Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Jeffrey S. Evans & Assoc.
MOUNT CRAWFORD, VA. – In the Covid-era, sales offered on multiple internet platforms can take a long time to sell, with auctioneers giving extra time to bidders to ensure all possible bids are taken. With this in mind, Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates, which prior to the pandemic handily dispatched 1,000 lots in a day, has scaled back the number of lots offered per session to a more manageable 500-600 lots. In a three-day sale that saw 1,720 lots of Americana, including furniture, fine art, decorative arts, toys, coins and books cross the block, the auction saw intense bidding throughout each day with more than 5,000 registered bidders participating on the phones and online against about 40 bidders in the room. With a reserve on only one lot in the sale, it achieved ‘”white glove” status with all lots selling.
“We were very pleased overall with the results of the August Americana auction and are highly encouraged by the strength of prices at all levels and across multiple categories,” said Will Kimbrough, Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates’ vice president and head of department for Americana and fine art. “Recent sales, including this past weekend’s, continue to generate large numbers of new bidders for us, and we hope that trend continues as we move forward. One of the most encouraging take-aways for me was increased interest and strength in the middle market.”
A leading category in the sale crossed the block early, with about 100 lots of antiquarian books and manuscripts kicking things off. A significant majority of the volumes in that grouping had descended in the family of J. Mowton Saunders, a pioneer collector in Baltimore in the late Nineteenth Century. According to the catalog, Saunders graduated from the Maryland Institute in Baltimore around 1857, later serving on the faculty. A member of both the Baltimore City Council and the executive committee of the Maryland Horticultural Society, Saunders worked as an engineer for the Gas Light Co. of Baltimore from the 1860s to early 1880s.
Notable results from the Saunders library included the first lot of the sale, a two-volume first edition set of Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, which had been published in London by John Murray in 1871; it sold to a California private collector for $1,872. That result was quickly outpaced by the top lot in the sale, an untouched and fresh-to-the-market edition of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Published in 1851 in New York City by Harper & Brothers, the volume was the first edition printed in the United States. After intense competition on the phones and online, a trade buyer on the West Coast bidding on the phone landed the lot for $15,210.
Consigned by a Clifton Forge, Va., estate, a large archive of manuscript and documents from the Pettigrew family of Botetourt County, Valley of Virginia had potential institutional appeal. With a variety of materials dating from the 1840s to the 1860s, the collection included slave-related documents, Confederate Civil War letters and family correspondence and agricultural and business accountings. According to the catalog note, Matthew Ward Pettigrew (1799-1883) had owned more than 2,000 acres of land in Botetourt County, was a member of state and local organizations, including the Masons, and supplied goods to the Richmond and Lexington areas. A trade buyer from the East Coast took the lot for $7,020.
Coins and baseball trading cards were other categories offered on the first day that reaped strong rewards. A single collection of more than 30 gold Krugerrands and Maple Leaf coins from the Maury Lloyd Hanson Jr Revocable Trust for the Nature Conservancy, to be used solely for acquisition of land in the Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley areas of Virginia, were sold in individual lots. Kimbrough confirmed that the entire group is staying intact, all having been bought for $1,989 each by a local collector.
Several lots of baseball cards accounted for top prices on the first day of sales, led off by a lot of 72 Play Ball Gum 1941 baseball cards from a private collection in Richmond, Va. The grouping included Ted Williams, Joe Di Maggio, “Pee Wee” Reese and Lefty Gomez, to name a few; while the set had not been professionally graded, it sparked considerable interest, achieving $7,605 from a private Virginia collector. A smaller group of 27 baseball cards from 1936 topped off at $4,388 from a private collector from the Midwestern United States bidding online, while a lot of nearly 150 baseball cards from 1940 finished out the top three card lots, achieving $3,510 from an online private collector bidding from the East Coast.
The second session on August 28 featured a wide selection of country store and advertising, including Breweriana; toys and dolls; a collection of vintage candy containers; and a large collection of glass and china children’s dishes. But dolls were one of the most popular categories for the day, with four lots appearing in the top ten. A rare Eighteenth Century English carved and painted wooden doll from a private New Jersey collection chalked up the top price of the session, bringing $5,557 from an online bidder who prevailed against competition in the room and on the phone. Bringing $1,287 was a French bisque-head fashion doll, followed closely by a French Tete Jumeau bisque-head girl that made $1,170 and a group of assorted dolls with porcelain heads and shoulders that closed at $1,112.
American country store and advertising categories overlapped and stoked interest from collectors in both categories. A private collector from South Carolina traveled to the sale to bid on the Willimantic General Store advertising countertop spool cabinet and won it for $2,223, while an American general store countertop pie safe with stenciled ends sold to a private collector from Virginia, bidding online, for $1,702. Breweriana collectors from Ohio and Pennsylvania traveled to the sale to compete for a Columbia Brewing Co. sign from St Louis that ultimately sold to a private collector bidding online for $1,702.
Bidders with a sweet tooth pursued several candy containers offered on the second day. A “Liberty Motor” biplane candy container flew to $1,521, while a group of three Santa Claus candy containers brought $1,053, more than ten times their estimate.
Toys on offer were led by a lot of four vintage Buddy L pressed steel animal-related toy trucks that found a new home for $1,053, pulling ahead of a selection of four bear pull toys that rolled out the door for $878.
A strategy Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates has found successful in recent sales is to offer a sizeable single-owner collection on one of the days. This sale followed that model and the third and final session offered 647 lots, 425 of which were from the Waynesboro, Va., estate of Ann Vail. Her collection consisted of a wide selection of country furniture and accessories; folk art of all types; Shenandoah Valley and other folk pottery; Civil War, Native American and other historical material; and a variety of textiles. Also included were items from the private collection of Susan B. Smith, Williamsburg, Va., and 19 lots deaccessioned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Mount Vernon, Va.
The top lot at $4,387 was a set of six D.R. Dimes Windsor-style dining chairs that attracted the eye of several collectors and was purchased, after heated bidding, by a determined online bidder.
Other noteworthy results from the Saturday session included a Nineteenth Century American School folk art landscape painting that inspired competition from two private collectors and finally closed at $3,276. The folk art appeal of a painted wooden trade sign inscribed “Seeds” germinated interest among bidders, with it reaping $2,925 from a Midwest private collector bidding online.
Kimbrough sees strength and renewed interest in the market for antique and contemporary Nantucket baskets, particularly following the June 26 sale of a Nantucket Lightship Friendship purse by Jose Formosa Reyes for $8,775, more than ten times its high estimate. Bringing $2,574 from an online buyer was a Nineteenth Century Nantucket lightship basket made by Davis Hall that retained its original surface, while a contemporary Nantucket basket purse by Mike Kane was snapped up by another online buyer for $1,638.
After the sale, company president and auctioneer Jeffrey S. Evans commented, “This sale generated robust interest across the board, from baseball card collectors to antique doll aficionados. The overall excitement and strong sales results reflect the freshness and quality of the merchandise offered.”
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
Jeffrey S. Evans & Assoc., will offer three sessions of early American pattern glass and lighting September 24-26 and fine and decorative arts October 16-17.