Published: January 31, 2023
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy New England Auctions
BRANFORD, CONN. — “We had very solid sales. In a nutshell, items that are not readily available at shops and shows do very well. With rarity brings emotion and changes the behavior of buyers as it relates to the economics of the business,” were the words of wisdom Fred Giampietro imparted a few days after concluding the sale of nearly 300 lots from the personal collection of Pennsylvania-based dealers Pat and Rich Garthoeffner and also 430 lots from various owners, collections and estates, offered January 14 and 15, respectively.
All of the lots from Garthoeffner sold for a total of $843,350, while all but a few lots in the various owners’ sale found new homes, achieving another $813,818; the grand total for the weekend was $1,657,168.
The top lot of the weekend was also the top lot from the Garthoeffners’ collection, a nearly 39-inch-tall Goddess of Liberty molded copper weathervane by Cushing and White of Waltham, Mass., which sold for $43,750 to a private collector bidding on the phone. The auction was not the first time Giampietro had handled the weathervane, having sold it to the Garthoeffners. Dated to circa 1865, it retained its original oval brass plaque and was cataloged as in excellent “structurally original” condition with a few small old bullet-hole repairs and a historic mustard-ochre paint and gilding.
Another weathervane that the Garthoeffners had acquired from Giampietro — a horse and rare four-wheeled sulky example attributed to Harris Mfg of Massachusetts — also did well, running to $23,750, just shy of its high estimate. Measuring 46 inches in length and dated to circa 1870, the vane was cataloged as in “fine original condition with old bullet hole repairs” and “a natural verdigris patina.”
Works from Garthoeffners’ collection proved irresistible to bidders, whose interest pushed many of the lots into primary places on the leaderboard. Following closely behind the Liberty Goddess weathervane at $42,500 was a double-sided sign for the Lititz Springs Hotel and Rieker’s Beer Brewery. According to the catalog, the sign had been published in a Lititz bicentennial catalog 1756-1956 and a related example is in the collection of the Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster, Penn. Dated to circa 1880 and retaining its original paint and iron hanging hardware, the sign had been taken down in 1929 when the hotel was renovated. A private collector, bidding in the room, prevailed against competitors.
Another buyer in the room — also a private collector — had the top bid on a collection of velvet fruit and vegetables that the Garthoeffners had collected over 40 years. Displayed in a period wire basket it also included a velvet butterfly, a velvet two-faced moon and a velvet cat with glass eyes. The collection of a total of 54 objects, described as “superb examples,” tallied $37,500 when the gavel fell.
A veritable still life of fruit was represented in a yarn-sewn pleated and shirred rug that was dated 1863 and finished at $21,250. It had been cataloged as from the Northeastern United States, in excellent condition, and that the 29½-by-62-inch rug had been professionally mounted.
Carved and gilt and polychromed spread-wing eagles are a perennial favorite in Americana sales and several were on hand, either as objects or decorative motifs on more than a dozen offered by Giampietro across both days. Flying highest of the selection was a late Nineteenth Century Pennsylvania example by George Stapf (1862-1958), which carried a flag and shield, that realized $22,500.
Eagles and flags were the motifs of the top lot in the various owners’ sale: a late Nineteenth Century 13-star version of the 1882 Presidential flag with hand-stitching and hand-painted eagle. Estimated at just $1/2,000 and measuring 49 by 55-3/8 inches, bidders ran it up the proverbial flagpole, to $22,500 despite some imperfections.
Reappearing back on the market more than a decade after the Garthoeffners purchased it from an auction at James Julia was a rare burning building toy made of wood and cast iron by Carpenter New York; the design was patented January 19, 1892. Cataloged as in “remarkable original condition,” the toy features a fireman that climbs a ladder, rescues a lady and carries her down the ladder. Interest from bidders heated it up to $20,000.
Four of the lots in the Garthoeffners’ collection were pottery from the Anna Pottery works. Bringing $20,000 against an estimate of $5/8,000 was a snake jug that was inscribed “pizen” (colloquial word for poison) that had a sculpted base edge that the Garthoeffners had acquired from Crocker Farm in 2014. Another Anna Pottery snake jug that was incised “little brown jug” had an old glue repair to the snake’s head but was otherwise described as in “excellent original condition.” It brought $7,680.
