Published: November 16, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. – Ira Goldberg has been a professional numismatist for more than 35 years. He currently co-owns and operates Ira and Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, which in a June 1999 auction posted a world record as a $20 gold 1907 Ultra High Relief hammered for $1.1 million, becoming the first gold coin ever to realize more than $1 million at public auction.
The firm’s November 3-4 auction had a focus, however, on fine art, jewelry and collectibles, with 402 lots of manuscripts, collectibles, art, jewelry, antiques, sports items, crystal, silver, Pokemon cards, space ephemera and stamps crossing the block on the first day and 384 lots of the same offered on the second day. The top lot overall was posted on the first day as a watercolor by Mahmoud Farshchian, “Scenic Fairy Tale,” 1930, sold for $33,600. Farshchian is the most celebrated and revered painter of Iranian art of the Twentieth Century, celebrated with the Museum of Master Mahmoud Farshchian, which is devoted to his works. Set up by the Cultural Heritage Foundation in the Sa’dabad Cultural Complex in Tehran and inaugurated in 2001, it holds a great percentage of his works.
Farshchian is the founder of his own school, which adheres to classical form while making use of new techniques to broaden the scope of Iranian paintings. That is clearly evident in this original watercolor and gouache executed on paper on board of a traditional scene of song and dance taken from a poem or tale. The near surreal movement and colors in extraordinary detail is something to behold. The artwork measured 18 by 13 inches with a traditional Khatam marquetry frame.
“This was definitely the highlight of the auction,” said Goldberg’s collectibles director Freeman Fisher. “Farshchian is considered a national treasure in Iran, and only very few of his works are in private hands.
“This was won after aggressive bidding by a family member, and much to the joy of Goldberg Coins and Collectibles, Farschian, who is in his 90s, is presently in the United States and will be seeing his work again over Thanksgiving after more than 65 years after completing it,” continued Fisher. “While not a record for our auction house, it is a record for a watercolor/gouache work.”
First day fireworks were also set off when a stunning Victorian cameo of Dionysus and Ariadne in a chariot took off to $11,400 against an estimate of $1,250-$1,500. “A record breaker by almost triple over any other previous cameo we have sold,” observed Fisher. “Very spirited bidding, with most coming from Europe. Winning bidder was ecstatic.” The chariot was pulled by lions, and a cherub flew above in anticipation of the wedding in this cameo carved into banded agate. From Greek mythology, Dionysus (wine cup in hand) and Ariadne ride in a chariot pulled by two lions with a cherub indicating their eternal love on the way to marry in Olympus. Just shy of 1¼ by 1½ inches, the cameo was mounted in a thin 18K yellow gold mount completely encircled with seed pearls.
A series of men’s jewelry items were notable in the sale. “While we have sold scores of watches, this was our first attempt at men’s jewelry leaning towards a more hip-hop fashion,” Fisher explained. “We were very happy with the results, and on LiveAuctioneers we were able to provide photos of a model wearing them. It became apparent that their scale was lost shooting them as we shoot women’s jewelry, simply laid out on white, artfully arranged. Asked a fitness trainer to model and it worked out great.”
A man’s 10K yellow gold fancy Cuban-style 30-inch link chain necklace sold within estimate at $7,200. It was followed at $6,600 by a man’s custom fancy link, 14K white gold and diamond ball chain with 46 of the 90 links having nine accent diamonds around center. Totaling 12 carats, the 36-inch necklace’s diamonds give the chain subtle glints when in motion.
A man’s 18K white fancy link chain and octagon cross pendant with 2.4 carats of diamonds, both by Italian designer Baraka, took $5,280. Exceptionally good looking, the fancy link chain in 18K white gold featured only the designer’s unique logo in 18K yellow gold and measured 21 inches long. Its stylized octagon cross pendant was also in 18K white gold with 12 round brilliant cut diamonds, 45 square princess cut diamonds and six baguette diamonds on pendant loop for a total count of 2.4 carats.
Fetching $5,760 was a pair of Bvlgari 18K yellow gold and diamond clip/post earrings with seven carats of diamonds. Bvlgari Jewelers was founded in Italy in 1884 in Rome and has for well over a century led the ultra-luxury market in jewelry, watches, accessories and leather goods. This pair of earrings exhibited the quality and craftsmanship that defines Bvlgari.
Offered in mint condition and lovely in a vaguely Art Deco design was a lady’s 18K white gold, diamond and pink sapphire bracelet. It boasted approximately ten carats of white round brilliant cut diamonds H color, SI1 clarity, enhanced by five carats of sparkling pink sapphires in a foliate design. Seven inches in length, it came in a red leatherette case ready to surprise a loved one. It sold for $4,560.
