Published: July 18, 2006
Tucked away between Huey’s Barbecue and a BP gas station in central North Carolina, about 45 minutes west of Durham by car, is the Mebane Antique Auction Gallery. (Pronounced “mebbon” for the uninitiated). For hundreds of clock collectors and dealers, the sale of the Rhyne Clock Collection was the only place to be on June 17. The auction house does not charge a buyer’s premium, and all prices cited are final prices.
While there were a few bargains, about 300 of the 372 cataloged clocks sold over their estimates. The star lots of the sale were the #6 and #7 E. Howard & Co figure eight wall clocks, bringing $32,000 and $39,000, respectively. After the sale auctioneer Jon Lambert said, “To the best of my knowledge we set two world record auction prices on the #6 and #7 Howard figure eights.” The grand total for the sale was $554,463, well above the high estimate for the sale of $400,000.
Bidders came from Canada, Australia, California, Florida, Maine, Texas, Indiana, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and many other states. The North Carolina bidders defended their home turf admirably amongst such an onslaught, keeping many fine clocks in the state. Many of the top lots, however, have found new owners with bidders determined not to leave North Carolina empty-handed. An Australian bidder came from around the world to buy the American 33-inch cathedral-style eight-day time and strike clock. The interior label reads “Angelus Clock Co. Inc. March 20, 1876 Office #86 South 6th St. Philadelphia.” Estimated at $600/900 the clock brought $2,200.
Cathy and Gerry Koolen, the Canadian couple that drove 13 hours to Mebane from Port Franks, Ontario took home the 55-inch-tall early Nineteenth Century “Dutch Tail” Friesland oak wall clock with the enclosed pendulum and 30-hour chain-wound time and strike mechanism and alarm. This all original clock had five hand painted scenes of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Holland. Estimated at $600/800, the Koolens got it for $1,900.
Auctioneer and owner of Mebane Antique Auction, Jon Lambert,scheduled his sale the week before the annual convention of theNational Association of Watch and Clock Collectors. (This year’sconvention is in Cleveland; next year’s meeting will be inChatanooga). Some clocks from the auction were going straight tothe convention. For example, Rick Merritt of Rick Merritt, Inc,Reading, Penn., bought 17 clocks at Lambert’s regular Friday sale(not the Rhyne collection), and 29 clocks from the Rhyne collectionauction on Saturday. “I probably won’t even unpack my truck until Iget to Cleveland,” said Merritt after the sale.
The Rhyne collection’s strong suit was the Howard clocks. A 63-inch E. Howard & Co. Boston wall regulator #53 with a walnut case and weight driven eight-day time and strike brought $10,500 ($4/6,000); an E. Howard & Co #40 in a beautifully carved walnut case with a repainted 11-inch dial brought $7,500 ($4/5,000); A 311/2-inch Howard key-hole wall clock, reissued, with the dial marked “E. Howard & Co. Boston,” case stamped #9 in excellent condition brought $3,500 ($800-$1,200); a 281/2-inch E. Howard #5 banjo with original directions label in bottom of the door sold for $4,500; a 32-inch E. Howard & Co. Boston wall clock #4 brought $2,500; a reissued Howard keyhole wall clock brought $3,800. Sixteen more Howards (some Howard & Davis) sold at the auction, with the most valuable going midsale, and one toward the very end selling for $17,500.
“Money bags are here today,” said one collector to another before the auction began. Indeed, some of the most important collectors in the country were there. One had a complete set of Howard figure eights and banjos with upwards of 1,800 clocks total. Another’s collection contains such rare clocks that we will just mention that he is American. He had a private preview session with Jon Lambert late on Friday night.
One reason some top bidders in the clock world were there is Jon Lambert’s policy of insisting that bidders personally inspect (or have their agent personally inspect) the lots before accepting their absentee bids. Mebane Antique Auction does not allow online bidding and Lambert accepted phone bids from just a handful of people. The bidders in the room won nearly all the clocks. When it came to the top clocks, they won all of them.
Scuttlebutt during the last preview hours, 8 to 11 am the dayof the sale, was that the #6 E. Howard & Co. figure eight wallclock, described as a “beautiful clock in excellent condition”would far surpass its $12/17,000 presale estimate. It had a walnutcase, and was weight driven, eight-day time only, with the originalpainted 14-inch dial marked “E. Howard & Co. Boston” withsecond bit, correct restored painted glass, pendulum and weight,with “very minor shrinkage.” There was one phone bidder on the lot.
Lambert announced as the handlers brought the clock up to the front that he had “never seen this one before” at auction. West Townsend, Mass., clock dealer John Delaney battled with five or six other bidders in the room to prevail at $32,000, followed by rousing applause.
The very next lot was the #7. At 503/4 inches in height, it is smaller than the #6, which measures 59 inches. The #7 is considered a key clock to finishing a complete set of Howard figure eight wall clocks and is very hard to come by. The clock has a walnut case, is weight driven, eight-day time only, with the original 12-inch painted dial marked “E. Howard & Co. Boston.” In addition, it had the original painted glass, original weight and decorated pendulum with damascene still intact. (This subtle swirling surface on the pendulum is often polished off over the years).
