Purchase Story

The Sale of the Kemble Collection

Pook & Pook, Inc., Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Photos courtesy Pook & Pook

As newlyweds in the 1960s, Roland and Marilyn Kemble began collecting antiques. They moved from the Bowling Green area of Kentucky to Ohio, taught school, and brought up three children in Norwich, Ohio, living with antiques. Ten years ago—after years of running a shop and exhibiting at antiques shows, when their children had grown and were on their own—they retired to Marco Island, Florida.

“We decided that with hurricanes more common than they once were, Florida is not the place for us to keep our antiques,” said Roland Kemble on Friday, January 12, at Pook & Pook, where the Kemble collection was on view before a 431-lot two-day sale. “Our children have the antiques they want, so we decided now was the time to sell.”

Swell-bodied copper Indian weathervane, 19th century, depicting Massasoit, the Wampanoag chief, in full headdress, Harris & Co., with an old yellow-painted and verdigris surface, 35" high, sold on the phone for $20,740 (est. $18,000/25,000).

Rare swell-bodied copper lobster weathervane, mid-20th century, retaining a verdigris and original gilt surface, found in a coastal Maine town, 32½" x 51½", with provenance of Judith and James Milne of New York City. It sold for $18,300 (est. $8000/12,000).

Carved and painted fish trade sign, late 19th century, with the name “Arnold’s,” found in Maine, 52½" long, sold for $3172 (est. $800/1200).

Western Pennsylvania three-gallon stoneware crock, 19th century, inscribed “Hamilton & Jones”and with freehand cobalt decorations, 13½" high, sold for $4880 (est. $500/1000).

The catalog pictured the Kembles’ 1837 farmhouse on a tree farm that they bought in 1971. They spoke about the pleasures of filling it with 18th- and early 19th-century furniture and their special focus on weathervanes. They were regulars at the Brandywine Antiques Show and the Delaware Antiques Show, and so they went back to that region for their sale. Some of their old customers and fellow local dealers arrived at Pook & Pook to look over the sale, and they did some buying.

The sale began on the eve of Americana Week in New York City and continued through the same weekend as the Washington Winter Antiques Show; nevertheless, it attracted a large audience on Friday night for the first session and a smaller crowd and online bidding on Saturday, which was the day of the Eagles’ playoff game, though the sale started at 9 a.m. and was over by 1 p.m. Not all the buyers at Pook are part of the great migration to New York City in January. Those who generally buy locally embraced objects of high quality and were active bidders for weathervanes, even though the weathervanes had steep estimates, a few of them too steep to sell. Others came to find bargains in hardwood furniture, and they got some very good buys.

Swell-bodied copper lamb weathervane, 19th century, possibly J. W. Fiske, New York City, with a cast zinc head and an old verdigris surface, 21" high x 27½" wide, with a Michael Whittemore provenance, sold to collectors in the salesroom for $18,300 (est. $8000/12,000).

Large carved Saint Bernard, 20th century, in the carousel style, possibly a trade figure, found in Maine, 35" high x 60" long, sold for $7930 (est. $2000/4000).

Swell-bodied leaping stag weathervane, circa 1875, with a cast zinc head, retaining an excellent old verdigris and gilt surface, attributed to L. W. Cushing & Co., Massachusetts, 25" high x 27" wide, sold for $18,300 (est. $12,000/15,000) to an absentee bidder.

Connecticut River Valley Queen Anne cherry bonnet-top high chest, circa 1765, with dentil molding on the cornice, two star inlays, fan-carved drawers, and a scrolled skirt, 79½" high x 36" wide, sold on one $8000 bid on the phone, which, with 22% buyer’s premium, came to $9760 (est. $16,000/20,000).

Of the 431 lots offered, 401 sold for a hammer total of $558,075, which with buyers’ premiums—22% for those who bought in the room, on the phone, or by left bid, and 25% to 27% for those bidding on Bidsquare—came to $685,342. Those in the salesroom were largely from Pennsylvania or New Jersey, but a few came from as far away as Georgia, North Carolina, and Ohio. Some who previewed during the week bought online and then arrived at the sale to pick up their purchases.

