Published: February 13, 2018
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Catalog Photos Courtesy of Daniel Buck Auctions
LISBON FALLS, MAINE – On January 27, Daniel Buck had a gallery full of prospective bidders and a wide assortment of offerings: gold rush letters, gold coins, gold certificates, Oriental rugs, silver, folk art, Midcentury Modern items and paintings.
A comprehensive catalog was available online and internet bidding was available, as was phone bidding and numerous absentee bids. All the material in Buck’s sales is fresh-to-the-market, most from New England estates and none from dealer inventories. The informative online catalog resulted in more than 300 bidders from 11 countries registered for the sale. Some auctioneers own some of the material they sell but Buck does not. “That way I don’t feel that I’m competing with my consignors. And consignors know they can’t bid on their own stuff, so it’s as open as we can make it.”
An autograph album, which topped the sale, had been assembled by a woman living in Boston in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. It contained 148 autographs of leading literary, theatrical and political personalities from the turn of the Twentieth Century. It included Grover Cleveland and his wife Frances, John Philip Sousa, Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, Tom Mix, two autographs from Harry Houdini, Julia Ward Howe, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton and more. It went to a phone bidder for $8,250.
Bringing the second highest price of the day was a silver gelatin photographic print mounted over a three-dimensional offset lithograph by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997). Signed in pencil, it was number 154 of an edition of 200 and finished at $6,600.
Also doing well was one of several Midcentury Modern accessories, a chrome-plated cocktail shaker and traveling bar in the form of an airplane. It had been made by J.A Henckels, a German company that can trace its roots back to 1731. The wings of the plane were real whiskey flasks that detached from the body and the interior of the plane had several accessories, including a strainer, four chrome-plated shot glasses and more. An internet bidder paid $4,510 for it.
A group of seven letters written from the gold fields of California sold to Maine dealer Jim Arsenault for a reasonable $1,100. The letters were written to C.&W. Crooker, merchants in Bath, Maine, who underwrote a small company of gold seekers. Apparently, the group was unsuccessful in their search for gold, and the letters reflect the frictions and hazards of the venture. One 1849 letter discusses heavy flooding of the Sacramento River caused by heavy snows and mentions “speculating Yankees” driving up land prices. Another letter mentions fighting among the group and the failure of some to live up to the terms of their contracts. An 1851 letter, written in San Francisco, laments, “It is surprising to see what devils California makes of men.” All in all, the lot provided a fascinating insight into life in the gold fields.
Several lots in the sale were consigned by descendants of the Moses family of Bath, Maine. The family was wealthy and influential, starting banks and manufacturing factories. A collection of 12 family photographs, including daguerreotypes, reached $358, and a group of large albumen photographs and a letter relating to one of the family homes in Bath, realized $468. Buck stated that the group was “going back to Bath.”
One of the more unusual items in the sale was a “Little Giant” lawn sprinkler made by the Portland Sprinkler Co. The 28-inch cast iron sprinkler had large wheels with lugs and retained much of its original red paint. Maine dealer Chris Considine paid $688 for it.
Buck had several nice pieces of silver and silver sets. An eight-piece German .800 silver set, on a 23-inch tray, and weighing 185 troy ounces total, topped the category, finishing at $2,860, while an 83-piece flatware service for 12, in Gorham’s St Dunstan pattern, earned $1,815. A pair of silver beakers, made by Nathan Hobbs, circa 1817, sold for $578. Hobbs is listed in the Boston directories from 1816 to 1846. They had been inscribed “The New North Religious Society to Ephraim Eliot Their Treasurer from 1794-1817.”
Leading the selection of gold coins and gold certificates was a 1906 $20 Liberty Head Double Eagle gold coin, graded AU 50-55. That grade would show only minor wear on the highest points of the design. The coin brought $1,210 from a dealer in the room. A selection of about 20 1928 $20 Gold certificates sold in the $50 range, with one, a star note, finishing at $296. Selling for about four times its estimate was a $20 US note from the Georges National Bank of Thomaston, Maine, which ended up at $319.
Daniel Buck’s facility in Lisbon Falls is about four years old, but he has been in the antiques world for more than 40 years. He was an appraiser on the Antiques Roadshow for 11 years and worked at the Hancock Shaker Village for about five years. “We’re seeing a very encouraging increase in business. We’re selling a lot of stuff and getting plenty of good house calls. Using LiveAuctioneers has been good for us. This time, we’re shipping pieces to Russia, England, Canada and elsewhere. That would never have happened without them. I was looking over the after-sale stats they provide, and they indicate that there were 365 underbidders on its platform. That means that those bidders pushed up prices even on things they didn’t win. That’s a big plus for our consignors,” Buck said.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For additional information, 207-407-1444 or www.danielbuckauctions.com.
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