An extraordinary vintage revival piece from the early Twentieth Century, a lady’s antique 18K yellow gold and enamel link necklace with removable matching locket, commanded $4,560. The necklace consisted of 1-inch-long links with enameled foliate designs in sky blue and white, each with small gold beads attached, decorated with tiny white petals. Spaced between each of these links were 13 charms each with a fleur-de-lis or lily symbol in matching sky blue enamel.
Rounding out the day’s jewelry highlights were a woman’s 18K yellow gold, diamond and onyx bracelet at $4,560 and a pair of 14K yellow gold drop/chandelier earrings that found a buyer at $4,320.
“We were very pleased with the results of the pre-owned pieces from the 1990s,” said Fisher. “Their quality was certainly a plus. In every case, these pieces had not been worn by the consignors in years. The pandemic clearly had people sorting through things and organizing and ridding themselves of property no longer of use to them.
“We also did great with vintage and antique jewelry. We never know what is going to come through the door, but for this auction we were fortunate to have several consignors bring us their pieces, and clients responded in kind. This would also include all the cameos we received.”
And a notable collectible crossing the block on the first day, bringing $4,560, was Houdini, a rare, signed biography issued by Paramount Pictures in 1920, with letter of authenticity by James Spence (1874-1926). Magician Harry Houdini (born Erik Weisz) was the most popular entertainer in the world. His feats of magic and daring escapes made him a global sensation the likes never seen at the time by any entertainer. In 1919 Paramount Pictures signed Houdini and starred in The Grim Game and Terror Island. This 43-page brochure was a biography for the press and public at the time highlighting his career. The cover included a printed signature of Houdini. But this copy, boldly autographed in top right corner in steel point fountain pen by the showman read, “Regards Houdini.”
Also notable was a powder horn from 1777 from the 11th Virginia Regiment aka “Morgan’s Rifles.” It finished at $2,700.
Session two on November 4 was led by a 22K gold Etruscan Revival collar. Revival was an appropriate term for the piece, as it had sold in a previous auction and went unpaid. This time it went out at $9,600, its interwoven chain pattern with ram’s head finials and 22K gold ornaments attached that depicted the heads of Bes (protector of children) and Apia (man-headed bull) terminating with turtles and shells. The catalog noted that the Etruscans were a powerful clan with an alien tongue and strange customs. They emerged in what is now central Italy sometime around the Sixth Century BCE.
“The auction soared on ancient and revival pieces,” observed Fisher. “Bids came from all over the world, bidding on more than 85 lots.” This included an Eighteenth Century 22K yellow gold ring with standing goddess intaglio flanked by lion heads in high relief. It would adorn one’s finger handsomely, the standing goddess etched into a large oval intaglio of reddish brown agate. Boasting a total gross weight of 13.2 grams and a size 10½, it earned $5,520.
Setting the table was a Reed & Barton Francis I Pattern, 142-piece set that realized $5,760. Reed & Barton, one of America’s foremost silversmiths located in Massachusetts was founded in 1824 until closing in 2015. For nearly 200 years, its wares graced many an American table, including the White House. In 1908 the company introduced this baroque pattern containing 15 fruit and flower designs throughout and named it after the French King Francis I. Clearly one of the firm’s most popular designs, the White House of Presidents Wilson, Truman and Eisenhower served with this pattern.
Seldom seen among postal history items, a group of US Nineteenth Century official covers totaled more than 80 pieces with representations from various departments franked with the corresponding stamps plus a group of proofs that mostly appeared to be in sets. The collection brought $4,320.
“We had a fine collection of vintage original baseball ticket stubs from historic games,” said Fisher. “What we found ourselves in is the issue that many auction houses are facing. Sales will not reach their potential without grading/authentication, irrespective of the expertise at most auction houses. The fees become a consideration as well. In two examples offered, we were expecting a low grade, but what was important was for bidders to have the confidence they were authentic even at $300 each. Mileage on the other graded pieces varied.” Fetching $4,080 was a sports history rarity – a 1932 World Series ticket stub for “Babe Ruth’s Called Shot” Game 3 at Wrigley Field. The October 1st Game 3 of the World Series has been heavily reported and evaluated over the decades. What exactly was Ruth doing when he pointed his bat vaguely to center field, or to Charlie Root, the pitcher, or to the Cubs bench? But did this become his called shot when he hit that second home run? The ticket was authenticated by PSA/DNA and graded a One. It was ultimately a colorful ticket, a legendary World Series, a legendary game, a legendary home run by a legendary player and a great piece to add to any collection.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For additional information, 800-978-2646 or www.goldbergcoins.com.
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