Watch out pottery lovers, there is a new redware and stoneware auctioneer in town, and his name is Tony Zipp. Along with the other four members of the Zipp family, Tony has started up Crocker Farm, an auction house specializing in redware and stoneware featuring primarily pieces of Pennsylvania and Maryland origin.
Crocker Farm conducted their first sale, a highly successful one at that, on July 17 with substantial prices paid throughout the day.
Zipp commented that in the early 1980s he and family members began collecting local stoneware and redware and before too long found themselves dealing. In 1990, Zipp quit his job as a hospital administrator to become a full-time dealer, specializing at first in pottery and then branching out into Americana. Along the way, the Zipp family got interested in internet sales and conducted specialty fixed-price pottery sales that began on a specified day and time. Their success was so great that they decided to go live and buck the internet trends.
“We decided to have an auction to see what would happen,” said Zipp, who was overwhelmed with the results. “It was just a great day. Things got started early in the morning under the pole barn with about 50 picnic tables filled with people buying, selling and swapping pottery. Then at noon, they all moved inside and we had the sale,” he said.
The auctioneer reported a huge crowd with several heavy hitters on hand including Americana dealer David Wheatcroft and a host of determined local buyers.
“We had five phone lines installed the day before the auction and were promised they would be working right away. We kept trying them and trying them and not one had a dial tone. We were starting to get real nervous, but then 15 minutes before the auction was supposed to start they finally got dial tones.” Telephone bidding was active throughout the day, stated Zipp, but the gallery was determined and claimed virtually all of the top lots.
The top lot of the auction came a short while later as a rare four-gallon stoneware bulbous water cooler with vertical loop handles and an incised bird that covered much of the front of the piece was offered. The cooler, stamped H. Myers and attributed to Henry Remmey Sr, 1821-1829, was one of only a couple known examples from the Baltimore potter. The back of the piece was profusely decorated with blue floral. Myers owned the Baltimore Stoneware Manufactory in the 1820s, Remmey was the superintendent of the pottery. “Given the close similarities between this cooler and stoneware signed by Remmey (both from his New York and Baltimore years), this piece was certainly made by the master potter himself,” stated the catalog.
Bidding on the lot opened at $5,000 with a flurry of hands coming from all around the room. The initial bid was taken from a stealth bidder seated in the front row, local collector Jim Kappler, who sat motionless with his paddle in his hand stretched across the top of his catalog and tipped slightly at the auctioneer. Bids jumped in $5,000 increments quickly with Kappler stealthily staying in the action. Numerous people in the gallery pushed the cooler, including one bidder hiding in the doorway, until the price got past $30,000. Wheatcroft got in on the action and the bids bounced back and forth with Kappler never moving a muscle until the lot was hammered down to him at $72,600, including premium.
Kappler, a collector of Baltimore pottery, would later state that he “came to the auction to buy three things,” he got them all.
The next lot Kappler claimed was a one-gallon stoneware pitcher with a large incised and dark blue filled bird on a floral sprig, also attributed to Henry Remmey. In mint condition, this piece was also actively bid by several in the crowd with it selling at to the motionless Kappler at $35,200. A few lots later a monumental seven-gallon water cooler with vivid blue decoration covering the entire front and bending around the side was offered. This straight-sided piece, made in Baltimore, circa 1840, also went Kappler’s way at $18,700.
“He sat around for about five minutes after buying the last cooler and then came out and wrote my wife a check for almost $130,000 for the three pieces,” said Zipp. The buyer would later relate to the auctioneer that the day was “One of the high points in his collecting career.”
An Anna Pottery stoneware railroad pig flask with incised and blue filled map and sayings did well at $23,100.
Several pieces of Bacher signed redware were offered, some by Anthony and some by Errnestus, who is now believed to be Anthony’s brother. The expected top lot, a rare large sized redware poodle with coleslaw decoration on the upswept tail and large mane, failed to meet reserves.
A large Anthony Bacher redware vase with long upsweeping vertical handles with applied floral and bird decoration in an olive colored glaze did well bringing $18,700, while a rare pitcher with brown and cream scrottled glaze realized $9,625.
A large five-gallon crock attributed to the Thompson Pottery in Morgantown, W.V., with two individual decorated scenes, one above the other, the top one of a woman holding a parasol, the lower a bird on a sprig, sold at $16,500.
A large stoneware pitcher with a bold folky tulip on the front and stars around the sides and across the neck did well at $14,300, while a rare three-gallon jar marked “J. Miller, Alex” went out at $10,450. The jar, one of five or six known marked examples, was hotly competed for by a local collector who won out over an agent representing the Virginia Historical Society.
John and Solomon Bell pieces saw substantial interest with a highly unusual plaster two-piece mold of a spaniel marked by Solomon hammering down at $8,350, a sponge decorated redware Turk’s head mold brought $3,300, another realized $2,200, and a John Bell butter tub with restored handle fetched $1,870.
The most unusual piece of redware in the auction was an elaborately decorated large bulbous ovoid jar with green slip squiggles surrounded by yellow dots. The jar, probably Moravian, had the initials “S. G.” and was dated 1784. Condition problems, including a chunk missing from the rim, a large crack and glaze loss, kept the price down to $7,150.
The buy of the auction came as a highly unusual quart sized jug stamped “Cortland” and decorated in large bold letters with “1 Quart” sold for $385.
Prices include the ten percent premium charged.