Published: February 16, 2021
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack
KEENE, N.H. – Given the subjects normally covered by Antiques and The Arts Weekly, it isn’t often that cars are included in auction reviews. But this time, two Toyota Land Cruisers brought by far the highest prices of the day. The Cobbs’ February 6 sale also included pre-Columbian gold artifacts that did well, furniture, tramp art, Black Forest figural carvings, Asian items, jewelry, a large selection of stoneware, paintings and several hundred books that were carefully lotted and described. One of the items drawing the most presale interest, and a surprising price, was a modern tiger maple four-poster bed. The sale was conducted online following a by-appointment preview. Bidding was possible on three online platforms, by phone and several absentee bids had been left. In a time when some auction companies have opted for sparse online lot descriptions, auctioneer Charlie Cobb has gone in the opposite direction, providing comprehensive descriptions and multiple photographs of each lot.
A few days before the sale, Cobb commented that there had been extensive interest in the Land Cruisers, a lot of two jade objects, the pre-Columbian gold objects and, surprisingly, the modern reproduction four-poster bed. The star of the sale, a fully loaded 1981 Toyota Land Cruiser, HJ 47 “Troopy” found a new home, selling for $27,600. It included turbo, overdrive, power steering, a diesel engine, right-hand drive, and had 201,896 miles. It had been purchased in Arizona in 2015 and upgrades and necessary repairs had been professionally done by a New Hampshire specialist firm. From the same owner, with 103,000 miles, a 1977 “Australia” earned $24,000. This car had been imported from Australia in 2007, and the needed repairs had been done by the same specialist company.
The highlight of the selection of jewelry was an Art Deco-style diamond and 18K white gold bracelet, marked “18k, 459/327.” The diamond encrusted links had four bezel-set center diamonds; it was 7¼ inches long, with 58.4 grams of gold. An American Gemological Appraisal, included with the bracelet, detailed the quality of the diamonds. An unusual silver and gold brooch in the form of a bee or similar insect also attracted bidders, finishing over estimate at $1,020. The wings and antennae were set with diamonds and the eyes were ruby cabochons. A Breitling “Superocean Heritage Chronometer Automatic” watch with silver face and a blue bezel earned $2,400. As with much of Cobb’s material, it had originally been purchased locally and included its manual and original case.
It would have been a good day for a tramp art collector. There were several nice pieces from a local collection but not the amount of interest that had been hoped for. From the same collection came a selection of well-done Black Forest carvings. Doing well was a hanging shelf with a spread-winged eagle crest, two carved eagle heads on the rear supports, heart-shaped carvings on the back of the center shelf and a cut-out country-style fence on the lower shelf. With its original dark finish, it realized $780. Other tramp art frames, shelves and cabinets sold at prices that would leave room for dealers to turn a profit.
A heavily carved Black Forest mirror with a crest depicting a rustic country cottage surrounded by trees and vines, with pierced carving on all sides of the frame, earned $1,020. A 36-inch, elaborately carved pair of plinths with large birds and a large shelf clock with a pair of foxes and trees failed to sell. The consignor apparently was hoping to recover his original cost from several years ago, but the market has changed.
It was a good day for box lots of books. Most came from two local homes and included several titles relating to exploration. One lot, with more than 60 Hakluyt Society publications dating between 1930 and 2018, and related titles, sold for $7,200, more than ten times the estimate. The Hakluyt Society, founded in 1846, specializes in publishing primary works on exploration, travel and maritime history, many of which have not previously been published. A related lot with 18 limited edition works published by the Argonaut Press between 1927 and 1938, mostly on Far Eastern exploration and history, brought $1,200.
A first state, first edition of Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms in a worn but original dust jacket realized $980, and a first edition of his Old Man of the Sea in a first state dust jacket realized $600. Cobb said he knew the books were good and paid a book dealer to review, lot and properly describe them. Good decision for both buyer and seller.
Cobb has been selling a properly documented collection of pre-Columbian gold. Two pre-Columbian Tairona gold maskettes, one with oval eyes, open fanged mouth and protruding ears, the other with a flat head, slit eyes and an open mouth, earned $3,480. A Tairona gold figural lidded vessel, approximately 5¾ inches tall, earned $2,400. A Tairona gold animal figure of a four-leg cat holding the snout of an alligator earned $1,200. The Tairona culture flourished in the northern area of what is now Colombia between 200 CE and 1600 CE. This sale had just a few Asian lots, one of which included two small jade carvings. Have you ever wondered if your time might be well spent at small local church auctions and the like? These two carvings sold for $2,640. They were bought at a local charity auction for about the price of a good sandwich by a woman who had no idea of their value.
Brown furniture prices are not easy to predict these days. A tiger maple four-drawer chest from New Hampshire brought $3,600, well over the estimate. But it was topped by a modern copy of a tiger maple pencil post bed made by David LeFort, a custom furniture maker in Hanover, Mass., which sold for $3,900. The next lot was a smaller, period cherry bed with turned posts and a canopy, which sold for $180. The furniture offerings included an English oak Jacobean wainscot armchair with a heavily carved back panel, a two-board plank seat and a box stretcher base. It reached $3,360. A circa 1810-20 Sheraton sideboard with bird’s-eye maple panels, an arched back splash and on reeded legs went out for $960.
The Cobbs is a family affair. Charlie’s wife Dudley is an appraiser and specializes in American and European furniture and decorative arts. Their daughter, Lara Lowenberg, has worked with her family for about 15 years and is raising her two daughters “in the antiques world.” A few days after the sale, Cobb said his consignors and buyers were pleased. “We had more than 100 people online asking about the Toyotas, but both sold to phone bidders, one local and the other out of the area. The books did well, especially in terms of the book market recently. We have some offers on things that were passed in the sale, so maybe more things will sell. The woman who owned the two jade carvings was absolutely delighted when I told her she’d be getting about $2,000. She said she wouldn’t have bought them at the charity auction if her daughter hadn’t said she liked them. All in all, it was a good sale.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, 603-924-6361 or www.thecobbs.com.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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