Thomaston Place Auction Galleries Temptations
Feb 26-28, 2021
Published: August 18, 2020
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy of the Dealers
ONLINE – Several dealers sold to the virtual walls. Granted the “walls” were only 20 items deep in most cases, but the overall consensus from the 43 antiques, fine art and collectibles dealers participating in the New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association’s (NHADA) exclusively online show August 6-8 was that it was good looking, easy to populate and navigate and – most important – easy to communicate with shoppers.
“I had a phenomenal show,” enthused Bruce Emond of the Village Braider, Plymouth, Mass. “I really liked how the site looked. I know how hard the folks at NHADA worked on it, and it really turned out great.” Emond said he sold 15 of the 20 items that his partner David had posted, chief among them a 16½-inch-high Nineteenth Century folk carved wooden angel featuring original paint, tin wings and holding a set of scales. “It went to a collector in Pennsylvania who was able to meet us at a show over the weekend, so we didn’t have to ship it.” That was a valuable lesson Emond said that he has learned from doing online shows during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m going to be offering items that are shippable because they do well online,” he said. Among other sales he noted were a Nineteenth Century American Express wagon panel (the wagon had been part of a farm museum in central Massachusetts that had a fire and it was the only part of the wagon that survived); an early Twentieth Century cast iron duck head doorstop; a mirror that is going to Texas; a gameboard that is going to Michigan; a nice game wheel; and a trompe l’oeil watercolor that has been in his personal collection for a number of years. “We sold all over the country,” said Emond, “and to sell 75 percent of what we offered was a great result.”
Jeff and Holly Noordsy, the antique bottle, art and Americana specialists from Middlebury, Vt., were no less impressed with the mechanics of the virtual vendue, having sold 14 of their 20 offerings. “At 10:05 am on August 6, the sound you heard from everyone was a collective and huge sigh of relief,” reported Jeff. “It was beautiful and easy. We could not have been more pleased.” The first telephone call from a customer, he said, came at 10:04 am and things were super busy up until 12:30. “We sold ten things during that time, two more later that afternoon and one each on the next two days.”
Jeff said he sold his most expensive item and his least expensive piece at the show. The most expensive was a rare handled English onion-form black glass bottle, circa 1715, which he described as a “gem.” “We all like to joke about the overuse of the term ‘rare and important,'” the bottle’s listing read, “but in this instance, that verbiage is warranted. Very few bottles of this type are known to exist today, with most being in museum collections. This wonderful ‘half size’ (6 inches high) example is remarkably well preserved with some expected scratching and a two tiny rough spots of the outside of the applied string rim. The beautifully constructed handle includes a thumb rest and a perfectly executed rigaree.” On the other end of the scale, ironically selling to a deep-pockets collector for just $250, was a colorful little (2½ inches) Native American pin cushion that he just had to add to his collection. Dating to the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century, it was in excellent condition with good color retention and no bead loss.
A Nineteenth Century view of Mount Washington, N.H., was another notable sale for the Noordsys. Likely painted in the 1870s shortly after construction of the Cog Railway and the original summit weather station, the charming oil on canvas depicts Mount Washington in all its post-Civil War glory.
The online show went live at 10 am on August 6, and like the annual in-person event, the hours that proved to be the busiest were between 10 and 11 am, according to the show’s organizers. Although no one had to wait for endless hours in the hotel lobby, the excitement was still there as the timer counted down until the virtual doors opened, revealing 786 objects listed by 43 exhibitors.
Sharon Platt, American antiques dealer and vice president of communications for NHADA, called the online show “a remarkable success. We had an idea and vision. The priority was to create a simple, clean and easy-to-navigate website that was our own. We worked with the show committee and our web designer to showcase in a certain way the quality of our actual Manchester show, without the branding limitations of someone else’s platform.”
Platt said there were 40,000 single unique views in the first opening hour of the show. Total unique visitors numbered 6,828, with single unique views totaling 216,556 and total page views totaling 337,114. Total sales were 32 percent of the 786 listed objects.
Platt herself nearly emptied her virtual shelves with numerous sales, among them a rare Eighteenth Century country Queen Anne mirror with a rectangular molded frame, a wonderfully shaped crest, original backboard and original silvered mirror. It featured a crusty dark painted surface over evidence of an earlier blue paint. Other sales were an Eighteenth Century New England pine blanket chest with one drawer and a rare Eighteenth Century American small powder horn (6½ inches) with a soulful pine carved heart end, original glass insert and carved end tip. It was in untouched as descended condition.