Two Anna Pottery pig flasks trotted across the block; one with an inscription that read “St Louis the Future Great With a Little good Old Rye in a Pig’s,” as well as an inscribed map of Midwestern US railroads that ran to $16,250; the other pig flask featured a brown glaze and anatomically correct elements that the Garthoeffners had also picked up at Crocker Farm, in 2016. It found a new home for $7,040.
For people who like to collect animals or their representations in the decorative arts, Giampietro had several choice examples, including a circa 1900 architectural molded copper elk head and an outside row stander carousel horse by Gustav Dentzel (1846-1909), both in the various owners’ sale. The elk head, standing 60 inches and described appropriately as “monumental,” retained glass faceted electrified eyes; bidders stalked it beyond the high estimate, bagging it for $20,000. The horse rode to within its $8/15,000 estimate, going to a new home for $11,250.
Furniture was offered both days, with varied results. The apex was reached at $10,313 for a paint-decorated blanket chest by Joel Palmer (1812-1884) of Sideling Hill, Fulton County, Penn., circa 1850 that had been with the Garthoeffners.
Exceeding its high estimate and earning $10,000 was a paint-decorated corner cupboard from the Garthoeffners’ collection that was described as in fine original condition. The same price — $10,000 — but falling a little short of expectations was a recently discovered Chippendale cherry chest of drawers with scalloped top and pinwheel carved central top drawer from the Connecticut Valley that relates to ones illustrated in a 1980 article in The Magazine Antiques. Bringing nearly three times its high estimate at $10,625 was a paint-decorated child’s chair, cataloged as circa 1835, from Maine.
Fine art made frequent appearances in both sales with a tugboat painting by Otto Muhlenfeld (American, 1871-1907) sailing to the category’s top price of $16,250. According to the catalog, Muhlenfeld was a noted Chesapeake Bay marine artist and the painting was attributed to Virginia, circa 1892. Before the Garthoeffners owned it, it had been in the collection of J. Jefferson and Anne Weiler Miller, whose collection was sold at Pook & Pook in 2015.
Portraits were plentiful as well, but two miniature examples soared well above expectations. The first to do so, in the Garthoeffners’ sale, was a miniature portrait of a young lady, done in watercolor on paper, by Rufus Porter (1792-1884), which was inscribed on the backboard “Sarah Bartlett 1825.” Cataloged in original condition with minor pigment loss, the painting no doubt benefited from having previous provenance to Nina Fletcher Little; interest from bidders pushed it to $11,875.
A charming miniature portrait of two sisters — Rose and Blanche Sully — attributed to Thomas Sully and dated to the mid-Nineteenth Century relates to an example in the collection of the Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, S.C. It brought $10,625, more than five times its high estimate.
A large selection of Native American objects and artifacts got the various owners’ sale off to a strong start, notably an $18,750 Mission woven basket with rattlesnake design that dated to the late Nineteenth Century. It was followed at $8,320 by a painted bow, $4,480 for a Navajo pictorial weaving and $3,584 for a Zuni knife wing necklace. Not to be outdone, a page from the Macnider Ledger Book from the Garthoeffners’ collection, titled “Herd of Horses Sioux” finished beyond expectations, at $8,750. According to the catalog, Macnider was the son of the owner/operator of the Fort Yates Trading Post in North Dakota, from 1876 to 1896.
“Rich and I are extremely happy with Fred Giampietro and New England Auctions,” Pat Garthoeffner enthused after the sale. “They did the best job they could, and we are thrilled with how it was handled. It was the culmination of personal things we’ve acquired over a few decades. The minute things went out the door, they were no longer ours and I feel very ‘free.’ We didn’t put reserves on things, knowing things would bring what they’re worth.”
Garthoeffner said there were no real surprises in the sale, though she was particularly pleased that the velvet fruit did as well as it did, as well as the Lititz double-sided sign. She confirmed the couple will continue to buy and deal and are planning to be at the York Show in early February and in New Hampshire in August.
New England Auctions will conduct an online Americana sale in mid-February and will sell Medical and Scientific antiques in March. For information, www.neauction.com, 475-234-5120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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