Published: December 28, 2004
Tales were told and rdf_Descriptions sold as renowned Ohio auctioneer Tom Porter offered up rdf_Description after rdf_Description from his personal collection on his home turf at Garth’s. The auctioneer kept things lively and for the most part prices climbed sky high as his select assortment of prime Americana was offered.
Porter, who joined the auction team at Garth’s in March of 1967, eventually becoming part owner and primary auctioneer, promised that he was not leaving the firm. Porter commented that he and his wife Carolyn had lovingly put the collection together over the past 40-plus years and the solitary reason for selling was that they had moved from a six-bedroom farmhouse to a smaller single story dwelling. That criteria alone established the need to let loose with many decades worth of collecting.
Porter was quick to add, “We are moving on a bit, not moving away. Just because we’re moving doesn’t mean we’re gone. This is far too much fun to give it all up. We will be here and available for some time. We love the everyday treasure hunt that comes with this job and we are still reveling in the ride.”
The auction echoed what Porter has been telling clients for the past decade: “If the merchandise is fresh and good, there is plenty of money around to buy it.” The sentiment rang true as lot after lot routinely exceeded estimates, some even selling in excess of ten-fold the expectations.
Each of the pieces in the sale had a story that Porter recalled with great enthusiasm. One such lot was a carving depicting a winking shoe-shine boy catching an eye-full of his seated lady customer who had crossed one leg over her knee with her skirt hiked up. Porter recalled a dealer bringing four of them to him at least 30 years ago and he ultimately bought them all.
“Three of them were downright pornographic,” he said, “so much so that we couldn’t really display them. One day Barney Barenholtz was over and he spied them and fell in love with them, so I sold them to him. Well, Barney had the three on the corners of his hot tub for the longest time and we would just laugh about them.”
Porter was reluctant to sell the carving and commented after the auction, “A long time ago Carolyn and I decided that if we ever had a sale that it would be a fun thing to put on the cover. If I hadn’t said that, we would have kept it, I’ll tell you that.”
The top lot of the auction came as a large zinc dog measuring more than 6 feet tall and 9 feet long was offered. It was also one of the pieces that Porter was the sorriest to see go. “When I first came to work at Garth’s, my first job was to make a crate that was big enough to ship this dog in,” stated Porter. “Garth [Oberlander] and Peter Tillou had bought the piece together and after they had trouble selling it, each tried to buy the other out. Well, neither of them wanted to sell, so they decided it would spend three years in Litchfield and then three years back here. I built the crate and we shipped it off to Litchfield. Three years later, the piece arrived back here, a couple years after that Garth passed away. Peter came down to the memorial service and told me ‘that dog belongs right here and it is yours.'”
The piece was believed to have been a trade sign and was discovered by Oberlander and Tillou on top of a sporting goods store or factory in Cincinnati. Thought to have been a logo for the Draper Maynard Company, an early manufacturer of baseball gloves and sporting equipment, the lot was accompanied by a catcher’s mitt tennis racket with the dog logo emblazoned on it.
The unusually large dog was the first lot to be offered in the Saturday session and it quickly surpassed the $10/15,000 presale estimate with seven phone bidders and several in the gallery hitting the lot. As bids neared the $50,000 mark, the telephone bidders dropped from the action as two in the gallery continued to push the price to $117,875, including premium. It sold to a private Ohio collector that commented to the auctioneer that the stately piece would reside on his front lawn.
Another lot with a keen story revolved around a clock built into a cupboard. Porter recalled that early on in their career his wife Carolyn looked into local dealer Robin Hunter’s apartment and came back exclaiming, ‘”There is a really dumb clock in Robin’s apartment.’ I peeked in and thought, it really is dumb. Well, we tried to buy it, but it wasn’t for sale. Several months later we got a Philadelphia tall case clock that was slightly out of period that Robin really liked, so, we traded.”
The neat case piece was not really dumb at all, but retained an almost Shaker sensibility about it. In an old red wash, the piece sold between estimates at $11,787. Another clock offered in the sale was an Eli Terry pillar and scroll mantel clock with reverse painted Mount Vernon type tablet that sold for $13,225.
One of the surprises of the auction came as a burl bowl with carved and pierced handles was offered. The oblong hand carved bowl, estimated at $4/8,000, was a lovely example measuring nearly 18 inches in length, 15-plus in width and standing just more than 6 inches tall. Bidding on the lot was extremely active with it selling for a strong price of $64,400.
Folk art included a carving of a marching Uncle Sam figure, retaining the original red, white and blue paint, that more than doubled estimates bringing $7,187. Other folky pieces included a folding camp stool by Illinois carver Hosea Hayden that was decorated with incised and colored drawings of several people and animals. The rare piece was sought after by several in the gallery with it selling at $19,550.
A nicely carved and painted pilothouse wooden eagle attributed to New Orleans carver J. Nabor also saw active bidding with the lot hammering at $17,825
The top pieces of art in the sale came as a battle scene depicting Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth was sold. Attributed to Alonzo Chappel, the painting brought $15,525. A colorful Pennsylvania fraktur birth certificate executed by the Reverend Henry Young (1792-1861) also did well selling at $10,925. The artist, now identified, had previously only been known as the Centre County artist.
Well-known for their quality selection of stoneware, a couple lots of pottery in the sale did well including a large five-gallon stoneware jug decorated with a bulldog with a basket in its mouth. By the West Troy Pottery, the rare jug sold at $20,700. Also sold was a rare set of four graduated Lanier Meaders covered jars with applied grape clusters and leaves that realized $9,775.
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