Maine Bird the Top Lot at Ohio Auction
The Americana sale held January 7 by Garth’s Auctions at the Municipal Light Plant in Columbus, Ohio, was largely about the basics. It was about folk art and paint, about form and size. It was a lesson in how the good stuff, for the most part, really isn’t hard to sell. And yet it also confirmed that some desirable objects can still face road bumps in the marketplace.
The top lot of the sale was a gull decoy carved by Augustus “Gus” Aaron Wilson (1864-1950) of South Portland, Maine. Dating to the 1930s, the wooden bird was in original paint and stood on wire legs. Measuring 12½" high x 18" long, it sold for $6000 (including buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $250/450. The underside of the decoy was impressed “Kangas / SG3” for collectors/researchers Gene and Linda Kangas of Ohio, who pictured it in their book Decoys: A North American Survey.
The gull checked a number of boxes. “Much like weathervanes, they are Americana and folk art, and they are also sporting art,” said Jeff Jeffers, CEO and principal auctioneer at Garth’s. “As a collector, the opportunity to add a sea gull is not usual.”
The decoy came from an old-time collection in Mentor, Ohio, put together in the 1960s and ’70s, according to Jeffers. Other birds at the sale included drake and hen mallard decoys, the two ducks each in original paint and labeled for carver Nick Trahan (1900-1967) of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and also marked as being from the Kangas collection. Measuring 14¼" and 15" long, they sold for $3720 the pair (est. $200/400).
Furniture was led by a diminutive Sheraton work stand in tiger maple, second quarter of the 19th century, having four drawers, shaped drop leaves, and paneled sides. Measuring 29½" high x 21¾" wide (plus 10" leaves), it brought $5700 (est. $1200/1600). Jeffers described it as a “unique form” with “wonderful color.” What it wasn’t, he suggested, was a quiet piece.
“It shouted at you. It screamed at you. Not only figure but color and utility,” he said. “I can add that to the end of the sofa, with all the remotes and all my things I need to keep. It was a great form.”
Form also drove interest in a Sheraton chest with an unusual configuration of ten drawers, but this was a case where there was room to get an intriguing piece without being totally beat up by other bidders. Having four rows, four different sizes of drawers, and three different row configurations—it’s confusing to explain, so see the photo—the chest stood 44¾" high x 41½" wide x 21½" deep and sold for $812.50 (est. $600/1200). The piece was refinished, which likely was an issue forsome potential buyers.
There was no hesitation when it came to a diminutive cupboard in its original black-and-white smoke decoration. Selling for $2880 (est. $300/600), the American cupboard dated to the second quarter of the 19th century and had one drawer over two plank doors. Its tabletop size, 26¾" high x 23¾" wide x 7½" deep, sealed the deal.
“It was an unusual form. A wonderful size. It wasn’t so shallow. And a top drawer. The form drove it. You don’t find small cupboards in smoke decoration,” Jeffers said.
The best of the smalls included a blown glass oil lamp in emerald green with a ribbed acorn-shaped font. From the mid-19th century, the lamp stood 7" high and sold for $3120 (est. $100/200). Jeffers explained its appeal. “Size. Scale. Form. It’s just a handsome little lamp,” he said. “The wonderful deep color also drove that price.”
Artwork saw an Alfred Montgomery (1857-1922) painting of sheep in a barn, oil on canvas, signed, 22" x 36", with some condition problems and repairs, sell for $3125 (est. $2000/2500). “It’s still a wonderfully folksy midwestern image, but he’s known for corn,” said Jeffers. Montgomery is recognized for his still-life paintings of ears of corn. Farm animals, not so much. “I thought the price was about as expected, but Montgomery’s work can bring more.”
A selection of hand-crafted model buildings, mostly houses, included a wooden replica of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Made in the early 20th century, it was in original paint, had colored glass in the windows, and was topped by a removable roof and steeple. At 26" high x 17½" wide x 7½" deep, it realized $2760 (est. $400/800).
Not all of the architectural models fared so well. Some sold under estimate. It’s not something that everyone wants to decorate with, and it’s not something everyone has room for. “It takes the right buyer,” Jeffers said.
A Navajo third-phase chief’s blanket, late 19th or early 20th century, sold for $3375 (est. $2000/4000). “This is obviously a scarce thing, and when people see them, they get on them, and this was in pretty good overall condition, a handsome object,” said Jeffers.
The chief’s blanket represented an area Jeffers sees as a good fit with Americana, and it is a field he is excited to watch grow at Garth’s. “We love the category. We would love to handle more of the category,” he said. “I think you’ll see more Native and Western over the coming months and years. We love it.”
For more information, phone Garth’s at (740) 362-4771 or visit (www.garths.com).
Originally published in the June 2023 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2023 Maine Antique Digest -