Published: January 18, 2022
Review and Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy New Haven Auctions
BRANFORD, CONN. – Over the course of two days of extended bidding, Fred Giampietro and New Haven Auctions dispatched 652 lots from the Americana collection of retiring Ohio furniture dealer, David Good. Painted furniture, smalls, boxes and redware were highlights of the January 8 session, with Good’s collection of early American glass leading the offerings sold on January 9. Bidding in the room was allowed by appointment, with phone and absentee bidding and internet bidding on three platforms rounding out ways interested bidders could participate in the sale. The auction was the inaugural sale for New Haven Auctions’ dedicated bidding platform.
Only one lot was withdrawn because it had been damaged during the preview and one lot – a potty chair – was passed with no bids. After the sale, Giampietro said he had received some offers so he was confident it would sell. More than 3,000 bidders were registered online, with in-house, absentee and phone bidders adding another 300; overall, the house welcomed about 400 new bidders. While New Haven Auctions typically receives more than twice that number of bidders for one of its mixed category sales, Giampietro said the participation exceeded what he typically sees in a dedicated Americana auction. No reserves led to a sell-through rate of more than 99 percent, with a sale total of nearly $2.2 million.
Giampietro was upbeat after the sale. “I think it was amazing. It was great for the business in general. We certainly had a lot of curveballs with weather and Covid, but it didn’t change the dynamic. It spoke to a shift in the market in terms of interest and we got some really extraordinary prices. This sale offered buyers an amazing opportunity to upgrade their collections. Several people told me this was the first sale since [that of] Nina Fletcher Little that did not have a one piece they wouldn’t own and there was a lot to choose from. It gave people the chance to look at a cross section of the market, which showed strength overall.
“We had people come from 15 hours away, with cash, they wanted things so badly. There certainly were no shortage of bidders and it really slowed us down, but we could not have gone any faster without missing bids. Private collectors were the successful buyers for more than half of the sale,” he observed, explaining why it took nine hours to sell each session. For those keeping track, that averages to just less than 40 lots per hour.
We asked Giampietro about the timing of the sale, a couple of weeks before New York auction behemoths Christie’s and Sotheby’s will conduct their annual January Americana sales with three single-owner collections scheduled to cross the block. “We thought about it but in the end, I felt we didn’t have much overlap,” he said. If people were “sitting on their wallets,” – that’s auction house parlance for reticent bidding – that was not apparent from the results.
The first day of the auction saw the highest prices, led by a circa 1730 William and Mary red-painted poplar high chest of drawers that had been made – and descended in – Wallingford, Conn. According to Giampietro, Good had acquired the high chest from Leigh Keno at the Philadelphia Antiques Show; it was described in remarkable original condition, including its paint and brasses, though drop pendants were missing. It had the heftiest estimate of any lot in the sale – $40/80,000 – and sold within expectations, for $59,375, to a local collector bidding in the room. Giampietro said the buyer owns an Eighteenth Century house and was acquiring the chest to furnish it with.
“We had about 25 people ‘on it’ to $40,000, then it came down to two people. The underbidder was on the phone,” he said.
The second highest price of the sale, also selling on the first day, was a paint-decorated poplar and pine dresser box with landscape and tulip decoration and bracket feet, that had been made by Jonas Weber (1810-1876) in 1850. Though it was not fresh to the market – having crossed the auction block first in 1992 at Horst Auctions, then again at Pook & Pook in 2018 – it had once belonged to Quarryville, Penn., collector, Ruth Bryson. Competition on the box was stiff and it went from an opening bid of $5,000 to sell to a trade buyer, bidding online, who prevailed to take it for $37,500.
The musician in Giampietro – a double-bassist who has played with the New Haven Symphony – truly appreciated the surprisingly strong result for a pair of 1815 watercolor on paper fraktur song bookplates from the Niagara Peninsula, that went from a $2/4,000 estimate – and an opening bid of $500 – to close at $31,250 from a Canadian buyer. It was the third highest price of the weekend.
Several pieces of furniture – both small and large pieces – realized high prices. Noteworthy results included a blue-painted two-piece architectural corner cupboard from Southeastern Pennsylvania, last quarter of the Eighteenth Century, which had passed through the collections of Titus Geesy, the Sitigs, Dr and Mrs Donald Shelley and William DuPont. It found a new home for $27,500.
A hanging cupboard with diamond panel door from Ontario, Canada, had been illustrated in a book on early Canadian furniture. The circa 1820 piece retained its original green paint and significantly exceeded its $8/12,000 estimate to bring $20,000 from a buyer in Ontario.