Even with the “minor crazing on the dial, minor shrinkage on case, small abrasions,” the clock was listed as being in “overall excellent and original condition” and estimated at $7/9,000. Mark Peer of Mark of Time, Palmetto, Fla., helped to write the catalog descriptions and said during the preview that he did not think bidding would stop short of the upper 20s.
Bidding exceeded even that expectation.
Chris Williams, Yankee Clocks, New Harbor, Maine, fought hardagainst a roomful of bidders that narrowed down to John Delaney atthe end to buy the #7 Howard for $39,000, making it the top lot inthe sale. “I’ll be eating cheese and crackers for a long time,”joked Williams after the auction. Shortly after Williams won the#7, a #9 Howard figure eight estimated at $4/6,000 came to theblock. In overall excellent condition, Williams bought that clocktoo, settling at $15,000.
The Rhyne collection offered a wide variety of clocks beyond the Howards. American makers included Seth Thomas; LF & WW Carter, Bristol, Conn.; Ingraham, William L. Gilbert; E. & G. W. Bartholomew, Bristol, Conn.; Terry Clock Co.; Terry & Andrews; Ansonia Brass & Copper Co.; Chauncey Jerome; Ithaca Clock Co.; Feichtinger; Hoadley; New Haven Clock Co.; E.N. Welch; J.C. Brown; Boston Clock Co.; J.R. Freeman, Charlotte, N.C.; Waterbury Clock Co.; H.J. Davies; Atkins Clock Co.; Litchfield Manf. Co. Litchfield, Conn.; Welch Spring & Co.; F. Kroeber; N. Muller; American Clock Co. NY; National Calendar Clock Co.; Angelus Clock Co.; CL & C Ives; Riley Whiting; Forestville; Jerome’s & Darrow; Chauncey Boardman & Joseph A. Wells; Seymour, Williams & Porter; Birge & Fuller; J.C. Brown; Brewster & Ingrahams; Smith & Goodrich; Macomb Clock Co.; The Barnes Bros.; Waltham; WS Conant; Chelsea Clock Co.; Joe Freeman; Burroughs Co.; and others.
There were French, German, Dutch, English, and Austrian clocks. The Rhyne collection contained marble pedestals, clocks with incredible figural decoration, clocks with calendars, clocks with barometers, a tall case, carriage clocks and a few chronometers.
The priciest Seth Thomas clock proved to be the double-dial Southern Calendar Clock #4 Fashion in a walnut case, eight-day time, strike and perpetual calendar. It went for $2,600. Prices on the many Seth Thomas city series clocks were as follows: Omaha $300; Athens $225; Utica $600; Concord $500; Oregon $500; Louisville $1,500; Pittsburgh $900 St Paul $900; Boston $250; Reno $300; Chicago $225; Newark $225; Atlanta $350; and Cincinnati $500.
A William L. Gilbert Clock Co. “Maine” eight-day 1/2-hourcalendar wall clock with the original oak case with fruit-carvedcrest and painted lower glass of a Spanish American warship brought$7,250; a 26-inch Atkins octagon wall clock in a rosewood case witha 30-day wagon spring sold for $3,750; a 33-inch Ithaca Clock Co.”Index” walnut case double-dial calendar clock brought $3,400; arare American Welch Spring & Co. Model #2 brought $7,500; a LF& WW Carter walnut figure eight clock with original dials,label and perpetual movement brought $3,800.
In what may have been a record price for its type, a E.N. Welch mahogany cornice and column eight-day time and strike shelf clock in excellent condition brought $1,100 ($250/350). A very important 30-inch Eli Terry walnut eight-day time and strike with outside escapement, pillar and scroll shelf clock brought $10,000; a rare 21-inch Ithaca figure eight with an iron J.S. Reynolds case, eight-day time and strike double dial calendar wall clock in excellent condition realized $3,700.
A reissue Eli Terry pillar and scroll made for the Rhynes in about 1963 brought $3,800; a rare Macomb double dial calendar clock with a moon dial, $3,600; a rare 42-inch circa 1820-1840 striking banjo clock with profusely carved gilt wood side arm and wood panels enclosing reverse painted class showing The Constitution and Guerriere in a naval battle scene brought $9,000; and a circa 1890 Ansonia Clock Co. mystery swinger clock featuring the huntress Diana sold for $4,500 .
An all-original French 20-inch-high circa Nineteenth Century Chomas et Cie, lyre-form porcelain cased three-piece mystery clock with matching Sevres and ormolu three-light candelabras sold for $7,500. A figurative clock from Paris featuring the goddess of music, Secile, with a child brought $4,100. A large French figurative mantel clock depicting General Hannibal Barca (247-182 BC) seemed like a bargain at $6,250. The clock won a medal in 1823.
Mebane Antique Auction Gallery holds weekly antiques sales on Friday, except during July. The next large sale will be its Country Store and Advertising auction August 3-5, featuring more than 3,500 lots. For information, 800-563-9095 or www.mebaneauction.com.
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