GARDINER, MAINE — Tim Gould is charming and enthusiastic, and certainly has not lost his love of great country objects. He was a great picker for many years and decided to open an auction service 13 years ago so that he and others like him had a venue with which to reach dealers and collectors who share the same love of paint, surface and form. Gould’s most recent auction was conducted on December 7 at the Gardiner Sportsman’s Hall.
Entering the facility reminds me of my first years in the business and the remarkable shows in Concord, N.H., run by Sara French. There were so many neat items that it was difficult to know where to look first. Tim’s son-in-law Chris Chapman does an amazing job of turning a dated function hall into a gallery. Vignettes of painted items, checkerboards, signs, painted baskets and pantry boxes surround tavern tables and banister back chairs. The back of the hall looked like an Adirondack lodge. An area on the side showed off the wonderful early needlework collection of Martha Genung Stearns. And the stage was like a magnet with all the colors of a rainbow — if that rainbow had been drawn by a lover of New England country objects.
Tim gives credit to Chris for the pleasing setup and for being his assistant in all the steps it takes for a successful event. As with most good auction companies in this time of transition, one needs to keep the strengths of the past and carefully incorporate modern technology.
Gould Auctions has one other important ingredient. It focuses almost solely on its niche. You will not find European items nor jewelry nor Midcentury Modern here, as in most other auction companies that diversify. This is a marketplace for strong country furniture and accessories, fresh to the market and mostly found in New England. Tim has a loyal following of dealers and collectors from Maine, other parts of New England and beyond. And he reaches out to them with a website that is informative, colorful and with weekly updates as items come in. Tim also expressed his great appreciation for loyal clients who helped him build a very successful niche auction company.
The stars of the December show were plentiful. A merganser drake decoy in good condition from the Simmons family of Friendship, Maine, came with a great story. Back in 1983, Tim Gould bought 11 matching decoys from the family and wondered where the 12th decoy lived. Well, in 2013, 30 years later, it was found in the next door neighbor’s home and found its way to Tim’s auction. Obviously, a mix-up after a hunting excursion and an interesting story. With four phone bidders lined up, this sleek Maine merganser sold for $863.
A lively and unusual hooked rug with a design of strawberries set on a dark background featured a straw-colored cartouche surrounding multiple strawberries and leaves floating on a dark field and with three strawberries in each corner. The rug’s unique design brought back memories of warm spring days, picking strawberries in a field. With a Maine history and from an old collection, this 33-by-50-inch rug brought $1,840 from a phone bidder.
This auction had a wonderful assortment of early American crewelwork pieces from the collection of Martha Genung Stearns, author of Homespun and Blue, published in 1940 and reissued in 1963. The star of the collection was the Sewell family child’s blanket, white wool homespun with crewelwork embroidered decoration. It sold to a phone bidder for $2,300. A small (7 by 6 inches) American crewel work decorated lady’s pocket in green and red homespun and overall decorated with strawberries, strawberry flowers and leaves opened at $500 and was captured by a phone bidder for $1,035. And a lovely and large crewel decorated piece, cataloged as a gentleman’s “work bag” with overall stitching on a vibrant blue background, opened at $500 and after two persistent phone bidders finished, it was knocked down for a healthy $3,163.
An iconic Maine object, useful and graphic, a log caliper with wheel was stamped “V. Fabian Milo Junction, Maine.” It was 45 inches long and had interest from three in-house bidders and two telephone bidders and sold for $1,088.
One of the sweetest items at the sale was a 15-inch-tall pipe or wall box with drawer in a dry dark red paint. Its appeal stemmed from condition, surface and the construction, all of which set it above most wall boxes. Two in-house bidders and a phone bidder pushed the price to a hefty $6,038. Another standout item was a sweet and large onion lantern with terrific dry mustard paint. It stood 19 inches tall and sold to a New Hampshire dealer for $1,150.
The tiny (4 by 2½ by 1½ inches) lipstick red Shaker box, found in Augusta, Maine, was a sweet size and had great color and condition. It made one dealer who drove all the way from New York State very happy, and stunned her husband with the price of $4,888.
One of the most colorful country accessories was a double-sided game board discovered in a house in Waterville, Maine. The chrome yellow and dark red paint on this checkerboard and backgammon combination was vibrant and it brought a reasonable $2,300.
Just because an artifact is found in New England, does not mean it originated there. A secessionist banner from South Carolina, watercolor on silk and from one of the first Secessionist movements, was put into play with five phones involved; it was a nice buy at $2,875. Another mid-Nineteenth Century historical object was an 1862 Civil War sword and scabbard presented to Lieutenant Isaac Potter of the Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery with an overall length of 33 inches. After activity from four phones, it sold for $2,875.
Adding interest to a diminutive gray painted staved bucket, less than 8 inches tall, was the stylized pencil inscription on the bottom. “Stolen from C.B. Wade....Athens.....Wade V.G.O.” Perhaps Wade wanted to lower the risk of theft was one theory. It was an audience favorite and the final price was $3,393. A red and green painted pack basket, large, early and with punchy red diamonds and circles painted on a Windsor green background, brought $1,495.
The largest and most graphic painted trade sign was in the form of a pointing hand and at 51 inches long, very impressive. It opened and closed to a left bid at $3,335. A collection of farm stand signs did well, as they were painted in red and blue on a white background. Hands down the best of a category whose items are usually pedestrian in design, they had been found in a house next to a farm in Salisbury, Mass. “Ripe Tomatoes” sold for $518. “Petunias,” my favorite of the lots, brought a strong $460. “Cucumbers” was popular at $316, and “Cabbage,” not so much, brought $201.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
All in all, a good day for auctioneer, consignors and buyers. Because the auction was conducted on Pearl Harbor Day, Tim talked to the audience about his concerns to be respectful of all veterans on this important day in history. A moment of silence, after a personal story regarding a young man who lost his life in service to his country, reminded us all that life is not to be taken lightly. Then it was show time. Fun was had by all, bidding was brisk, there were good buys and strong prices for strong items, but the buyers were happy. And the weather was fine for a day in December in Maine.
For additional information, www.gouldauctions.com or 207-362-6045.