The Americana Collection of Deborah and Edward Dick
Sometimes auction results provide more information than just market values and buying trends. That was the case with the recent single-owner, online-only sale that concluded on August 8 and consisted of 330 lots of Americana from the collection of Deborah and Edward Dick of Kenton, Ohio. Garth’s Auctions of Columbus, Ohio, conducted the event.
The top lot, an unusual sawbuck worktable in pine with old red paint, sold for $5625 (including buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $1000/2000. But beyond the dollars and cents of the sale, one significant story, at least for Jeff Jeffers, Garth’s CEO and principal auctioneer, was something different, something personal.
“It seemed like the collection made Deb happy,” Jeffers said. “It also seemed like it didn’t dominate and take the focus away from her relationships.”
The Dicks, who died less than a month apart earlier this year, used antiques to anchor their living spaces but not necessarily their lives. “The house is this amazing barn, post-and-beam construction, that is beautifully appointed, architect-designed, and the family influenced the design. It was built for comfort and living but also built for collecting,” Jeffers added. “It really was clear to me that there was an overall country and high-style country sense about how she did her collection, with a focus on form and surface.”
That unity inspired Jeffers to forgo a sale with additional consignors. “I really wanted to keep that intact. That was the impetus for a single-owner sale,” he said.
He also noted that the cohesion of the collection wasn’t affected by the price range of the objects. “Whether a hundred-dollar item or a thousand-dollar item, it was just sweet and very, very nice.”
Jeffers knew the auction would attract collectors. But the Dicks’ relationships also led their friends, some of whom might not normally buy at an antiques auction, to participate. “I learned how much respect people had for her and her husband. When the announcement came out regarding the sale, people really expressed their fondness and wanted to, like you hear from time to time, own something that Deb had in her personal collection.”
The objects worked well together because of the emphasis put into their selection. “It wasn’t necessarily a tremendously deep collection. You had wallpaper boxes, and there were twenty-ish. You had wood carvings, and there were forty or fifty or more. You had textiles. But it was evident she just really loved the things,” said Jeffers. “This wasn’t the thrust of it, but it blended very nicely with the rest of her world.”
According to Jeffers, the rest of Deb Dick’s world—actually, the center of that universe—revolved around relationships. “It was a really great family. The kids are first class. Their parents would be so proud of how hard they’re working, now in their absence. For me, that was part of the fabric of this collection, how people liked Deb and how these kids are following in their parents’ footsteps. It just felt really good.”
As for the collection itself, the top lot illustrated an eye for the unusual. The sawbuck worktable was an oddity, having a well at the top that could have been used as a dry sink, something normally not seen on a structure with X-form legs. There were also two stacked drawers for storage on the left side. Dating to the mid-19th century, it measured 33½" high x 68" wide.
Although Jeffers couldn’t say exactly what the item was used for—the catalog suggested a dry sink or sorting table—it didn’t matter. “You can get into objects that become neither fish nor fowl, and they don’t perform well at auction when you hybridize two uses and two forms. That was not the case here. It was just a very usable, aesthetically pleasing, good-color object. It was very country.”
A spoon rack in pine with remnants of original robin’s-egg-blue paint brought strong interest, initially selling for $5000 (est. $100/150); after the sale it was returned by the buyer.
Painted country furniture did well. A pine corner cupboard in old blue paint over gray, having an open top and a base with three stacked drawers instead of doors, mid-19th century, 78¾" high x 43½" wide, sold for $3500 (est. $2000/3500); a pine chimney cupboard in worn gray paint over gray-green, having a single door on the front while the right side of the case had four shelves, second quarter of the 19th century, 82" high x 30¾" wide, realized $3500 (est. $400/800); and a pine cupboard in worn orange paint over the original orange, the front having an unusual design of two open shelves over a tall plank door, mid-19th century, 69½" high x 37" wide, brought $2875 (est. $750/1500).
The fun part of the collection might have been some of the painted wood signs, including three watermelon-themed examples. A circular sign lettered “Sweet” and decorated to resemble a watermelon cut in half, showing the ripe interior, 30" diameter and made from a three-board oak tabletop, sold for $3250 (est. $200/400). A flat sign shaped like a slice of watermelon, lettered “Ice Cold” and “5¢,” measuring 11" high x 29½" wide, made $2750 (est. $150/250), while an 11¼" x 60" pine board lettered “Melons” in two tones of green, the elongated “o” resembling the interior of a watermelon, and with a red arrow pointing to the right, all on a worn pinkish ground, topped at $531.25 (est. $200/400).
Buyers liked the signs, and Jeffers understood why. “They were period, which is the first half of the 20th century for those. They were watermelon, and that’s a pretty popular subject when you’re talking about signs because of everybody’s connection and affinity. It’s like the color blue or cherries or puppies; everybody can relate, and it feels pretty good.”
Unlike the decorator market, which has become crowded with new farm- and country-themed signs, those from the Dick collection were originals, what Jeffers called “off-the-road signs.” Adding to that was the current popularity of signs, especially painted wood. “Signs right now are strong,” he said.
The watermelon signs had a folky flavor that could also be seen in other items in the auction, including a tin barn star, having a compass star in original polychrome paint and a replaced counterweight star, late 19th century, 32" diameter x 45" long, that sold for $3125 (est. $800/1600), and a two-compartment magazine rack in pine, one side having naive painted decoration of a farmhouse and barn, first quarter of the 20th century, that brought $1625 (est. $50/100).
Jeffers was pleased with the auction. “The things that brought strong money didn’t surprise me necessarily, but I thought there were still some opportunities. Anybody who’s not buying fiercely in this market isn’t watching. I see good property coming to the auction block, and prices are reasonable.”
He said the online format, an unremitting product of the pandemic, continues to work well. Through the first eight months of the year, Garth’s held only two live sales at its home, the Municipal Light Plant in Columbus, Ohio.
“We’re following the news of the virus and being a little cautious,” Jeffers added, noting that the online format has been well accepted by buyers. “They are not swayed by it. They’re participating. They’re registering in record numbers,” he said. That’s translated to good news for sellers. “I tell clients you shouldn’t fear at all that online is limiting your audience or your opportunity, because it’s not.”
For more information, phone Garth’s at (740) 362-4771 or visit (www.garths.com).
Originally published in the November 2021 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2021 Maine Antique Digest -
See more at: https://www.maineantiquedigest.com/stories/americana-sold-at-garths/8366