Thanksgiving Americana & Fine Jewelry
The annual Thanksgiving sale is a tradition at Garth’s Auctions. Held on Black Friday (and in previous years, that Friday and Saturday), the event brings a crowd to Garth’s gallery and is one of the strongest sales of the year for the auction house.
The coronavirus pandemic meddled with the sale in 2020. Jeff Jeffers, Garth’s chief executive officer and principal auctioneer, had planned a one-day event for November 27 at the company’s home, the Municipal Light Plant in Columbus, Ohio, when an increase in coronavirus cases led the state to implement new restrictions regarding gatherings. Garth’s suddenly needed to take a different approach.
A week before the sale, the auction house sent out an email. “Virtually no aspect of life has been unchanged due to COVID-19, and while Garth’s has hammered throughout 2020 continuously bringing you auctions, we now find one of our most cherished traditions should also adapt to the times,” the message noted. The Thanksgiving sale was moved to an online-only format, with a ten-day bidding period that began on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, and closed December 6.
Jeffers expressed his disappointment with not having a live auction. “Just when you think you’re running in spite of it, you stub your toe again,” he said. “We wanted to observe the state mandate, not congregate people, so we pulled the trigger to step back and go online.”
At least the longer time to bid was a positive. “I think it helped,” Jeffers said. “We missed seeing people in person. We always love this time of year to reconnect, and it generally feels like the holidays in the salesroom, seeing people we may not have seen since the previous Thanksgiving, but I believe there’s value in the ten-day bidding window. There’s advantage to sellers putting eyeballs on their objects through online only.”
Regardless of the format change, the Thanksgiving auction followed suit with sales of the past, being strong on Americana and objects with a folky flair. Three full-bodied copper weathervanes were the top lots. A ram by L.W. Cushing & Sons, Waltham, Massachusetts, circa 1880, sold with buyer’s premium for $11,250 (est. $4000/8000); a leaping stag with a cast zinc head and antlers, attributed to E.G. Washburne & Co., New York City, late 19th century, realized $10,000 (est. $4000/6000); and an eagle with a cast zinc head, made by A.L. Jewell Co., Waltham, Massachusetts, active 1852-67, brought $9375 (est. $1000/2000).
Jeffers said each weathervane was aided by great form and a good surface. The provenance also helped. All three had previously been sold by Columbus dealer Austin T. Miller.
The best of the furniture was a Pennsylvania kas from the late 18th or early 19th century that realized $6250 (est. $5000/7000). The surface was intentionally distressed red, blue, and white paint that was believed to have been applied in the last 50 years. Brown furniture was led by a Queen Anne bonnet-top highboy in walnut, mid-18th century, at $3500 (est. $2000/4000).
Jeffers said there is slightly more interest in brown furniture, in part because of the widening of the marketplace through online sales. Buyers are getting accustomed to not having to be in the salesroom when a cupboard or stand is offered. “There’s a lot of participation and a lot of willingness to use the web, to use the platforms, to bid and participate,” he said. “For an old-line house like ours, it’s a bit surprising to a few of us. We’re pleased for consignors that the market is shifting in this way. And I would say that there is a slight uptick. It’s really due to more eyeballs and the value that you can buy today at auction in furniture. If you widen the pool, it seems to me that more people will see the value and bid more. That drives the price up. With smaller numbers, the conversation stays a bit more closed.”
Folk art offered during the day included two wood carvings by Elijah Pierce (1892-1984), both religious examples with painted details. A framed plaque depicting Jesus healing Bartimaeus, a blind beggar he encountered in Jericho, the work signed and dated February 4, 1981, sold for $4375 (est. $2000/3000), while a scene of a man being crucified on a cross, possibly representing Jesus, initialed and dated 1980, mounted on a wooden base, sold for $1875 (est. $300/600).
A black man whose relatives were enslaved in Mississippi, Pierce moved to Columbus in the 1920s and worked as a barber, initially carving as a hobby. He eventually owned his own barber shop, but he is best remembered for his folky creations, many of which had Biblical themes. Garth’s location in Columbus has made the auction house a natural choice for works by Pierce. “He’s holding his own,” Jeffers said.
Other smalls included a selection of Pittsburgh glass, led by a 6¾" high cobalt pitcher having 12 ribs with a slight swirl on the neck and an applied handle with rigaree. Dating to the second quarter of the 19th century, the pitcher sold for $2875 (est. $1000/2000). “The good group of Pittsburgh-related glass came from a longtime collector who has been around our salesroom for some time,” Jeffers added.
The most dominant of the smalls came from an array of high-quality jewelry, vintage and contemporary, with the timing perfectly paired with the Christmas shopping season. “It’s right before the holidays. In some ways we wonder if we shouldn’t have been putting jewelry in the Thanksgiving auction for the last sixty years,” Jeffers said.
The best of the bling was a diamond solitaire ring in 14k white gold with a 2.7-carat oval diamond accented by smaller diamonds in the band. Dating to the late 20th century, it sold for $8750 (est. $9000/11,000). An 18k yellow gold Piaget bracelet watch, Swiss, circa 1970, realized $5625 (est. $5000/7000). A Victorian brooch having scroll and floral motifs, in 13k yellow gold with diamonds, emeralds, and enamel work, mid- to late 19th century, one diamond missing, brought $2125 (est. $600/1200).
Throughout the auction, basic principles continued to be in play. Color, form, and condition were all significant in determining the desirability of an item. “Form seems to still drive value. People are paying attention to color,” Jeffers said. “There’s somewhat of an eased priority on condition, but I don’t think the importance of the overall aesthetic has changed.”
Looking forward, Jeffers, who never got a chance to properly celebrate Garth’s move to the Municipal Light Plant, is looking forward to reopening his doors to the public. (Previews are still allowed by appointment.) That timing will be governed by health officials and COVID-19 statistics. “The problem we all have right now is nobody knows,” he said, referring to when some semblance of normalcy might return. “We’ll keep watching and make our decisions based on what is best for buyers and sellers.”
For more information, phone Garth’s at (740) 362-4771 or visit (www.garths.com).
Originally published in the February 2021 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2021 Maine Antique Digest -
See more at: https://www.maineantiquedigest.com/stories/thanksgiving-americana-and-fine-jewelry/8234