caused Pook’s auctioneer and appraiser Jamie Shearer to ask in his post, “Will we have to ask select individuals to confirm if a bid is acceptable?”

It is unlikely that the cupboard went to the trade. What dealer wants to lug a piece more than 6' long to shows? It probably fits perfectly into a spacious country house, as it did at the Allens’ home. The color is bright, and the weathered wood has a rich patina. It holds a lot, but so does the Rhode Island bonnet-top cherry chest-on-chest that sold for $3276 (est. $5000/9000). The chest-on-chest has new feet and finials and an impressive presence.

Pook & Pook’s June 30 and July 1 estate sale for Mark and Marjorie Allen provided a good barometer for middle-market Americana. There was keen competition for some lots, and, as always, there were bargains. The sale brought a total of $667,421. Presale estimates were $321,600/521,050 (without buyers’ premiums). Fewer than a dozen bidders were in the salesroom; 68% of the lots sold to the Internet. Dealers usually put their best finds in inventory and take home pieces with minor problems that look good and fit their needs.

Chippendale walnut slant-front desk, circa 1760, attributed to the workshop of Thomas White, Perquimans County, North Carolina, 42½

Chippendale walnut slant-front desk, circa 1760, attributed to the workshop of Thomas White, Perquimans County, North Carolina, 42½

Chippendale walnut slant-front desk, circa 1760, attributed to the workshop of Thomas White, Perquimans County, North Carolina, 42½" x 40¾",  the interior with shell and rosette carvings, sold for $22,680 (est. $12,000/18,000). It is pictured in the 1999 Chipstone journal American Furniture,in an article by John Bivins (p. 90). The brasses, feet, and base molding have been replaced.

The blue-painted server was not the top lot of the sale. Two lots brought more. The first lot in the sale, a walnut slant-front desk attributed to the workshop of Thomas White, Perquimans County, North Carolina, with shell carving in its interior, was pictured in John Bivins’s article in American Furniture 1999 on Rhode Island’s influence on the work of two North Carolina cabinetmakers. The desk sold for $22,680 (est. $12,000/18,000). Allen had bought it from Bill du Pont. Allen was one of du Pont’s suppliers of early brass candlesticks, which were sold at Sotheby’s in January.

On day two of the Allen sale, a 15' high J.W. Fiske cast-iron and zinc garden fountain, circa 1875, brought the same price as the desk. It had a central column with large putti figures under a bowl with lion masks, more putti figures with shells, and a large central cornucopia supported by putti figures with fishtail feet, and the whole thing was topped with a goddess figure holding a ewer and a goblet. It sold on the phone for $22,680 (est. $10,000/20,000) even though it was not available for preview and had to be picked up in Roseboom, New York.

The catalog cover lot was attributed to Robert Dellow (British, circa 1696-1736). The oil on canvas portrait of Sir Thomas Pope Blount, 2nd Baronet (1670-1731), unsigned, 30

The catalog cover lot was attributed to Robert Dellow (British, circa 1696-1736). The oil on canvas portrait of Sir Thomas Pope Blount, 2nd Baronet (1670-1731), unsigned, 30" x 25" (sight size), sold for $9450 (est. $3000/4000). The subject of the painting is inscribed in the painting, which has been relined and retouched. It also has craquelure and a coating of varnish. It had sold at Skinner, April 23, 2005, for $4113.

The catalog cover lot, an unsigned English oil on canvas portrait of Sir Thomas Pope Blount, 2nd Baronet (1670-1731), 30" x 25", sold for $9450 (est. $3000/4000).

English London delft blue-dash Adam and Eve charger, late 17th century, 13

English London delft blue-dash Adam and Eve charger, late 17th century, 13" diameter, sold online for $7560 (est. $3000/4000).

Large delft Bleu Persan jardinière, 18th century, probably London, with rope-twist handles, 12¼

Large delft Bleu Persan jardinière, 18th century, probably London, with rope-twist handles, 12¼" x 19½". With some glaze loss and flaking to the rim and chipping to the base, it sold on Bidsquare for $5796 (est. $2000/3000).

