In the antiques business these days, it is the best and the rest. Northeast Auction’s annual sale of marine, China Trade, sporting art and historical Americana at Treadwell House on August 21 and 22 offered further proof, generating just over $3 million, including premium, on 1,200 lots.
“It’s a new world out there,” said Northeast owner and auctioneer Ron Bourgeault. “Much of this sale was unreserved, so it shows what things are really worth now. These are exciting times because there is a chance for new blood to come in.” He cited the participation of several museum bidders as evidence of a more accessible marketplace.
Northeast’s total †sharply less than its all-time Marine & China Trade sale record of $9.7 million in 2005 †speaks to the hesitancy of consignors and the reluctance of buyers in an uncertain economy. There was no such hesitancy, however, among buyers tempted by several single-owner collections featuring fresh material of the highest quality.
Gosnell Scrimshaw Collection
Publishing magnate Thomas H. Gosnell of Rochester, N.Y., and Nantucket, Mass., died in April 2009, leaving behind a legacy of good works and a small but choice collection of scrimshaw. The 10-lot series started with the presentation of a Susan’s tooth, so called because it is engraved with a portrait of the ship Susan of Nantucket. Every top collector wants an example of this iconic specimen. There are 36 known by the prolific Frederick Myrick, who made them all on a single voyage, says scrimshaw authority Stuart Frank, senior curator at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
Cape Cod dealer Hyland Granby Antiques set the previous record for a Susan’s tooth in 2003 when it purchased a signed example dated 1828, along with an autographed copy of Everett Crosby’s popularizing work Susan’s Teeth and Much About Scrimshaw , 1955, for $102,000. The tooth had previously come up in the Barbara Johnson sale in 1982, where it fetched $44,000.
Bidding by phone, Alan Granby took Gosnell’s Susan’s Tooth, dated 1829 and estimated at $100/150,000, for $200,600, a record for a Susan’s tooth. Northeast set the current record for scrimshaw in 2005 when it sold a tooth by the Pagoda/Albatross artist for brought $303,000.
Up next from the Gosnell slew were two teeth by Rhode Island scrimshander Caleb J. Albro. Both depicted the ship John Coggeshall of Newport, R.I., off the coast of New Zealand. The second Albro had more zip: three whale boats and three sperm whales, plus a depiction of the famous naval engagement between the Constitution and the Guerriere. It also sold to Hyland Granby Antiques, for $106,200. The first Albro passed at $60,000.
“It sold for half of what it was worth,” Frank said of his personal favorite, a pair of teeth, $44,420, decorated by the Banknote Engraver with lively views of the traditional “Sailor’s Farewell” and “Sailor’s Return,” and, on the reverse of the “Farewell,” a depiction the battle between Constitution and Guerriere . Frank and colleagues recently linked imagery on a busk by the Banknote Engraver in the New Bedford Whaling Museum collection with a Thomas Parris painting subsequently published as an engraving.
A rare Maine tooth attributed to William Acorn of China, Maine, depicting the Wiscasset of Wiscasset, Maine, left the tent at $88,500. A tooth dated 1833 decorated with the ship Timoleon by Josiah C. Sheffield sold to Lou Hammond, a Florida collector of whaling antiques, for $59,000.
Exerting great popular appeal was a tooth, $82,600, colorfully decorated with a full-rigged ship encircled by American flags and surmounted by an eagle and shield. The patriotic relic illustrated the back cover of Norman Flayderman’s best-selling book, Scrimshaw & Scrimshanders , 1972. The buyer, a new collector, also acquired the final lot of the Gosnell series, a pair of 1834-35 whaling prints after Ambrose Louis Garneray, a noted French-born marine artist, for $15,520.
Teitelman Pottery Collection
S. Robert Teitelman was a dedicated collector of what used to be called Liverpool pottery. Shortly before his death in 2008, Teitelman gave Winterthur Museum in Delaware its pick of his collection. The balance of his things were consigned to Northeast. Success to America: Creamware for the American Market by Pat Halfpenny serves as a lasting tribute to Teitelman’s signal achievement.
The third and final installment of the Teitelman collection at Northeast sparked heated bidding among some of the historical china field’s best known players, including dealers Rex Stark, Bill Kurau and Dennis Berard, the collector Bill Mayer and several museums.
Top honors went to an 87/8 -inch-tall jug with transfer printed portraits of James Monroe and, on reverse, the ships Macedonian and United States . It sold to Stark for $17,110.
Bid to the same price was a 107/8 -inch-tall jug decorated with views of the ships Franklin and Independence , circa 1815. Teitelman got it through exchange with the Peabody Essex Museum.
Institutions, bidding by phone, claimed a 9¾-inch-diameter bowl inscribed “Success to Trade” and printed with a view of an American ship, $2,478, and an 815/16-inch-diameter bowl decorated with Benjamin Franklin and an American eagle, $2,950.
Sporting Art From Georgia Collection
There was also strong interest in sporting art from a Thomasville, Ga., collection. Among the nine lots offered, “Bird Hunting,” an 18-by-28-inch watercolor on paper of hunters in an autumnal landscape by Ogden M. Pleissner, sold to the phone for $63,720, more than tripling the $15/20,000 estimate. The same bidder took “Near the Old Orchard,” an 18¼-by-29-inch watercolor, for $43,660, which was estimated at $15/20,000.
Prices include buyer’s premium. For information, www.northeastauctions.com or 603-433-8400.