The firing of objects made from earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware comprise the larger category known as ceramics and during Garth’s March 11-12, 2011 Americana auction, the ceramics definitely provided continual fireworks as bidders, both in-house and in absentia, took home a variety of vessels, some typical and some more unusual, at very strong prices. With over 800 lots offered in two sessions, the top lot of the sale was a monumental Cochiti effigy figure dating to the late 19th – early 20th century, which sold for $17,625 against an estimate of $4/8,000. With outstretched arms and polychromed surface, the figure practically beseeched the audience to embrace the chance to be the new owner. Of the approximately twenty-five lots of effigy figures and vessels from the collection of Charles Shanafelt (b. 1855), most were collected around 1900 and 1915 as figurative pottery from New Mexico pueblos basically did not exist before the tourist market developed. Placed in the "relic room" of an Ohio county courthouse, the collection remained there until later in the 20th century when transferred to a local Ohio historical institution which eventually deaccessioned it to sell with the proceeds utilized to further its mission.
The other lots of effigy pottery from the Shanafelt Collection did not disappoint. Garth’s Vice President Andrew Richmond gladly reported that “On the whole, the Cochiti collection did very well for the Ohio institution surpassing the top estimates, which will allow them to remain open and continue to preserve their area’s history.” A smaller 10 ¼” high figure of a man more than tripled it high estimate realizing a final price of $6,756. An owl-form Cochiti jar with molded eyes and beak fell within estimate at $1,145, as did a large figure of a deer with handle and painted designs at $3,760. Many other pieces sold in and around estimate in the 3 and 4 figure ranges including a pitcher in the form of a large prairie dog or toad with a lizard on its back. The boldly painted design garnered a sale price of $2,468.
Garth’s president and auctioneer Amelia Jeffers commented that bidders were overall “a happy, buying audience. You can feel the optimism and life coming back to the salerooms...very different buying dynamic than a couple of years ago. It is refreshing and encouraging.” Jeffers also noted that Garth’s is experiencing a steady 6-10% increase in new bidders from sale to sale.
A variety of individual ceramic items representing many styles also drew fire power from bidders. A banded mocha pitcher with rows of cat's-eyes above and below a central band with tulips was estimated at $1,500-3,000), but skyrocketed to a price of $7,344. An English creamware cauliflower form teapot and caddy with green glazed leaves cultivated a value of $1,293. Of the thirty lots of spatter sold, pieces in red, blue, green, yellow, purple and rainbow combinations were offered. Three schoolhouse pattern plates performed particularly well with a red and yellow schoolhouse within a blue border selling for $1,928, a red schoolhouse with a blue border selling for $1,293, and a red schoolhouse within a red border realizing $1,175. Several lots of stoneware demonstrated the desirability of the forms. A 14 ¾” high jug was adorned with strong, cobalt stenciling of "Hamilton & Jones, Greensboro, 2" all around a large 5-pointed star which propelled it to a sale price of $1,763 versus an estimate of $300-600. Another stoneware lot comprised of two stenciled crocks bore the names "Barringer & McDade...Letart Falls, Ohio", 10"h., and "Greensboro", 6 1/2"h., the latter with a sharp depiction of two Palantine pears. While both had some chips, the lot sold for $1,763.
Another large collection featured during the sale was that of thirty-five lots of Bennington & twenty-six lots of Rockingham, most from an astute collector in Delaware. Of the figures, washboard, hanging flower pots, pitchers, spittoons and more sold, a Bennington poodle with flint enamel and coleslaw fur holding a basket of fruit in its mouth climbed well beyond its $900-1,600 estimate to a price of $3,290. The selection of Bennington candlesticks lit the fires of many bidders who competed for lots selling for as much as $1,116 and $1,880 for single sticks, $1,763 for a similar pair, and $1,528 for a trio which included a pair which used to be part of the New York Historical Society. An impressive 20” long foot bath in colors of blue, amber and green sold within estimate for $1,175 as did a wash bowl and pitcher set in an alternating rib pattern with good colors for $1,116.
While ceramics led the two-day event, the display of American painted furniture and folk art accessories warmed the audience against the last days of winter. A simply carved burl butter paddle launched a bidding frenzy due to its bird-form handle and fine figuring before landing at a price of $8,225. Three other paddles without the bird made $999, $783, and $764. As with the paddles, one small element – a different handle, a different color – can make all the difference. When two similar footed cups with decoration by Joseph Lehn crossed the block, this fact was illustrated yet again. The first was embellished with red and yellow daisies against a blue ground. It also retained an old label and old writing on the underside, but the date “1876” was all that was legible. One or more factors contributed to a price of $5,288 while the second cup with daisies on a yellow background sold for $2,585. Another slightly smaller Lehn cup with strawberries and vines against a blue ground sold for $4,994.
Additionally, a late 19th century Massachusetts painted pine painter’s box with its original surface consisting of a harbor scene on the lid with an eagle holding a banner reading "William L. Talbot Painter & Glazier" and a landscape vignette on the front may have been estimated a bit conservatively at $500-1,000. The small 16 1/2" wide box triggered a bidding war and sold for $2,651. Two vibrant gameboards reached $2,585 and $999. A carved and painted medallion, purportedly from a Philadelphia circus wagon, was decorated with a scene featuring an elephant and a tiger which prodded a buyer to a bid $1,528.
The large full-bodied copper running horse weathervane which began the Saturday session of the auction held no surprises. With a cast zinc head, verdigris patina with traces of gilding, and its 45" size, a price within estimate of $12,925 was a proper finish for the lot. A carved wooden rooster, similar in form to weathervanes, was a stately 20” high and had a gilt surface which boosted its final price to $2,233.
While furniture was not the main focus of this particular auction, a number of lots achieved respectable prices. An 18th century New England Queen Anne dressing table was refinished with period, but not original, brasses and replaced drops. Nevertheless, with the shell-carved drawer and cabriole legs, it quadrupled its high estimate and sold for $8,225. An American curly maple spice cabinet dating to the late 18th-early 19th century was also refinished, but the diminutive size and appearance encouraged bidders and it sold for $3,290. Attributed to Kentucky, circa 1820-1840, a Sheraton cherry and poplar sugar chest with divided interior, shaped skirt and turned legs achieved $3,055. A rather plain Queen Anne maple and pine highboy crossed the block for $5,523. A ball and claw foot mahogany and maple Rhode Island Chippendale wing chair made $2,703.
A group of watches and fobs, most Masonic, appealed to many, and an open-face pocket example by "Dudley Watch Co, Lancaster, PA", had a glass cover on the back revealing not only the works, but also various Masonic symbols( sold $2,468). A Hamilton Masterpiece 23J open face pocket watch with enameled double headed eagle on the reverse and Shriner's symbols on the front sold for $1,446. A Tourneau chronograph pocket watch garnered the price of $2,290 while a hunter's case watch marked "Tiffany & Co" sold for $1,175.
For further information about this auction, contact Garth’s at 740-362-4771 or visit www.garths.com. Garth’s upcoming auctions include the May 20-21 Americana sale featuring the Fifth Annual Ohio Valley auction and the June 3rd Eclectic sale.