Published: February 28, 2023
Review & Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Catalog Photos Courtesy Withington Auctions
GOFFSTOWN, N.H. – The February 17 “Mid-Winter Americana Auction” at Withington Auctions offered furniture from the Eighteenth Century to high-quality reproductions made in the Twentieth Century. As has happened at other sales recently, the high-quality reproductions earned more than the earlier furniture. Oriental rugs, a coin collection, jewelry and more rounded out the sale. It’s always interesting, and often surprising, talking to an auctioneer before a sale and learning which items have drawn the most inquiries. In this case, it was several reels of 35mm movies from an old movie theatre in Concord, N.H. That level of interest may not translate to high prices but it’s an indication of what attracts buyers. Also drawing several presale inquiries was a World War II parachute that had belonged to an American airman credited with destroying several enemy aircraft. The sale totaled slightly more than $91,000.
The top three lots in the sale were furniture. Bringing the highest price was a master-craftsman-made Dunlap style highboy. It used selected tiger maple and had the carved pediment and shell, which is typical of earlier Dunlap family furniture and largely considered some of the finest colonial furniture made in New Hampshire. This highboy, signed on the back, had been made by Paul Rulli, who is still making furniture from his workshop in Searsport, Maine. Going to a retail buyer, the highboy sold for $6,000. The sale included other pieces by the same maker, including a William and Mary-style highboy that sold for $1,560. All came from the home of Dr and Mrs Edwin Giron in Gorham, N.H.; the home and furnishings had been featured in the January/February 2010 issue of New Hampshire Homes magazine.
Realizing $3,600, the sale’s second highest priced furniture lot, was a set of six splat-back balloon-seat side chairs, circa 1750. Probably made in Boston, the chairs had some condition issues and wound up selling to a buyer in Portsmouth. According to tradition, these chairs had belonged to Colonel Timothy Gerrish (1684-1755). Gerrish was active in colonial government affairs and lived on a 1,000-acre island at the entrance to the Pisquataqua river.
Rounding out the top three furniture lots was a circa 1750 Massachusetts Queen Anne highboy with burl walnut drawer fronts. It had a heavily shaped skirt, stood on tall cabriole legs and realized $3,000. An early Eighteenth Century English tall case clock that was in working condition earned $1,800. The case was walnut veneered and the brass dial was signed James Becket Dover. Little information is known about this clockmaker and his clocks are uncommon.
Three room-size Oriental carpets accounted for the next three highest prices: a Kerman brought $2,760, a Heriz brought a little less, $2,640, and a Sarouk brought $2,400.
The sale included a single-owner collection of gold and other coins; most went to retail buyers. A large number were sold together, in group lots, with the most popular being a group of three $2.50 gold coins, dated 1909, 1910 and 1912, which sold for $2,160. According to the catalog, the group had a grade of MS62. Another group of three, dated 1878, 1893 and 1907, in the same condition, earned $1,800. Two encased and graded seated Liberty half-dollars, one an 1855-S had been graded AU58 by PGA, while the other, an 1862-S example, with an MS62 grade from PCI, sold together for $1,920. An ungraded lot of 22 Indian-head pennies brought $900.
Buyers were selective with the group of 35mm movies. Drawing the most interest was a five-reel set of the 1973 English horror film, The Wicker Man, which realized $390. The film was set on a Scottish island where the locals had abandoned Christianity and practiced paganism. It was a highly regarded film at the time, with Cinefantastique magazine calling it “the Citizen Kane of horror movies.” The buyer was in London and will probably have the film restored and preserved. Five reels of a 1962 Snow White sold for $60, three assorted reels, including cartoons brought just $36 and six 1971 reels of Been Down So Long Looks Like Up to Me earned $72.
The World War II B8 type parachute sold for $1,920. It had belonged to Major John Godfrey; accompanying the parachute were a photo of Godfrey and the book he wrote, The Look of Eagles (Random House, 1958). Godfrey was a wartime ace, first joining the Royal Canadian Air Force when he and a friend were turned down for service by the United States Army Air Forces, which they eventually joined. He was credited with numerous “kills” and was awarded several medals, including two silver stars, nine Distinguished Flying Crosses and five Air medals. He was shot down and served time in a POW camp; after the war, he was a successful businessman before dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1958, the same year his now long out-of-print book was published.
A small selection of books and photographs included some hard-to-find items, including a limited edition of As We Remember Joe. It was edited by John F. Kennedy as a tribute to his brother Joe Kennedy Jr, who died in battle in 1944. Only 390 copies of the first issue were printed and were mainly intended for friends and family. The text included writings by John F Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy and others. The book sold for $660, a good buy as the few copies listed by booksellers on the internet are priced substantially higher. An illustrated 1943 leather-bound Heritage Press edition of Moby Dick; or, The Whale sold for $240.
Photographs included early baseball images. In 1939 the Negro League All-Star game was played at Comiskey Field in Chicago. A photo of the Negro League East All-Stars, the winners, with players identified, sold for $216 and a photo of seven members of the 1913 Philadelphia Athletics earned $60.
After the sale, Mike Reopel, one of the partners in the company, commented, “It’s always educational to see what people are interested in. The parachute was a surprise and so was the amount of interest in the 35mm films. We knew the Dunlap highboy would do well and the early furniture did what we thought it would. I thought the period John Dunlap rocker [which sold for $120] might have brought more than it did but the quality reproduction pieces did well. That material has been strong lately. We have no complaints about the gross, which was just a little over $90,000 and we’re looking forward to our next sale which will probably be in April.”
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium. For more information, 603-478-3232 www.withingtonauction.com.
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