For those in the market for a spoon rack, the sale had three versions for bidders to choose from, with the highest price of $20,000 going for a Hudson Valley, N.Y., carved and painted example with lidded storage box at the base. Despite provenance to George Samaha, and retaining its original paint, it nonetheless had later screw reinforcements to the back and bottom that Giampietro thought might have kept the price within estimate, which it did.
Also selling within estimate was a painted cupboard with architectural details from Wayne County, Ohio, that related to one from the Don and Faye Walters collection. This example was described as in “outstanding original condition, including paint” and sold for $18,750.
Giampietro said the biggest surprise of the sale was the strength in the market for small things: glass, iron, pottery and burl, results he attributed to “the opportunity to get artistically significant things.”
Pottery and glass were among David Good’s particular areas of expertise and the sale offered buyers a wealth of options. Southern pottery led the category, with a female-figured candleholder by Strasburg, Va., potter Solomon Bell lighting the way. It related to an example published in H. Rice and John Stoudt’s 1920 book The Shenandoah Pottery and had provenance to Titus Geesey as well as a sale at Pook & Pook Auctions. After considerable bidding, a buyer in Virginia, bidding with New Haven Auctions for the first time, prevailed to take it for $26,250; a result more than three times its high estimate. Another example of Southern pottery, a Moravian freehand molded stoneware owl made around 1810 flew to $20,000, twice its high estimate. It had originally been discovered in a barn in Lexington, N.C., barn and found a new home with a buyer in Pennsylvania
New England pottery was also well represented, and Giampietro thought he might have neared the record for Northeastern pottery with the $18,750 paid for a green glazed lidded redware jar from Massachusetts. He liked its scale, balance, its evenly applied thick glaze and great original condition. It had been offered at Christie’s New York previously. A redware pitcher that had belonged to the Corliss family of Yarmouth, Maine, was another New England example that outpaced expectations. Described as in excellent original condition, it had just very light chips to the base and wear to the glaze on the rim but those did not deter bidders, who pushed it from an estimate of $3/6,000 to finish at $16,250.
“I thought the glass did well; the results were overall pretty strong,” Giampietro said. “There were a few glass collectors and one dealer in the room; they got about half of what they bid on.”
Glass kicked off the second day of the sale, with more than 75 lots and brought approximately $310,000. The top lot of the session was one of two aqua lily pad pitchers. Made by Matt Johnson of Harrisburg, N.Y., between 1841 and 1842, it was a type 2-3 and brought $22,500. It stood 8 inches tall and had provenance to New York City collector, Helen Masters. By comparison, a 6½-inch-tall example of the first form was made by the Redwood Glass Works of New York, circa 1835. It sold for $18,750. Five other lily pad examples, four in aqua glass, one in amber, were in the sale, and realized prices ranging from $1,625 to $6,875.
Speaking of amber glass, two examples made in Ohio stood apart from others. A large pitcher with molded handle, made in Zanesville circa 1820, stood 8-5/8 inches tall and was cataloged as the largest known example. It had been owned by Gary Stradling, David Ellis and Harry Whitehall, and found a new home for $16,250. A blown glass lidded sugar bowl from Portage County, Ohio, circa 1820, that had been with Mrs Edsel Ford and Neil Guest sold for the sweet price of $11,875.
“Excellent original condition” described both a rare early turned burl plate and carved walking stick. The plate had provenance to Steve Powers and was illustrated in Powers’ book North American Burl Treen: Colonial & Native American; it spun to $18,750, more than ten times its high estimate. The circa 1880 cane, which had a snake, salamander and Native American head at the top, retained its original paint and saw a similarly strong result compared to estimate. It sold for $5,938 against a $250/500 estimate.
Most of the metalwork in the sale crossed the block on the second day, led by a rare Betty lamp made by Joseph Stanem of Manheim, Penn., in 1817 that was purported to be the earliest example known. Both Carlton Brown and Dr George Compton had owned it; it sold for $6,875 ($1/2,000). It was one of seven examples in the sale, spread out over both days.
Results for paintings included $16,250 for a Masonic sign, $15,000 for a painting of a house on a pine panel and $10,625 for a silhouette of a woman by the Puffy Sleeve or Red Book artist. A portrait of a horse offered on the first day ran to $10,625, markedly more than the $3,750 achieved by a portrait of a steer that crossed the block on the second day.
“David (Good) is very happy,” Giampietro finished. “He hit his optimistic number. He’s one of those people who buy with their hearts and never really cared about the prices as long as he could afford them. He was disappointed in a handful of lots, but so many things blew through the roof that more than made up for it.”
New Haven Auctions will offer another 50 lots across multiple categories from Good’s collection, as well as the collection of Steve and Patricia Center, April 2-3.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.newhavenauctions.com or 475-234-5120.
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