Published: May 15, 2018
Review by Rick Russack, Photos Courtesy Kaminski Auctions
BEVERLY, MASS. – On May 5 and 6, Frank Kaminski sold more than 5,000 studio props that had been used on Martha Stewart’s television programs, social media postings and magazine articles. A portion of the proceeds from the sale will go to Stewart’s charity, the Martha Stewart Center For Living at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. It was a massive undertaking, comprising seven truckloads of material. The sale included stemware, ceramics, furniture, silver, pewter, storage containers, clocks, prints, canning jars, table linens, hundreds of Stewart’s cookbooks and more. Stewart was well known as a shopper at Marilyn Gould’s Wilton Antiques Show, the Pier Show in New York and Brimfield. Adding to the interest, each of the thousands of items had a label indicating that the item had been one of her props, and several had been autographed by her. It was a collection of brightly colored objects, reflecting Stewart’s taste and the taste she instilled in her viewers.
It would be almost impossible for any auctioneer to garner the amount of free publicity that Kaminski received for this sale. About ten days prior to the auction, Stewart tweeted to her more than 4 million followers (that number is not a misprint) “If you want a piece from my prop house – items from my television shows and magazine shoots – you just may be in luck. Kaminski Auctions is selling about 5,000 pieces from my personal prop collection. The auction is scheduled in May.” That tweet included a link to Kaminski’s website, and he said that there were thousands of new visitors to his site in the days following the tweets. Just getting his name in front of 4 million new people was worth the time and effort that he and his staff put into the sale. In addition, the firm received promotion from local and national media. Kaminski’s photo was on the front page of the Beverly Citizen and the Salem News used a photo of him with some of the props. The Washington Post and a Miami paper included an article about the upcoming sale. His marketing director, Diane Riva, was interviewed on Boston’s WBZ radio the morning of the sale and a WBZ photographer was present for the Saturday sale. Those videos were used on the WBZ evening news broadcast and the CBS national news the following Sunday morning. Unsurprisingly, internet bidding was active throughout the two days and several phone lines received good use. In addition to the auction catalogs, Kaminski produced a slick six-page brochure filled with color photographs and a brief commentary on Martha Stewart.
When Kaminski was moving the props from Stewart’s New York offices, he asked Stewart to autograph a number of items, all of which drew spirited bidding and sold well. For example, one of the higher priced items in the sale was an autographed toboggan that realized $720. An autographed rolling pin sold for $282, and a pair of red oven mitts brought $360. The 5,000 items were divided into about 700 lots, meaning that most lots contained as many as 30 or 40 pieces. For the most part, these large lots sold at reasonable prices.
Stewart had an interest in fountain pens and had amassed a large collection. Kaminski divided it into four lots, each with about 40 or more pens, including gold-filled and gold-plated pens, marked Waterman’s, Eclipse, Wilrite, Fisher, Gold Bond, etc. Each lot had a high estimate of $150 but final prices were much higher. Collectively, the four lots grossed $2,700. Other individual items also did well. A well-used Boos butcher block table earned $450, a green painted vintage potting bench achieved $660 and a group of ten ornithological prints, circa 1817, reached $360.
It was Kaminski’s second successful charity sale for a major celebrity; he recently conducted a sale for Oprah Winfrey. He said, “It was a very exciting and fun sale. Martha’s fans bought a lot of the stuff, which I was glad to see. It was a lot of work packing, moving, unpacking, lotting, photographing, and so on. But I’d do it again. Maybe we’ll get another major celebrity sale.” He is working on keeping his title of “Auctioneer to the Stars.”
Prices, with buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house. For more information, www.kaminskiauctions.com or 978-927-2223.
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