Published: March 31, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Images Courtesy Merrill’s Auctioneers and Appraisers
WILLISTON, VT.- Merrill’s Auctioneers and Appraisers was accepting online, absentee and phone bids in volume as the firm pushed forward with its March 20-21 Country Antiques and Estates and Country Americana sales.
“It’s the first time I ever had a sale where I actually asked people to not show up,” auctioneer Ethan Merrill said. “We told them to call first and make a reservation, otherwise stay online, phone, absentee or however you’d like to bid.”
The two-day auction featured the contents of a multigenerational Westport, N.Y., family home and a Waterville, Vt., village home among other consignors. The offerings included early Vermont figured maple, country, oak and mahogany furniture; folk art; primitives; store and advertising; dolls and toys; gold coins; silver and jewelry; glass and china; paintings and prints; early photographs; paper and books and more.
“Across the board, a lot of the numbers were pretty good,” Merrill said. “It was surprising considering the scenario, we weren’t sure how it was going to pan out, but we had 600-plus bidders online. We had eight bidders on the floor, we put out ten seats. The floor was funny to look at because there was a seat, and then 10 feet of space around it. It’s changing so quickly that we can’t even do that now, per the Vermont stay-home order effective March 25.”
The top lot of the sale was found at $6,000 in a Sierra Nevada mountain landscape painting by American artist Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947). The oil on board measures 10 by 12 inches with muted, hazy coloring. Behind at $4,800 was a painting by American artist Hugh Bolton Jones (1848-1927) featuring and titled “The Edge of the Woods.” The painting had accession number labels to the back, an old label that said a “Mr Chubb” had gifted the work to an unknown recipient in 1937.
Always holding value, diamonds and gold made way to the top of the sale. Two platinum and diamond engagement rings sold near each other – a 1.82-carat stone bringing $5,100 and a 1.52-carat stone fetching $4,500. A 1904 US $20 gold double eagle coin, ungraded, sold for $1,680 after seven bids, while a 1901 US $10 gold eagle coin, also ungraded, brought $900.
Some lots did well against estimate, including a Nineteenth Century folky carved wooden rocking horse that took $1,920 on a $150 estimate. An old Persian Sarouk runner from the early to mid-Twentieth Century with allover floral and a round center medallion, 31 by 78 inches, over doubled estimate when it sold for $780.
There were indeed some bargains to be had, like a Vermont paint-decorated clock, circa 1810, that sold below estimate for $2,760. Old writing on the interior of the case door read “Bought from Eliza (?) Deane South Burlington (VT) 1902.” Merrill wrote that this clock is believed to have been purchased from the estate of Hiram A Deane of South Burlington, Vt., (1833-1902), a veteran of the Civil War who lived with his sister Eliza Deane until his death.
Talking about the give and take of going online-only, Merrill said, “The only place where there was a difference, value-wise, was on day two. We had many lots that day full of related things, cast iron and early kitchenware – those lots were a bid or two off. I didn’t have the group shop and eBay dealers who sit in the crowd and dig through them. That’s where the personal experience is more important than the online one.”
Pickups and in-person payment are a bit different than normal at the auction house. In accordance with state guidelines, the auctioneer wrote, “Bidders who won lots in the March auction will still be allowed to pick up items from our front entryway. We ask that you call us ahead of time to let us know that you will be coming, so that we can have your items ready for you in the vestibule. If payment needs to be made, we ask that you leave your preferred payment method in the vestibule, so that one of our staff can retrieve it and process your payment with a minimum of face-to-face contact. Our shipping operations will continue throughout the shutdown, and we request that all bidders make arrangements to have their items shipped, if possible, to keep the number of people arriving at the gallery to a minimum.”
Merrill said that one of his bidders called him from his parking lot with a credit card to minimize contact.
The firm’s April 24-25 sale is scheduled to continue barring further executive orders, with bids accepted online, over the phone and through absentee bidding only. No in-person preview or bidding will take place. For information, www.merrillsauction.com or 802-878-2625.
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