Savvy art and antiques collectors look forward to more than just sunshine and warmer temperatures in June. Summer represents the peak of the picking season for those willing to invest the time and energy into a hopping calendar of estate sales, auctions and flea markets. With all of the hype and television shows surrounding the art of the true find, one might believe that nothing of value slips through the cracks anymore. Rest assured, fellow treasure-hunter, there is gold at the end of the rainbow. Seek, and ye just may be lucky enough to find. Read on for just a few examples of fabulous finds which were sold for great gain in the auction galleries at Garth’s and Selkirk.
Puffy Sleeve Artist
When a seasonal staff member at Garth’s went estate-sale hopping with a friend last summer, she knew enough to realize that the most unassuming object could be worth a lot of money if placed in front of the right audience. While she made a number of purchases, the $5 she spent on two small, framed items measuring approximately 4.5” x 5.5” would turn out to be one of the luckiest decisions of her life. Hollow-cut profiles of a man and woman (presumably a pair) with clothing and accessories painted in watercolor, the 19th Century silhouettes were created by an individual known only to scholars as “The Puffy Sleeve Artist,” in reference to the signature design of his subjects’ clothing. When highlighted in Garth’s September Americana auction, they brought an impressive return of $7,800!
The Stallion Heist
Rummaging through the “back room” of an auction gallery in St. Louis, a savvy antiques dealer was surprised to find a beautifully-executed oil-on-board by American artist J. F. Stephens among a stack of seemingly unimportant prints and paintings. Depicting the stallion Heist in a landscape setting, the painting is fully inscribed with the date, artist’s signature and a banner reading: “Heist 2043, IMP. German Coach Stallion. Property of Atlas and Pleasant Hill Co, Ill.” Included in the sale was a wonderful collection of legal documents and stock certificates related to the important racehorse. His $50 bid secured an amazing return when the painting then sold as a featured lot at Selkirk for $6,120.
Folk Art Plaque
As a group of siblings determined the fate of massive amount of sentimental and household objects left behind by their deceased parents, an astute estate sales professional suggested they bring one particular object to a complimentary appraisal event at Garth’s for evaluation. The relief-carved and painted wood panel was given to their parents by a family friend, Elijah Pierce - who happened to become one of the most well-loved folk artists of the 20th century. Signed and dated February 18, 1960, the work of art reflects Pierce’s deep Christian values and sold for a gratifying $21,150 at Garth’s last spring.
While preparing for an impending downsize, a central Ohio woman first tackled the basement of the home her family had occupied for more than thirty years. Sifting through photos, old record albums, school and work memorabilia and discarded projects, she discovered a forgotten trinket her husband had brought home from a military tour in Asia decades earlier. On the advice of a friend, she brought a handful of items to be reviewed by the appraisal staff at Garth’s, including the east Asian bronze Buddha. Hoping it might be worth a few hundred dollars, she opted to leave it for the summer auction at Garth’s rather than sell it amidst household furnishings in an upcoming neighborhood garage sale. Enthusiastic bidders from all over the world drove the final selling price to $43,475 - sweet vindication for a husband whose souvenir had been relegated to a basement shelf.
Article first appeared in the May-June issue of Sophisticated Living.