Published: June 1, 2022
ALAMEDA, CALIF. — Three auction events were conducted at Michaan’s in May, kicked off by the Annex Auction, May 9-11. Bidders flocked to the rare coin auction on May 13, which brought in the highest total estimated value of any specialty auction yet this year, at $355,350 and realizing a final total of $461,303. US Morgan dollars and gold coins, including Liberty Head and Indian Head coins, swept away the sale. Indian Head gold coins are widely considered to be among the most beautiful coins minted by the US government, but many were recalled in 1933 to be melted. Relatively few exist today, making them a valuable find. The sale also brought vintage Japanese ephemera, including stamp collections. The May Gallery Auction concluded the auction month on May 14, in which both woven and bronze sculptures, jade and diamond jewelry, and Chinese tableware and hanging scrolls topped the highlights.
Silver Morgan dollar coins were minted from 1878 until 1904, when the mint’s silver reserves for the coins were depleted. They were struck again in 1921 and resumed in 2021. Michaan’s rare coin auction contained no shortage of the rare coins, including a set of 1895 Morgan dollars. The lot achieved $46,125. Also featured in the sale was a set of Carson City Morgan dollars. Struck at the Carson City mint from 1878 through 1893, these now scarce coins were discovered by the US Treasury in previously unknown bags in its vaults and sold to the public through mail bid sales from 1972 to 1980. The collection of Carson City Morgan dollars realized $33,825. Several sets of Morgan dollars continued the auction: a set from 1884 to 1890 brought $22,140, a set from 1891 to 1898 achieved $49,200, and a set from 1898 as well as 1921 sold for $17,200.
Gold coins followed the silver dollars. A US 12-piece gold coin type set, including many Indian Head and Liberty Head coins, sold for $23,370 from a $12/15,000 estimate. An 11-piece set sold for $15,990. After the rare coin collections, the sale offered several items of vintage Japanese ephemera, including stamps, postcards and hand painted covers of Japanese landscapes by Karl Lewis. A collection of stamps from 1876 to 1977 achieved $12,300 from a $4/5,000 estimate.
The following day brought the May Gallery Auction, beginning with furniture and decoration. A Mission-style copper table lamp sold for $2,337. A Mimura Chikuho (Japanese, b 1973) woven basket was also featured in the sale. Titled “Cloud on the Peak,” the basket was woven using an irregular plaiting (yatara ami) technique that incorporates roots and chunks of timber bamboo, which Mimura manipulates into billowing, cloud-like forms. The piece sold for $3,075.
Among the fine art offered in the sale were several etchings, painted river and ocean scenes and bronze sculptures, including “Torero” by Miguel Berrocal (Spanish, 1933-2006). The sculpture, made in the form of a suit of armor, was accompanied by the 1972 instructions for assembly; Berrocal was known for constructing fascinating puzzle sculptures that can be disassembled into smaller abstract pieces or reconfigured into new presentations. The unique work of art sold for $3,075. Vying with “Torero” for the top spot was “The May Queen” by Lilly Martin Spencer (American, 1822-1902), one of the most popular female painters of the antebellum period. The piece also sold for $3,075.
A wide selection of jade, ruby and diamond pieces could be found at the auction as well, such as a jadeite jade articulated brooch estimated at $700/900. The piece featured 30 jadeite jade cabochons and 28 diamond accents, set in 14K white gold. Bidders fought over the dazzling piece until it sold for $3,690; but the star of the jewelry was easily a ring featuring a 2.50-carat European-cut diamond, flanked by two baguette-cut diamonds and set in a 14K gold band designed as two figures holding up the central stone. Estimated at $5/7,000, the piece achieved $9,225.
Asian art concluded the sale, with jade carvings, Jun pottery, famille rose porcelain and painted scrolls. Among the highlights was a Chinese silver sweetmeat box carved with fruit, flowers and birds. Estimated at $3/5,000, the box achieved $8,610. One lot featured a group of Chinese scholar’s table objects, including a rare cream color inkstone, and realized $6,765. Offered toward the end of the sale was a hanging silk scroll with an ink landscape of a garden attributed to Yuan Jiang (Chinese, circa 1671-1746). Yuan Jiang was known for producing sumptuous landscapes and intricate palatial complexes for the mercantile elite, with detail minute enough for construction. Estimated at $1,5/2,500, bidding for the scroll escalated until topping out at $27,675.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. Michaan’s will offer its annual summer Fine sale on Friday, June 17. For information, 510-227-2505 or www.michaans.com.
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