Quality, Paint, Surface, and a Country Aesthetic
Pro-ject and e-nun-ci-ate.” Words from a high school English teacher. Mrs. Buzzard was a stickler about speech. She talked with a diction in which every syllable popped, and she expected no less from her students. In that manner, she would have approved of the online-only two-session Americana auction conducted by Garth’s of Columbus, Ohio, that ended March 26 and 27.
The sale followed Mrs. Buzzard’s admonition to “speak loud-ly and clear-ly,” beginning with a Queen Anne highboy in cherry with carved fans and a flat top, mid-18th century, 79½" high x 37½" wide, that sold for $21,250 (includes buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $3000/5000. It was the top lot of the sale. Jeff Jeffers, Garth’s CEO and principal auctioneer, spoke confidently about the piece, calling it “super clean, just a beautiful, no-apologies example.”
“The form was essentially a simple country high chest, but its condition and its visceral appeal, people responded
with their bidding,” he added. “It also was not small in scale, but the size was about perfect.”
The tone of the auction was also set by lesser objects, including four pine lids in old paint that sold together for
$2500 (est. $75/150). From the second half of the 19th century, the lids included three examples that were 2½"
high x 19½" diameter, each with a finger joint, wooden handle, and a single color of red, blue, or green. The
fourth lid was 12" in diameter and had worn blue paint. The price spoke volumes about the Americana market.
“It comes down to an appreciation for color,” said Jeffers when discussing how the lids blew the top off a conservative estimate. It was also something else—oddball meets architectural, a happily-ever-after marriage
of color, shape, and size. And then there was the story.
The lids came from the 60-year Americana collection of Norma Avery of Pennsylvania and New Mexico—the
same collection that produced the highboy. Even those not engrossed in the trade can assume there’s value in
a big, shapely piece of antique furniture. But a pile of old painted lids? “Are you sure you want to take them?”
Jeffers was asked when he originally looked over the collection.
He was sure.
There were plenty of other certain-to-please lots in the auction, including more items in original paint. Included was a Compass Artist’s dome-top box that sold for $7812.50 (est. $2500/4500). Attributed to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1800-40, the box was in original robin’s-egg blue with red and white compass star decorations. The piece measured 4¾" high x 5¾" wide, which Jeffers noted was slightly smaller than most examples, and he summed up the piece in three words: “Sweet little box.”
Other folk art also did well. An Ohio jeweler’s double sided trade sign in the form of a pocket watch lettered “J. Ricksecker” sold for $10,000 (est. $600/800), unexpectedly strong despite the conservative estimate, while a Sheraton tall-case clock having a painted metal face marked “I. Ricksecker / Canal Dover, O.” and dated 1838 realized $5000 (est. $2000/4000).
Among the folk paintings, a Prior-Hamblen school portrait of a boy dressed in a blue jacket and large bow, oil on canvas, second quarter of the 19th century, 22" x 18", brought $5625 (est. $400/800). Jeffers knew the estimate was conservative, but the painting still brought more dynamic bidding than anticipated. “I think we underestimated how clean and how attractive, and how good the execution was. That’s probably a price that a
good example should bring,” Jeffers said.
Other art included a paper cutout attributed to Seymour Lindsey of Ohio (1848-1927), depicting a cat carrying a
baby chick in its mouth while being attacked by a hen. Also in the scene were a second hen, a rooster, and a squirrel on a ladder leaning against a fruit tree, birds, and two bird nests with young. The work measured
12½" x 14½" and sold for $3250 (est. $400/800). An inscription on the frame’s paper backing noted that a
woman from Sharpsburg, York County, Pennsylvania, had received the item in 1906 from her great aunt.
“Anytime you get a good cutwork, people are going to take notice,” said Jeffers. “If it’s exceptional and has
rare detail, that makes it more collectible.” For this image, Lindsey stacked some of the cutout elements.
“Twenty percent of the work was precut and laid over the top. You had layers. It’s a marvelous example by a somewhat scarce maker, in a somewhat scarce discipline, and was really interesting and fun.”
Utilitarian items in the auction included a Conestoga wagon box in pine with chip-carved details, traces of original blue paint, and wrought-iron strap hinges with a large tulip hasp, early 19th century, that sold for $4687.50 (est. $400/600). “They’re always interesting and sought-after objects,” Jeffers noted of the box. The decorative hardware added significantly to the price. “You can put a double-digit percentage on that for sure,” he said.
Ornamentation also played a role in the bidding for several 19th-century butter prints. A circular example having a chip-carved tulip over a heart, 4" diameter, brought $4125 (est. $400/600), while a rectangular butter print carved with a shield-breasted, spread-wing eagle, on a curved handle, 6½" long, made $3625 (est. $200/350).
Jeffers said buyers are willing to pay a premium for butter prints with unusual motifs, what he described as “iconic images of the day—tulips, hearts, eagles, anything that feels fraktur-like or bookplate-like.” During both days of the sale, regardless of the estate or consignor represented, prices seemed healthy. “I see strength in the marketplace across our salesroom and others,” Jeffers said. Bidding continues to be affected by the pandemic, but in a positive way. “Many [people] are tired of being tired of COVID and all that’s been thrust upon us the last couple of years,” he said. Buyers have responded with their checkbooks, looking for a bit of normalcy and the happiness that comes in surrounding themselves with things they enjoy.
Jeffers described the auction as having “the right material for the time,” led by several single-owner collections, each more than 50 years, with a focus on “quality, paint, surface, and a country aesthetic.”
“Buyers love a well-curated collection. Buyers love to see the totality of those collections come out. When they do, people respond in force. That’s what happened,” he added. It could be said the items in the auction projected and enunciated.
Jeffers is looking forward to bringing bidders back to Garth’s home at the Municipal Light Plant in Columbus, Ohio. “We love the energy,” he said. By the time this article is published, he hopes to be back to those live
For more information, phone Garth’s at (740) 362-4771 or visit (www.garths.com).
Originally published in the June 2022 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2022 Maine Antique Digest -
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