Published: August 31, 2004
Civil War rdf_Descriptions from the John Ockerbloom collection led the charge at Amoskeag Auction Company’s August 7, sale with an impressive gross of $1.46 million realized. The auction, featuring more than 1,300 lots of firearms and war related materials, was attended by one of the largest crowds in Amoskeag’s history.
More than 500 bidders participated in the sale from 41 different states and buyers from 18 states were in attendance from as far away as Alabama, Texas, Washington State, Michigan and Ohio. The auction house also reported a huge number of absentee and phone bids registered; however, according to Amoskeag principal and auctioneer Jason Devine, virtually “every serious Civil War collector was at the auction.”
“John was a finicky collector,” said the auctioneer, “and a smart one at that. He only bought the best and only if it was 100 percent correct. Ockerbloom provenance is going to be a great thing down the road.”
Ockerbloom had been actively collecting Civil War rdf_Descriptions for more than 30 years, specializing in 1860 to 1865 period Northern infantry and cavalry weapons, uniforms and personal rdf_Descriptions. The collector “always had an eye towards condition,” stated Devine, with a “large portion of the collection having come directly from the families” in which the rdf_Descriptions had descended.
In a bold move that exuded extreme confidence in both himself and the market, the collector offered up his entire collection with no reserves. The 544 lots nearly doubled the low estimates bringing in just over $800,000, well over half of what the entire 1,300-plus lots that encompassed the auction realized.
“This was a tough sale to get a good grasp on,” stated Devine regarding his feelings prior to the auction. “Normally we have lots of phone bids lined up for the major lots, but John’s stuff had so much magic that everybody came to the sale to bid for themselves. That made the auction difficult to gauge. On quite a few of the top lots we went in naked with no phone bids at all,” he said.
The star of the auction turned out to be one lot that the auctioneer had high hopes for, yet it was one that elicited some concern as there were no telephone bids registered as the sale got underway. The rare Civil War enlistedman’s nine-button dress frock that had once belonged to Corporal Lemuel Liscom of the 14th New Hampshire infantry attracted everyone’s attention.
With light blue piping on the collar and cuffs, as well as professionally sewn corporal’s chevrons, the frock coat also retained the original brass eagle and shield buttons. Ockerbloom had purchased the coat directly from the families original home from a descendant. It was cataloged as being in “overall fine condition” with the auction gallery believing its remarkable state was due to the piece having “stayed in the kit except for parades or reviews.”
Estimated at $12/15,000, it opened for bidding at $10,000 and took off with several chasing the lot. Bids bounced back and forth in the room with it eventually selling to a Connecticut buyer for $29,900, including premium.
“It brought a lot more than most people expected,” commented Devine, “I was somewhat surprised, but then again, it was a lovely coat and it deserved a lovely price.”
A colonel’s frock coat, kepi, sash and trousers belonging to William Goddard, aide-de-camp to General Ambrose Burnside, also did exceedingly well selling at the high estimate to a buyer in the room from Virginia for $20,700. The same price was realized for a enlistedman’s unlined four-button sack coat in exceptional condition. “These coats were generally worn to destruction,” stated Devine, “sack coats in this condition are extremely difficult to find.” Bidding on this lot was also brisk with it going to a New York buyer in the room.
Other uniforms in the auction that did well included a jacket and fez of Corporal Matthew Bradley of the 114th Pennsylvania infantry. The blue collarless jacket with bold red tape accents and large tambours on the front and small brocade galloons at the cuffs was in overall good condition with only some insect damage at the cuffs and sleeves. The lot sold to a Virginia buyer in the room at $19,550.
An enlistedman’s nine-button infantry dress coat frock coat belonging to Private John William Chamberlain of Maine’s 30th Infantry did well at $18,400, while a forage cap, uniform pants and some personal effects belonging to Samuel Davies of Maine’s 27th Infantry sold for $17,250.
Caps brought strong prices throughout the auction with a model 1858 forage cap with 3rd Corps badge selling well above the $4/6,000 presale estimate at $12,075, an enlistedman’s infantry Hardee hat realized $10,925 and a cavalry enlistedman’s Hardee hat sold at $9,775. An unusual red kepi from the 8th Massachusetts was sold along with a photo of the private that owned it for $8,050, while an 1858 pattern forage hat with leather bill and eagle buttons brought $6,037.
A striking pair of knee-high brown leather 1st Maine Cavalry boots sold above estimates at $4,600, while a wonderful pair of well worn and battered square toe Civil War Army shoes with lots of “character” realized $2,415.
A blue silk regimental flag with a bold embroidered spread-winged eagle from the Ockerbloom collection did well. The piece, from the 2nd Missouri Cavalry and emblazoned with “Merrill’s Horse” in a banner, measured 39 by 26 inches. Active bidding in the room and on the telephones was seen with the lot ultimately selling to a buyer from Maine in the auction gallery at $19,550.
A rare near mint US regulation Civil War military woolen blanket in a gray-brown color with two brown stripes and stitched “U.S.” soared past estimates. The piece, predicted to sell between $1,500 and $2,500, had been purchased by Ockerbloom nearly 30 years ago for $11. Bidding on the lot took off with it hammering down to a collector at $6,900.
Devine pointed to many rdf_Descriptions in the Ockerbloom collection that far exceeded presale estimates including a identified 45th Massachusetts Infantry knapsack that shot past the $500/700 estimates bringing $2,415, and a model 1859 bridle bit and reins, $450/650, that sold at $2,990.
Firearms included a Sharps 1859 New Model Berdan rifle in .52 caliber that sold after a bout of active bidding for $10,350. An 1855 percussion musket by Springfield in .58 caliber also caught the eye of collectors. This musket had a label affixed to the stock that indicated it had been found on the field after the battle of Gettysburg. Devine called the piece “a very cool musket” and stated that it was “an authentic relic from the most famous battle of the Civil War that remains exactly as it was when it fell to the ground on the battlefield.” Collectors apparently agreed, pushing the price well beyond estimates as it realized $8,625. “I knew it had legs,” stated Devine after the auction.
Pistols included a Colt Army Cavalry model revolver in .45 caliber that was described as an “absolute top shelf, investment grade single action that is sure to please even the most discriminating collector.” Apparently it did, as one collector ponied up $24,150 to obtain the lot. A West Coast collector had purchased a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver at a New England auction recently for $2,500; he decided to ship the gun back to the East Coast to be included in this auction. The special model cased Colt made for Harry Pope did much better this time, around selling at $8,050.
Bayonets included a Civil War “Bahnfrei” model with brass hilt that sold for $4,025, while a rare Turner rifle Confederate bayonet brought $3,335.
Another collection in the sale that attracted a great deal of attention was the offering of ten lots consigned by the family of Union Lieutenant Joseph Willard Brown. Brown served with the Signal Corps and authored The Signal Corps in the War of the Rebellion published in 1880. These pieces, having descended in the family since Brown’s death in 1910, included signal rockets, several signal flags and Brown’s journal from June 1864 to September 1865.
An unnamed museum went after these lots, obtaining eight of the ten offered. Included was a pair of Civil War signal torches that Devine described as “possibly the only surviving ones” that sold for $12,650, as did a rare unused signal rocket. Several signal flags were also sold with two white linen examples with red squares in the center selling at $6,612 and $6,325, while a red flag with white center brought $6,612.
Price include the 15 percent buyer’s premium charged. Amoskeag’s next auction will take place in September. For further information regarding this auction or consignments, contact Amoskeag Auctions, 250 Commercial Street, Suite 3011, Manchester NH 03101, or call 603-627-7383.
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