Some delft sold well above conservative estimates; English delft brought more than Dutch Delft. (Ceramic historians spell English tin-glazed wares with a lowercase d and Dutch Delft with a capital D for the Dutch town of Delft.) A late 17th-century London delft blue-dash Adam and Eve charger, 13" diameter, sold online for $7560 (est. $3000/4000). An English Bristol delft charger with a portrait of King George, 13 3/8" diameter, fetched $6930 (est. $3000/4000), and a large delft Bleu Persan jardinière, 18th century, probably London, with rope-twist handles, 12¼" high x 19½" wide, sold on Bidsquare for $5796 (est. $2000/3000). A delft Bleu Persan mug, late 18th century, probably London, 7 7/8" high, sold on the phone for $2772 (est. $800/1200).

Six-piece Dutch Delft tile plaques of dogs and cats did well. A pair of dogs, 15½" x 10½", sold for $4284 (est. $400/800), and a pair of cats about the same size went for $4032. Two other pairs of cats facing each other sold for $3276 and $3024.

Pair of English Queen Anne brass swirl-base candlesticks, mid-18th century, 10

Pair of English Queen Anne brass swirl-base candlesticks, mid-18th century, 10" high, sold for $5040 (est. $1500/2000). Another pair of English brass swirl-base candlesticks (not shown), mid-18th century, 9" high, sold for $4536 (est. $500/900).

Three Dutch Heemskerk candlesticks, 17th century, the tallest 8¾

Three Dutch Heemskerk candlesticks, 17th century, the tallest 8¾", sold for $2772 (est. $400/600). The tallest has a mid-drip pan repair.

English brass trumpet candlestick, 17th century, 6½

English brass trumpet candlestick, 17th century, 6½" high, sold for $3024 (est. $1000/2000) to an active bidder on Bidsquare.

The best of the brass candlesticks sold over estimates. A pair of English brass six-shell candlesticks, mid-18th century, 8 5/8" high, sold for $6048 (est. $1000/2000). A pair of English Queen Anne brass swirl-base candlesticks, mid-18th century, 10" high, brought $5040 (est. $1500/2000). Another pair of English swirl-base candlesticks, 9" high, went for $4536 to a Bidsquare buyer who bought most of the expensive brass candlesticks. The buyer also paid $3024 and $3528 for trumpet-shaped candlesticks with mid-drip pans. One was 6½" tall, the other was 8" tall, and their estimates were $1000/2000 and $1500/2500 respectively.

Octagonal burlwood cake platter, 18¾

Octagonal burlwood cake platter, 18¾" diameter, with a glass dome, sold for $5796 (est. $300/400).

Unusual tin carry lantern, 19th century, with a scalloped bezel and trefoil ornaments on the edges, 17½

Unusual tin carry lantern, 19th century, with a scalloped bezel and trefoil ornaments on the edges, 17½" high, sold on Bidsquare for $5040 (est. $400/800).

At every auction, there are surprise lots that sell for five to ten times their estimates. An octagonal burlwood plate with a glass dome, the platter 18¾" diameter, perfect for serving expensive cheeses, sold for $5796 (est. $300/400). An unusual tin carry lantern, 19th century, with a scalloped bezel and trefoil ornaments on the sides, 17½" high, sold online for $5040 (est. $400/800). A small pine hanging shelf, 18½" wide, sold for $3024 (est. $200/300).

Estate sales are a rite of passage. Marjorie and Mark Allen’s family wrote a tribute for the catalog describing their beginnings as antiques dealers in 1975 and their early years as show dealers until they became regulars at high-end shows. They rarely missed a Delaware or Brandywine show, and they developed a following among collectors in the Delaware Valley, which was why Pook & Pook in Downingtown was the logical choice to auction their collection.

