Published: December 7, 2010
From their humble beginnings in 1960, housed in a small one-room shop with knotty pine paneling on the interior walls, Joan and her soon-to-be husband, Steve Pappas, have long been recognized as staples of the antiques community, not only in their home state but throughout New England and New York. Joined in the ensuing years by two of their children, John and Michael, Knotty Pine Antiques continued to grow and would eventually expand to become an important nationally recognized auction house.
Celebrating their 50th year in business, Gallery at Knotty Pine Auction Service observed the golden anniversary occasion with an open house on Saturday, October 30, and an auction filled with prime examples of Americana the following day. Complete with a catalog faced with a bright orange title page, in celebration of the Halloween day sale, the crowds were large, active and certainly festive.
Five decades ago, Joan, then 23 and still using her maiden name, continued a family tradition begun by her mother and opened a small one-room shop just a mile or so from their current location on Route. 10. In 1963, Joan and Steve married and over the next several years the couple added four children, Tom, Stephen, John and Michael. And, as their family grew, so did their antiques business.
The couple purchased land at the current location a couple of years later and began conducting flea markets on the site. It was not long before a gift shop located there was dominated by antiques and that the building began to expand.
The flea market and antiques shop grew, and as commerce at the shop increased, Joan and Steve thought of ways to grow the business and decided to start renting space in the shop to other dealers †thus beginning one of the first antiques malls in the country, housing as many as 120 dealers in the 1970s.
Both the business and the building continued to grow through the 1980s and 1990s, with a long waiting list of dealers from the Northeast, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania wanting to exhibit their merchandise at Knotty Pine. During this period, Knotty Pine grew into one of the country’s largest antiques malls, housing some 350 dealers, gaining a national reputation as a destination for antiques dealers and enthusiasts.
As business changed in the late 1900s with the introduction of the Internet, as well as many new antiques malls and shows being created, Knotty Pine went through another transformation, closing the annex section of the antiques mall. With the newly vacant 6,000-square-foot facility available, complete with a coffee shop and offices and a spacious 5,500-square-foot gallery, brothers John and Michael decided it was a perfect place to open the Gallery at Knotty Pine Auction Service.
The gallery conducted its first antiques auction on August 5, 1995, with John Pappas as the manager and Mike doing the calling, and they have not looked back since.
In the ensuing years, the auction service has done nothing but grow, with more than 450 auctions under its belt. The gallery is currently hosting more than 40 antiques auctions a year. The auction business went through yet another transformation, according to auctioneer John Pappas, in 2004 with the opening of a second annex gallery and with the exit of Michael Pappas to pursue a new career. Upon Michael’s exit, John Pappas took over not only the responsibilities of managing the gallery, but also the full-time auctioneering duties. It was at this time that Knotty Pine also added two more full-time employees, including longtime antiques and auction manager and appraiser Joseph A. Savarese, a former employee of Amherst Auctions under Bill Hubbard and Pioneer Auctions of Amherst, Mass.
A new 3,000-square-foot annex gallery was also added in 2004 to host estate auctions, held on Thursday evenings, while the main 5,500-square-foot gallery continues to be used for all major antiques and specialty sales that are conducted monthly.
In 2008, Knotty Pine went through its final transformation into is current form as the Gallery at Knotty Pine Auction Service, when after nearly 50 years in business, Joan and Steve Pappas decided to close the shop known as the Knotty Pine Antique Market. “It’s time, we are ready to slow down a little,” said Joan. Steve was ready for his second retirement (first being from a law practice). In May 2008, while still housing about 100 antiques dealers from around New England, the Pappases decided to close the antiques mall/retail end of the business.
Although they gave up the seven-day-a-week, 9-to-5 weekly grind, they can still be seen on a regular basis, helping set up the auctions and assisting on auction days. “It’s not quite retirement, but it works for us,” said Steve. “We get most weekends off, which is something we haven’t had for nearly 50 years. It’s a start.”
It may have been a “start,” but it did not last long, as Steve and Joan were once again busy at the gallery for the weekend of the celebration. The couple assisted throughout the weekend, conducting appraisals during an open house on Saturday that was a benefit for the local Humane Society, and then again at the auction the following day.
