Published: August 2, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Crowther & Brayley
BERWICK, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA – On July 23, Crowther & Brayley conducted an onsite live auction featuring the lifetime collection of Reg Havill, who passed away at the age of 90 in December 2019. The sale, conducted at the home he shared with his wife Sharon, represented a half century of collecting in 500 lots and posted a 97.5 percent sell-through rate, according to auctioneer Bill Brayley. “Most of the stuff went,” he said. It was not a large crowd of bidders, he added, a little over 100. “One of the difficulties we faced was that with this heat wave over the weekend and given the demographic of people who go to auctions, we probably lost some people who were afraid of being out in the heat, although we did have an event tent set up. As someone said at 8:30 when people were starting to come in, ‘There’s not a lot of people here.’ But the ‘right’ people were here.
Brayley recalled first meeting Reg Havill in 1978, around the same time he came to know Gary Guyette, well-known in decoy collecting circles. “Gary used to come up here, and he and Reg were great friends. They did a lot of decoy stuff together over the years. Reg always had an interest in collecting items that were Nova Scotia-related and Indigenous items. He had a massive collection of Inuit carvings. Sharon collected dolls and there was an eclectic range of furniture, varying from heavily carved Renaissance to Nova Scotia early Nineteenth Century pine pieces, tramp art, decoys, silver and naturalistic things like a massive snapping turtle taxidermy that sold in the sale.” It was bid to $437. A taxidermy bear standing upright had his own corner in the lodge-like home and sold for $507.
The top lot was a Mi’Kmaq quill work seat cover from about 1890, which sold for $1,200. Brayley said, “It was made by Nova Scotia’s Indigenous peoples, the Mi’Kmaq. Seat covers are among the rarer forms they worked in. It was probably a child’s chair, given the size and was in good condition overall, as they tend to be fairly fragile.” Brayley said that it was won by an East Coast collector.
Other weavings notable in the sale included a Nova Scotia hooked mat copy of a Southwest weaving that left with a bidder for $137 and a group of Maliseet quill work items going out at between $98 and $235.
Speaking to Havill’s interest in the natural world coupled with a love of folk art was a carving of a water buffalo head by local folk artist Harry Coldwell, which was displayed lodge-like in the Havills’ home. It found a buyer at $507.
There were more than 150 Inuit carvings offered, a veritable northern menagerie of carved stone figures of whales, seals, walruses, polar bears, birds and other animals, as well as the hunters who sought them. Various examples from one group ranged from $156 to $430.
Among the selected furniture in the sale, a tramp art cabinet realized $215, a step back cabinet in old paint brought $468, a Nova Scotia Sheraton-style sofa, circa 1830, finished at $390 and a corner cupboard, circa 1840, made $585.
There was even a folk art carving of Havill himself, portrayed as a mustachioed cowboy with 10-gallon hat and six guns. It was bid to $507. Another folk art carving was a steely-eyed bald eagle that flew to $215. “The area Reg lived in was where the bald eagles began their resurgence in North America after their tremendous decline in population in the 1970s-80s due to the use of pesticides,” observed Brayley. “It would be a rare day to drive through the Annapolis Valley and not see at least two or three, and sometimes you will see in the winter especially four or five hanging out together in a tree. Surprising though, as we have a large population of crows here who give them a hard time.”
Bill Tupper was a local luthier, who repaired and made acoustic instruments. An F-style mandolin with nicely carved scroll made by him was in the sale, and turned out to be a good buy, selling for just $156. “Tupper is a very old and well-known family name throughout the province,” said Brayley. “Reg would collect anything that exhibited good quality and fine workmanship.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium and reflect the conversion from Canadian dollars to US dollars at press time. Crowther and Brayley’s next event is the annual Chester sale, online only, which opens for bidding on August 12 and closes August 18. Preview online begins August 5. The sale will feature three estates, including good early formal and Nova Scotia furniture, fine art, jewelry, sterling, Inuit carvings and books, including a collection of Canadian signed and dedicated first editions assembled over a 30-year period. “An interesting name connected with this sale is that of Joseph Pew Jr, an American industrialist who worked at Sun Oil, a business founded by his father in 1890,” said Brayley. “His daughter ended up in Chester, and the estate is ‘Downton Abbey-like.’ Should be an interesting sale.” For information, www.crowther-brayley.com or 902-860-0111.
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