Published: September 11, 2007
A gold medal presented to Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1854 for his efforts in Japan was a glittering draw for collectors at Bruce Gamage Jr’s annual Maine summer auction on August 27. Marking what the auctioneer characterized as a “career high” sale, the medal sold for $165,000 to an anonymous New York City buyer on the phone.
The rare find had been presented to Perry by the Merchants of Boston in 1854 for negotiations with Japan, and, of course, is the only known gold medal of its kind.
The medal came from a local summer family, according to Gamage.
“I knew it was gold and I knew it was good, but I decided to estimate it on the value of the gold rather than historical considerations,” said Gamage of the lot’s $4/6,000 initial presale estimate. After the week went by, however, “I was getting all of these calls [about the medal], and that’s when I began thinking it might bring $30/40,000.”
The annual estate auction was, as Gamage said by telephone afterwards, “A fun sale,” grossing close to a half million dollars, which is about as good as it has been in Gamage’s 39-year career. “I’ve never tried to grow a lot, but I get the crowds because I don’t take stuff unless it is fresh. So when I have a sale, they come,” said Gamage.
And come they did †nearly 250 registered bidders and a crowded gallery at the Rockland Elks Lodge where Gamage always hosts his sales. He does not offer Internet bidding, “because it slows things down.”
The Perry medal was a big draw, but the sale also lived up to Gamage’s credo by offering other fresh gems, mainly in the form of wonderful furniture from the Appleton Seaverns estate of Camden, Maine and Suffield, Conn.
That Hartford family with roots that go back to the Aetna Insurance Company produced the second highest lot in the sale, a Connecticut Queen Anne cherry bonnet top highboy with pleasing proportions of 347/8 inches for the top, 37½ inches for the base and a height of 84 inches. With a full sunburst carved below the center finial and two fan-carved drawers, the piece was “tall and thin, with a wonderful look,” said Gamage.
He opened the lot at $45,000, and immediately a yell of $80,000 rang out on the floor. Moving from there in $5,000 increments, Gamage orchestrated bids from the floor and from six phones until Yardley, Penn., dealer C.L. Prickett prevailed at $132,000.
A Massachusetts blanket chest, circa 1760, that had been estimated at $880 to $1,200 was another surprise, selling for a solid $8,800. The American oak chest in pilgrim style had a replaced top, not surprising, according to Gamage, since such chests ordinarily were made with pine tops, which deteriorated.
Also from the Sevearns estate was a diminutive Queen Anne drop leaf table, just 25 inches high with some restoration. Estimated at $1,5/2,500, it realized $4,125. Another piece of interest was a rare Pennsylvania corner cupboard, circa 1780, which Gamage characterized as a nice architectural cupboard, reduced to its original paint. It went out at $9,900, within estimate.
Tiger maple was the magnet for a simple bootjack end blanket box made in the Eighteenth Century. Such boxes are usually “a nothing thing,” according to Gamage, but the awesome wood apparently appealed to someone who had to have a tiger maple blanket box in his or her collection, and the piece sold well above its $1,2/1,800 presale estimate for $3,850.
A rare Impressionistic rendering of a vase of flowers by Sir William MacTaggart (1903‱981), a Scottish painter, sold for $4,675. The picture, which measured 25 by 30 inches and was still in its original frame with gallery labels, had been discovered in the attic of a local estate when Gamage was brought in to liquidate the household’s contents, and the auctioneer had held it back to include in this sale.
The sale also featured a couple of landscape paintings from the school of English landscape painter John Constable, RA. “They were fine lots,” said Gamage, “and had all the original labels.” Each was estimated at $8/12,000. One English landscape titled “London from Hampstead Heath,” 12 by 14 inches, made $1,980. The other, “Valley of the Snow,” a 10-by-14-inch oil on back of panel with laid canvas, went out at $2,640. “As ‘school of’ paintings, they brought what they should have,” remarked Gamage.
A big, very academic portrait by Jacob Eichholtz (1776‱842) of Anna Marie Stocker, measuring 30 by 25 inches, finished at $3,300. An early portrait of Captain Woodbury of Beverly, Mass., also did well, also selling for $3,300.
Four antique guns made by Ephraim White (1843‱933) of Waldoboro, Maine, failed to ignite the crowd as much as the auctioneer had anticipated. The grouping included the pistol that White had made when he was 11 years old, as well as a sharpshooter’s rifle with a brass scope, circa 1870, a percussion pistol and two buggy pistols, each with two barrels and iron shoulder pieces. Combined, the four firearms made nearly $7,000.
Jewelry is always a favorite at auction, and for this sale Gamage presented an old cushion-cut Cartier diamond ring with baguettes, circa 1919, which sold for $3,740.
All prices quoted reflect the ten percent buyer’s premium. For information, 297-594-4963 or www.gamageantiques.com .
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