The sale was a good reflection of the present marketplace. “James Pook did as well as I could expect,” said Roland Kemble after the sale. (Marilyn Kemble could not sit through the sale, but their son and granddaughters kept Roland company and watched as the sale unfolded.)

When quality is there, it is recognized. Three phone bidders competed for this Continental bentwood bride’s box, early 19th century, the lid painted with the bride and groom, 7" high x 19" wide x 11½" deep, and it sold on the phone for $2684 (est. $600/1200).

Miniature Chippendale looking glass, circa 1800, retaining an old dry surface, found in Wiscasset, Maine, 10" high, sold online for $6250 (est. $300/500).

A full-bodied copper Native American Indian weathervane depicting Massasoit, the Wampanoag chief who met with the Pilgrims, sold on the phone for $20,740 (est. $18,000/25,000) with buyer’s premium, and a baseball-theme quilt made by a man named Stuart Ansell to commemorate the 1934 Detroit Tigers winning of the American League pennant sold for $20,000, topping its $10,000/12,000 estimate. A swell-bodied copper lobster weathervane made in the mid-20th century sold for $18,300, and a late 19th-century leaping stag vane attributed to L. W. Cushing & Co. of Massachusetts brought the same price. A large wooden angel Gabriel weathervane sold for $15,000 (est. $12,000/15,000). A trotting horse weathervane and a polo player weathervane, two of the Kembles’ favorites, had high estimates that deterred bidding, and they failed to sell.

Formal furniture did not perform well. Some dealers said that they bought because they could not let a bargain go, and that they can pass on their good buys to young collectors. A Connecticut River valley cherry bonnet-top high chest, circa 1765, sold on one $8000 bid on the phone, which, with 22% buyer’s premium, came to $9760 (est. $16,000/20,000). A New Jersey Chippendale highly figured walnut linen press with bold bracket feet, circa 1780, sold on the phone for $3416 (est. $4000/5000). A Boston, Massachusetts, Chippendale mahogany secretary desk-and-bookcase, circa 1770, with period brasses, scalloped-panel doors flanked by fluted pilasters, an oxbow-form base with fan-carved interior, a center drop, short cabriole legs terminating in ball-and-claw feet, and a bonnet top with carved flame finials, rosettes, and a center pediment, sold for $12,200 (est. $20,000/30,000) to collector Dr. Jeffrey Stiles of Valley Forge, who let out a cheer when his $10,000 bid was successful and left the salesroom with his three boys, one age eight and twins age seven, who sat in the first row and were fully absorbed in the sale.

The pictures and captions illustrate some more good buys in furniture and a box and a basket, each of high quality, that brought far more than estimated. When there is quality it is recognized. Three phone bidders competed for a Continental bentwood bride’s box, early 19th century, with the bride and groom on its lid. It sold on the phone for $2684 (est. $600/1200). A miniature Chippendale looking glass, circa 1800, found in Wiscasset, Maine, retaining an old dry surface, sold online for $6250 (est. $300/500). A 19th-century Hamilton & Jones three-gallon stoneware crock with cobalt decorations sold for $4880 (est. $500/1000). Western Pennsylvania stoneware sold well throughout the sale.

For a priced catalog, go online to (www.pookandpook.com), or go to Bidsquare and find the January 12 and 13 Kemble sale at Pook & Pook.

Baseball-theme quilt made by a man named Stuart Ansell to commemorate the Detroit Tigers, the 1934 American League champions, featuring the embroidered signatures of 28 players, including Mickey Cochrane, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Schoolboy Rowe, Goose Goslin, Tommy Bridges, Billy Rogell, and Gee Walker, 105" x 86", sold online for $20,000 (est. $10,000/12,000).


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

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