Marjorie (1946-2014) and Mark (1944-2022) Allen both had careers as academics and enjoyed the cultural history that antiques provide. In time, buying and selling antiques became their full-time business. In the mid-1990s, they moved from New York state to Amherst, New Hampshire. They eventually built a modern house on Squam Lake and filled it with antiques.

Their dream house was the subject of an article published in the Autumn/Winter 2010 issue of Antiques & Fine Art magazine. Johanna McBrien’s illustrated article can be found online (www.afanews.com/articles/item/1653-touching-history). The large blue-painted sideboard is pictured with a caption saying that the couple purchased it from a Connecticut dealer many years ago, and that it retains its original knobs and a fabulous surface and never had an upper section. (Those who examined it at Pook said saw marks suggesting that it did once have a top built in one piece, but it still had an impressive presence.)

Comparing the pictures in the article with those in catalog, it appears that the Allens’ daughters kept a few things they could use but sold most of their parents’ collections, including the plates with their names made by potter Greg Shooner.

For more information, check the Pook website (www.pookandpook.com) or call (610) 269-4040.

This huge J.W. Fiske cast-iron and zinc garden fountain, circa 1875, with putti figures and topped with a goddess holding a ewer and a goblet, 15' high x 6' diameter, was offered in as-found condition and was not available for preview at Pook & Pook. It had to be picked up in Roseboom, New York, within 30 days of the auction. One of the putti on the stem had been recast. The gray paint was added as a primer to keep the fountain from rusting. Its internal plumbing has been replaced by an antique cast-iron restoration specialist. It comes apart in six pieces. Believed to have once been in the center of a traffic circle in New Hampshire, it sold for $22,680 (est. $10,000/20,000).

This delft polychrome bowl, 18th century, probably Bristol, 5

This delft polychrome bowl, 18th century, probably Bristol, 5" high x 8¾" diameter, in good condition, sold for $1071 (est. $300/600).

Bergen County, New Jersey, painted pine two-part cupboard, circa 1810, retaining an old red surface, 87

Bergen County, New Jersey, painted pine two-part cupboard, circa 1810, retaining an old red surface, 87" x 52½, sold for $5040 (est. $5000/8000).

Pennsylvania sack-back Windsor chair, circa 1790, with knuckle armrests, retaining an old green surface, sold for $1386 (est. $400/800).

Pennsylvania sack-back Windsor chair, circa 1790, with knuckle armrests, retaining an old green surface, sold for $1386 (est. $400/800).

Rare English blue-and-white delft double money bank, circa 1700, 8½

Rare English blue-and-white delft double money bank, circa 1700, 8½" high, sold for $3780 (est. $2000/3000), despite some chips and restoration.

Massachusetts maple tavern table, mid-18th century, with a scrubbed top and a frame in an old red surface, 25½

Massachusetts maple tavern table, mid-18th century, with a scrubbed top and a frame in an old red surface, 25½" x 36¼", sold for $2142 (est. $1000/1500).

Pair of Federal knife-blade andirons, circa 1790, with faceted brass flame finials, 22½

Pair of Federal knife-blade andirons, circa 1790, with faceted brass flame finials, 22½" high, sold for $2394 (est. $300/500).

Pair of English paktong candlesticks, mid-18th century, with six-shell bobeches and bases, 8¾

Pair of English paktong candlesticks, mid-18th century, with six-shell bobeches and bases, 8¾" high, sold for $4788 (est. $1500/2500).

Set of four bow-back Windsor chairs, circa 1820, retaining an old black surface with ocher-grained seats, the undersides initialed “RD,” sold for $2394 (est. $1000/1500).

Set of four bow-back Windsor chairs, circa 1820, retaining an old black surface with ocher-grained seats, the undersides initialed “RD,” sold for $2394 (est. $1000/1500).

Painted pine cupboard, 19th century, probably Canadian, retaining its original grain-painted surface, 73

Painted pine cupboard, 19th century, probably Canadian, retaining its original grain-painted surface, 73" x 52½", sold on the phone for $2772 (est. $1500/2000).


Originally published in the October 2022 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2022 Maine Antique Digest

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