Published: May 8, 2018
Review and Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
OTEGO, N.Y. – On April 27-28, Franklin “Buzz” Hesse sold approximately 700 lots of Americana belonging to Richard “Smitty” Axtell. Axtell, a well-known figure at shows throughout the country, has reduced his show schedule and wanted to sell some of the things from his Deposit, N.Y., shop. Although Hesse has recently stopped conducting auctions, his friendship with Axtell secured the sale and Hesse came out of semi-retirement for the sale, which was conducted at the Hesse Galleries with John Shultis and Ed Schillaci of North Greenbush, N.Y.
The sale, which was unreserved, was largely comprised of ceramics, glass, early American lighting, iron, silver and woodenware, with a several pieces of furniture and artwork. For buyers who could not attend the sale, bidding was available by absentee or phone bid; internet bidding was not available. Without the competition of an online audience, several things were sold at bargain prices. It was a great buying opportunity to acquire things and many of the people who attended the sale reported being thrilled with what they were able to purchase.
Both sessions were attended by near-capacity audiences. Hesse, who has a devoted local following, clearly enjoyed conducting the sale and regaled the crowd with anecdotes as things crossed the block. The audience was a combination of local collectors and dealers who had patronized Hesse for years, clients who had been Axtell’s customers or members of the trade who came hoping to get a good buy. Jackie Hesse, Buzz’s wife of more than 50 years, coordinated absentee bids and said about 20 buyers had left absentee bids. She said the sale had attracted a lot of out-of-towners, including some who had never been to a Hesse sale before. A former Hesse associate who was executing phone bids said he had five phone bidders on Friday, but that nearly 20 phone lines had been arranged for Saturday.
With the market for country Americana being what it is, Hesse attracted a respectable crowd, and there were a few younger faces in attendance throughout the sale. The atmosphere in the room was lighthearted, friendly and spirited. For those who had been loyal Hesse buyers, there was a sense of homecoming, while a camaraderie developed between those buyers who had traveled from a distance and stayed over to attend the sale on both days.
The top-selling lot in the sale was a blue-painted blanket chest, attributed to Albany or Schoharie Counties. Hesse, who was on the podium when the lot came up, said it was in great original condition. The chest, which Axtell said he’d acquired from New England, was the subject of bidding interest from both phone, floor and absentee bidders. It ended up at $4,592, going to a floor bidder.
Taking second-place honors was a stunning Baltimore album quilt, unusual in both its good condition and its small size. Cataloged as a “youth” quilt, it had a patriotic motif and was charming. Hesse talked it up before opening the bidding and took bids from three phone bidders as well as bidders in the room, but a phone bidder won out in the end, getting it for $4,250.
Rounding out the top three was a gorgeous diminutive Queen Anne one-drawer tavern table with original red color, which Axtell remembered purchasing in New Haven, Conn. It brought $2,350. It was in very good original condition except for the top, which had been polished at one time.
The top-selling painting was an oil on board woodland scene by G.L. Clough (1824-1901). Axtell had found it in a home in Skaneateles, N.Y. It had been cleaned and was in good condition, with a new frame. It finished at $2,240. A group of 17 watercolor and pen and ink rewards of merit from the Eaton family realized $750. Speaking after the sale, Axtell recalled finding them in Maine, and thought they were from a New Hampshire family.
Some lots brought what they were worth. A burlwood bowl that Axtell had acquired in New Hampshire surprised the audience when bidding interest pushed it to $2,015. A circa 1910 veterinary cabinet with lithographed tin panel for Dr Daniels in original condition went for $1,510. Of the several lots of stoneware in the sale, the best was an Edmands & Co. 3-gallon jug with cobalt bird decoration, which brought $725.
A carved owl that stood nearly three feet tall was purported to be an advertising figure for “White Owl Cigars.” When it crossed the block, Hesse deemed it “a real hoot” and took bids from the floor and three competing phone bidders before selling it to a phone bidder for $1,065.
Furniture prices reflected the general downward trend seen throughout the market. A Connecticut cherrywood secretary with original surface and hardware was pursued by four phone bidders as well as several floor bidders. It ended up going out for $925 to a floor bidder. Bringing $870 to a phone bidder was a Riley Whiting tall clock, which had a Masonic emblem on the dial.
Axtell’s name and reputation attracted familiar facesto the sale, including long-time Rochester, N.Y., dealer/collector and antiques journalist, Fran Kramer and her husband, Herb.
Commenting after the sale, Axtell said “I needed to make a change and I did it. This is the way this business is going. There were many good bargains for everyone.”
Axtell still maintains an open shop in Deposit and will participate in 14 shows this year. When Antiques and the Arts Weekly reached him after the sale, he was preparing for the Greater York show May 4-5. He is excited to do the Rhinebeck antiques show at the end of May, which will be the first time he’s exhibited at that show. Axtell has no current plans to send more items to auction.
Prices, with buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house. For information, Schillaci and Shultis is at 518-766-3865.
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