Published: November 5, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy of Daniel Buck Auctions
LISBON FALLS, MAINE – Many auctioneers sell a wide assortment of objects. Some have developed niches. Some concentrate on glass, some on stoneware, some on clocks, etc. Daniel Buck is carving a somewhat unusual niche for himself – selling older denim clothing made by Levi Strauss. Three items in his previous sale brought close to $70,000, and two in his October 19 sale brought more than $25,000. There were other pieces as well, and all had come from a family that had owned a clothing store in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Buck said, “The heavy buyers are in Asia. They seem to like the rugged, western connotations that go with this clothing.”
Buck observed that there are numerous construction details that enable collectors to determine the age of Levi jeans or jackets. Does a pair of jeans have just one pocket or multiple pockets? Production began in 1873 and after 1890, the number “501” came into use. In 1886, the company began using a leather label with a picture of a pair of horses, so that feature can be used in dating. Does the fly use buttons or zippers? Collectors are more interested in denim jackets with linings than those without. In the April sale, a 1940s jacket that had never been worn sold for $38,100. In the most recent sale, a vintage 1930s denim jacket, which also had never been worn, brought $13,200. It went to an Asian bidder in the room on the phone with a buyer. The same buyer paid $12,000 for a 1940s jacket. Age, as with many other collectibles, factors into value: an unworn pair of jeans, dated to the 1960s or 1970s, brought $3,240.
Although the Levis did well, the highest priced item in the sale, at $14,400, was a painting by Expressionist artist Abraham Manievich (1881-1942). He was a Ukrainian Jew, who emigrated to the United States after his son was killed in the Kiev ghetto. That life experience adds to the interest of the painting Buck sold. It was titled “Hope of Immigration” and depicted a group of immigrants on Ellis Island looking towards the New York City skyline. White doves were carrying paperwork towards the immigrants and there were ships in the harbor between the island and the city. Manievich’s paintings are in major museums in Israel, the United States, Ukraine, France, Canada and Russia. Another painting by the artist, which appeared to be a study of this painting did not sell.
The sale included several lots of vintage photos depicting Native Americans, and they did well. A particularly poignant lot of two 8-by-10-inch photos showed a group of children, boys and girls, before and after their arrival at the Carlisle school. One was titled “Chiricahua Apaches as they arrived at Carlisle from Fort Marion, Florida, November 4th, 1886”; and the second was titled “Chiricahua Apaches Four Months After Arriving at Carlisle.” Both were stamped with the name of the photographer, Choate, and both showed the same children -first in their native costumes, with their given names and then, with their names changed, with their hair cut and wearing “civilized” clothing. The pair of photographs realized $1,020.
The Carlisle school was formally known as the United States Indian Industrial School and was in Carlisle, Penn. It was the flagship Indian boarding school in the United States from 1879 through 1918 and was founded with intention of assimilating Indian children into white culture. Another two photos by the same photographer showed the school buildings and the children at Christmas dinner in 1885. That lot sold for $2,640. There were several other lots of children at the school. There were also other photos of Native Americans in their native dress.
There was another photo of western interest – a semi-erotic cabinet card photo of a woman identified as Josephine Earp, wife of Wyatt Earp, a lawman who gained fame after the 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Ariz. The photo was blind stamped “Kaloma” below the image and “Copyright 1914 – P.N. Co.” Although Josephine claimed to have married Wyatt, they apparently did not marry but remained as common-law husband and wife for more than 40 years. It’s a fascinating story, perhaps best told in the 1993 movie Tombstone, one of more than a dozen films about the Earp family and the famous gunfight. Regardless of the story, the photograph sold for $240. Some Earp scholars doubt that the woman in this photo is Josie Earp.
The sale included a collection of tribal artifacts, Navajo rugs, silver, teddy bears, numerous paintings, Asian material, Midcentury Modern furniture and more. Finishing at $2,520 was a large African carved wooden shrine headdress that included several carved figures, including an soldier with a rifle and several native-themed carvings. A carved and painted wooden spirit mask and headdress, which had faces painted on four sides brought $450. There were a number of other African carvings, masks and bronze items. Asian items were led by a large embroidered Japanese wall hanging with tigers and dragons. It probably dated from the Nineteenth Century and sold for $2,400. Topping the group of Navajo rugs was a mid-Twentieth Century rug that reached $1,560. An elaborate five-piece Victorian silverplate tea and coffee service by Elkington went out for $600, and a large oval plated tray by the same maker with a date mark of 1859 brought $240.
After the sale, Buck said, “Overall, we did about $150,000 and that was okay, but I was surprised at some of the things I thought would do well but didn’t sell. We had a lot of presale interest in things like a Norman Rockwell painting but that didn’t translate into bidding. The same was true for the other works by Manievich. But the Levis did really well, and so did the group of Native American photographs. All of that means that there were good buys for dealers and collectors. That keeps people coming back. Our next sale will be an online-only sale of fine art, and in December we’ll be selling a selection of firearms and gold and silver coins.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
For additional information, www.danielbuckauctions.com or 207-407-1444.
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