“We really thought the show went off well and looked great,” concurred Tom Jewett and Butch Berdan, who sold 11 items of 19 that they posted. “And there were two additional sales from our new website due to the show. Most everything went to clients we normally deal with from the NHADA show from various states from the East Coast to the West Coast and in between.” Ten of the dealers’ sales were to collectors and there was one sale to another dealer. “We got great reviews from our clients on how easy it was to navigate. The only complaint we got was that clients were expecting dealers to add more things as we sold, which we do during the actual in-person show. It wasn’t something we were allowed to add this time.”
Chief among the pair’s sales was a tabletop apothecary with what they described as “the best dry untouched, uncleaned chrome yellow paint surface with original lettering in black, with the original brass knobs, dovetail pine and poplar drawers and case.” Found in Pennsylvania, the circa 1830 piece measured 31 by 9 by 17 inches. Other sales included their “favorite pair of figural andirons” – sheet metal andirons in the form of cats from the late Nineteenth-early Twentieth Century, which “look really cool at night with a fire, the eyes aglow,” and a Lodge axe with a carved heart and hand on one side with Odd F-ellow rings on the reverse side. It was decorated in the original red, blue and gold paint with coach painted geometrics on the handle and came with blacksmith wall mounts for hanging. “Thanks to everyone who worked behind the scenes to make this a great success,” they concluded.
An American portrait of a boy in a red suit holding a wide-eyed cat, circa 1835, attracted eyeballs and an established buyer in the virtual booth of David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles. Measuring 42 by 24 inches with a period-gilt frame, the oil on canvas was both dramatic and captivating, a full-length portrait painted by an artist with native talent and an intuitive understanding of abstraction. It had once been in the collection of antiques dealer Peter H. Tillou.
“As last year was our first time exhibiting at the NHADA show, we have only limited experience for comparison, but in both instances the show was extremely well organized and professional in all aspects with vibrant sales,” said Schorsch.
“We found the website very easy to use, navigate and search. With this website they captured the spirit and unique personality of this great show. I have always admired this particular event because it offers a truly democratic selection of fine pieces across a spectrum in a wide price range, with numerous reasonably priced items that lead to plentiful sales.
“We began receiving telephone calls and emails within minutes of the opening of the show. We sold six of the 19 items we offered, and several other pieces are under serious consideration.”
In addition to the folk art portrait, other sales highlights for the Woodbury, Conn., dealers included a unique pairing of a dome-top trunk and floral still life painted by Ann Butler (1813-1885), the most famous American tin decorator, Greenville, N.Y., circa 1835, going to an institution; a William and Mary curly maple banister-back side chair, probably eastern Massachusetts, circa 1740; a pair of ceremonial staffs from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, American, circa 1880, considered by many to be the best of kind; a Pennsylvania-German paint-decorated rectangular box, possibly Berks County, circa 1825; and a New Jersey birth record to Maria Hyler dated 1803. With the exception of the Pennsylvania-German box, all the sales were to established clients, pointing to one of the show’s salient features – being able to search and filter by dealer’s name.
“Serious interest was expressed in a number of other items, with potential sales pending,” said Schorsch. “In addition to our selling, we were very pleased to support our fellow dealers, and made seven separate purchases ourselves, ranging from a hat box to an important overmantel acquired from our friend Stephen Score.”
An early sale for garden décor expert Kate Alex was a lead figure of Pan fountain, the standing classical figure playing two flutes. Water is piped from the bottom and throughout to end spilling from the two instruments. Ready to be plumbed, Pan now just needed a shipper to send him on his way, and Alex had a list of reliable shippers if the buyer needed one.
“I thought the show was a success for a first try, but, of course, would prefer a live show,” said Alex afterwards. “I was happy to see how easy it was for customers to navigate the site. My best experience was having a show customer come to my place and buy five more garden items. All in all, it was a nice alternative for the times.”
Other sales she wrote up included a pair of zinc garden cranes with a good old surface and patina. One crane is preening while the other stands alert, the preener 31 inches tall and the other 39 inches high.
“Tom and I were quite pleased with the NHADA online show,” said Beverly Weir-Longacre. “It was attractive, easy to navigate and filled with wonderful antiques that had been saved for the regular NHADA show. The online show committee did a spectacular job in a short, three-month period. Kudos to the committee and to the dealers who presented their special antiques and to the many customers and friends who came through our electronic doors to be part of the 63rd NHADA show.”
