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The Americana Collection of Natalene and Eric Aaberg

A folky portrait of a girl and her dog brought the top price during a single-owner sale held by Garth’s Auctions August 21. However, a variety of smalls defined the market that day.


The collection was that of Natalene and Eric Aaberg of Beaverton, Oregon. “Eric is a passionate and voracious collector whom I knew essentially through Facebook,” said Jeff Jeffers, CEO and principal auctioneer of Garth’s. The Aabergs bought from Garth’s over the years, but they also traveled. “He and his wife for the past thirty-some years did a little shopping in the East and a little shopping in the Midwest and were able to find some gems.”

Leading the sale was the circa 1846 portrait of Sarah Fletcher that sold for $2125 (including buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $350/700. Oil on canvas and measuring 26½" x 22", the unsigned work depicted the girl at roughly 11 years old, dressed in white and with a dog resting on her lap, with flowers draped across the dog’s back. Fletcher was from Fairfax County, Virginia.


“It was very sweet,” said Jeffers. “It was right on that cusp of having an earlier look and was wonderful with the dog.” The identification didn’t hurt. “It’s always good to have a name to understand who the sitter was.”


Smalls dominated the sale, with items ranging from treenware to toleware to dolls, all adding to the Americana theme.


The best of the treen was a decorated covered jar in original paint with a red exterior and silver interior. From the 19th century and standing 7¼" high x 5½" diameter, the footed jar sold for $2000 (est. $200/400). The varnish was heavily alligatored, and the jar had age splits and a chipped finial. The price was an indicator of the continued interest in treen. “Eric had some nice forms, and they all had a bit of patina,” said Jeffers. “Whether it’s short or long, there will be a line for warmly handled small woodenwares.”


Among the tole was a tea canister dating to the 1840s with bright floral decoration. Measuring 5¾" high x 6" diameter and with minor wear, dents, and a varnished surface, it brought $937.50 (est. $300/600). The canister was the sort of thing not readily found in Oregon; over the years the collectors had relied on buying trips, auction purchases, and private acquisitions. “Being out west, Eric was happy to take weekend excursions and get out a little bit. And, having some knowledge, he could spot things that were great opportunities for the find out west, with not as many knowledgeable eyeballs out there. He also had some pretty good dealer relationships out east and bought pretty well from them,” said Jeffers.


Dolls made up a considerable part of the collection, and Garth’s offered more than 100 rag, papier-mâché, and china examples. The variety spoke of Eric Aaberg’s interest, while still keeping primarily to an Americana theme. “He went across the doll category,” Jeffers said. “He kept four or five that would have been real stars in the auction.”


Leading those offered at Garth’s was an oilcloth doll with a painted face and hair, wearing an early red dress from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Dating to the 1880s, the doll was 23" high, had some wear, and sold for $750 (est. $300/500). A Greiner doll brought $593.75 (est. $300/500). The papier-mâché head featured a “covered wagon” hairdo, while the cloth body and leather arms were covered in a period dress. Made in Philadelphia, the doll dated to the 1860s, stood 26" high, and had wear to the face, arms, and legs. A rag doll with painted hair and facial features, wearing a possibly original blue dress (with some tears) with matching pantaloons and with velvet shoes, 19" high, also realized $593.75 (est. $200/400).


“The doll market is a little soft,” said Jeffers. Condition also played a role in the bidding, with flaws having an effect on prices. Jeffers noted that “Eric has that earlier collector gene” where the interest in adding a particular type of doll to the collection allowed some imperfections to be overlooked. “Condition wasn’t always paramount. He did a good job putting together some pretty good objects.”


Textiles were also a part of the collection. A Maine family record sampler sold for $531.25 (est. $200/400). In silk and cotton on linen, the item recorded the births of Isaiah and Cynthia Hacker and seven of their children, the last date being 1834. The sampler featured a geometric border, alphabets, and numbers. According to a note on the back, the Hackers lived in Brunswick, Cumberland County, Maine.


Furniture in the sale wasn’t prevalent but included a schrank in pine with its original reddish-brown grain decoration, attributed to Abraham Latschaw (1799-1870), Waterloo County, Ontario, 83½" high x 69" wide, that realized $1500 (est. $1000/2500), and a Virginia one-piece stepback cupboard in cherry with folky line-and-leaf carving, first quarter of the 19th century, 81½" high x 46¼" wide, refinished and with repairs, that made $1062.50 (est. $1200/1400). Carved inside one door of the cupboard were tulips and “Built 1814 / Js. Donaldson / Repd. 6/14/1911.”


Jeffers spoke highly of Aaberg’s interest in Americana. “I was impressed over the years with the way he kept his interest and finger on the market,” he said. “He has a nice wide knowledge base about a lot of things.” Jeffers also spoke highly of Eric Aaberg as a person. “You couldn’t ask for a better human being. Wonderful guy.”


Although there was no floor bidding, the online format worked well for the auction house, which has continued adding to its client base. “Our new registration rate every auction is more than 25 percent,” said Jeffers.


Social media also played a unique role in the sale. Jeffers noted that Aaberg has thousands of Facebook friends, and a number of them participated in the sale. At the heart of the auction, however, was Aaberg’s appreciation for Americana. “It was nice to see the passion and the quintessential country collection curated over time in a geography you wouldn’t have expected,” said Jeffers.


For more information, phone Garth’s at (740) 362-4771 or visit (www.garths.com).

Originally published in the November 2022 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2022 Maine Antique Digest -


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