There was a large crowd on hand for the auction on Sunday morning, something that pleased auctioneer John Pappas. “We used to get overflow crowds of 400 or more at one of these Americana auctions,” stated Pappas. With slightly less than that half of that in attendance, it was still a good-sized crowd by today’s measures, according to the auctioneer. Pappas also commented that there was “wonderful participation from Internet bidders, with numerous absentee and telephone bidders participating, as well.
The auction got off to a quick start with a selection of Civil War items crossing the block first. A tin-type photograph of a Civil War soldier in uniform opened for bidding at $75 and was hammered down moments later for $218. A brass mounted officer’s saber was the next lot to do well, bringing $977. A collection of Civil War correspondence from the Bullock family sold at $1,495, while a group of six letters with war content from another family realized $690.
A cartridge box with the original leather sling attracted attention from collectors, with it selling at $690. An extensive collection of medals deaccessioned from a Massachusetts museum also commanded attention, with lots of six medals bringing between $138 and $690.
The top lot of the Civil War-related materials came from the selection of antique firearms that had been consigned from a private collection. Leading the group was a rare Sharps New Model 1859 rifle that was marked with a serial number that fell into the range of those produced for the elite Union Army squad known as Berdan’s Sharp Shooters. “These were specifically ordered for the regiment,” commented Pappas. Interest on the lot was received from all around the country for the rifle that was listed in good original condition, missing only a front sling ring. Numerous phone bidders were lined up for action as the lot was offered, opening at $5,000 with a bid from the Internet. Telephone bidders competed with several in the gallery until the lot was hammered down to one of the telephones at $8,625.
A Spencer repeater, Model 1866, was another lot to do well, selling at $1,840. A Starr Arms 1858 Army revolver brought $1,495, and a Remington New Model Army revolver went out at $1,035.
Art included a Harriet Randall Lumis oil on canvas depicting a vibrant foliage scene titled “Autumn Sunshine.” Bidding on the lot was quick paced, with the desirable painting selling to an absentee bidder at $6,325. A Seventeenth Century portrait, presumably of European royalty, sold at $977, while a folio of Fritz Eichenberg Old Testament woodcuts fetched $920.
Americana was hot, with a painted game board attracting serious interest from telephone bidders, the Internet and several in the crowd. The Parcheesi board in old brightly colored paint opened for bidding at $500 and bounced all around the gallery, finally selling to a bidder in the rear of the hall for $3,795. “If it had good paint, people wanted it and they were willing to pay a premium price,” said Pappas. Another game board, also in good paint, sold for $1,840.
A tall banded firkin in yellow paint did well, going out at $1,725, while a smaller blue painted firkin, missing its lid but decorated with “currants” in yellow and red, sold at $402. A small rectangular splint basket in old green paint also did well, bringing $690.
Numerous absentee bids at $1,300 opened the bidding on a nicely turned burl bowl, but moments later it went to a buyer in the gallery for $2,185.
Several early trade signs were sold, with two optician signs, in the form of spectacles, bringing $2,875 and $747, while a hatter’s sign in the form of a top hat realized $2,070.
A George Washington Inaugural brass button was bid on by several in the house, as well as two phone bidders. With a low estimate of $600, the lot took off, selling at $1,150.
Two corner cupboards in good paint were sold, with prices realized of $2,185 for one in a blue-green paint, and $2,012 for another in old red. A bucket bench in robin’s-egg blue also attracted attention, selling at $1,092.
A nice selection of early glass was offered, with a geometric Keene blown three-mold decanter in olive green leading the way at $2,185, and a Stoddard olive green Kimball’s Jaundice Bitters did well at $1,380.
A small collection of early toys caught the eye of collectors; a Buddy L Ice Delivery truck in black and yellow paint hammered down at $1,840, a pressed steel Dayton parcel post delivery truck went out at $920, and a Kenton cast iron Army motor truck brought $517.
Other items of interest included a 97-piece Gorham flatware service in the Strasbourg pattern that sold for $3,162, a Nineteenth Century bronze of Marcus Aurelius on horseback at $3,737, and a large Masons ironstone service in the Imari pattern brought $1,265.
Prices include the buyer’s premium. For additional information, 800-352-5251 or www.knottypineantiques.com .
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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