The Longacres parted with a wooden double-sided game board that had a multicolored Parcheesi game on one side and a red and black checkers game on the reverse side. Circa early Twentieth Century, it measured 18 by 17½ inches.
The dog days of summer never seem to affect collectors of holiday décor, and Beverly’s vast collection offered for sale a felt-dressed Santa with composition legs, hands and face, pulling a sleigh stamped Germany on the bottom. The sleigh, replete with wheels on the base, may have held candy or small toys as treats. Also selling from their virtual booth was a wooden pointing hand advertising sign, circa 1880-1910, finished in a gilded surface and stretching 11¾ inches long.
“I thought the show went very well,” said Adam Irish of Old as Adam Antiques, taking stock afterwards. “I’m continuously impressed with the hard work and dedication of the NHADA board, whose members make the show a perennial success. Their work in 2020 is, of course, especially impressive this year, given the time crunch they were working under to pull off a new show model, which was a bold move and by no means a guaranteed success.
“The show was indeed a success, though, and sales were strong for me. About half of my sales were to new customers.”
Irish sold a folk art bannerette weathervane, circa 1830s, inspired by Halley’s Comet. The painted copper and iron vane once flew above Blood Farm in Groton, Mass., circa 1830s. “With its arrival in the night sky in 1835, Halley’s Comet inspired folk artists to create all manner of objects recalling its celestial form, including comet motifs in everything from quilts to weathervanes,” wrote Irish in his description accompanying the image of the weathervane.” The diminutive copper bannerette weathervane measured 24 inches long by 14 inches tall.
Other sales for Irish included a hand painted tintype portrait of a Dalmatian found ensconced in an early American daguerreotype case and an early Twentieth Century assemblage sculpture known as a “memory jug,” which takes its name from the intent to memorialize otherwise forgotten minutia. Memory pieces – usually composed of disparate small, seemingly random objects like buttons or keys – served to collect bits and pieces significant to their makers and are akin to personal journals or scrapbooks.
One of the disappointments of the show for Irish was “the inability to present the collection in person. I save things all year for the show, and it’s wonderful to see all of the objects come together for the opening. Selling online could never quite capture that presentation and experience, nor the energy and excitement of shopping the Manchester show,” he said.
“It’s not going to replace live, in-person shows,” opined Arthur Liverant of Nathan Liverant and Son Antiques, Colchester, Conn. “I know that online shows are placeholders and give people an opportunity to see things that are on the market. For Nathan Liverant, however, to pick 20 items out of our big inventory, well, that’s a very difficult thing. There’s nothing like speaking to actual people, and trying to communicate through text or email leaves me wanting. I’m a social person. We have a very social business, and we do a lot of stuff with the public, such as our forums.”
Still, Liverant sold an American Federal mahogany and cherry bonnet top watch hutch from the mid-Nineteenth Century. It featured a flame mahogany door panel with upper glass pane and included an Elgin pocket watch. Also sold was a marble-faced E. Howard wall clock, “a really neat thing,” said Liverant. “We also sold a piece of furniture after people shopping the show’s website clicked on the link to our website. And they called, so we had a chance to speak about the piece.”
There were not many antique booksellers in the show so Alfred, Maine, specialists DeWolfe & Wood Rare Books were sitting in the catbird seat. “The show went fine for us, and we sold half of what we listed,” reported Scott DeWolfe. “A few of the things went to people I see at the show but many of the pieces went to people who had never attended the fair. We picked up a few new customers, so it was worth doing. We sold some of our Shaker pieces and more books than I would have expected. It is a different experience as a dealer as we have to photograph and list everything online. It took more time than I expected, but was not really difficult. I think the results of the fair document that there is a market for quality antiques in an online venue if it is designed and promoted properly. The New Hampshire Antique Dealers Association did a fine job launching this successful event.”
Among the dealer’s sales was a bound volume of Gentleman’s Magazine for the year 1776, which contained 12 issues for that year and is the most sought-after volume with the August issue containing what may well be the first British printing of the American Declaration of Independence. Other sales included a Mount Lebanon, N.Y., lithographed box label for The Shaker Asthma Cure… Manufactured by the United Society of Shakers, D.C. Brainard, Mount Lebanon, N.Y. circa 1885, as well as a New England oval Shaker box.
“I want to thank the show visitors for generating the energy and continuing to support the New Hampshire Antiques Show in this year’s online format,” concluded Tommy Thompson, president of the board of directors for NHADA. “This was a new experience for our exhibitors and buyers alike,” he added.
For additional information, www.nhada.org.
February 23, 2021
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