Published: November 10, 2020
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Simond & Oakes Auctioneers & Appraisers
SPENCER, MASS. – On Sunday, November 1, Simond & Oakes Auctioneers & Appraisers’ “Antiques – Estate Auction – A 105-Year Collection” sold approximately 350 lots from the estate of Mary Madden, who had been a lifelong resident of Spencer and was its oldest citizen when she died on April 29, 2020, at the age of 105. Madden had lived in the family home her grandfather built in 1900. The contents of the furnishings of the house were offered online on both AuctionZip and LiveAuctioneers and brought $17,407, with about 83 percent of lots sold. While there had been considerable local interest, co-owner Jay Beard said the sale had buyers from around the world. Simond & Oakes sold the real estate for nearly $220,000 on Saturday, October 31, to an attorney in Spencer. “He is thrilled to get it. He grew up there and has plans to renovate it and live there,” Beard said.
“Mary was a once-in-a-lifetime real old-time Yankee; to say it was a privilege to work with her is an understatement. Our crew chief had her as his third-grade teacher; when does it happen that your grade school teacher becomes a client when you’re 65? There was a lot of interest locally. It was unfortunate that, because of Covid, we could not have an open house so many people did not get the true picture of who she was.”
Madden had worked with Simond & Oakes prior to her death and had participated in deciding where her collection was to be dispersed. Beard recalls that Madden “had been upset at some of the appraised values,” acknowledging that in many instances sentimental value significantly outpaced market value. Despite that, he said “the family is very happy.”
“Even though we knew it wasn’t going to be a big-money sale, it was a privilege to take on Mary Madden’s estate. She had been a delightful person, the family was wonderful to work with and we had a lot of fun doing the sale,” said co-owner Bob Oakes, speaking by phone a few days after the sale wrapped.
Madden had been an award-winning quilter and a hooked rug maker, working from a small shed on the property; the sale featured 21 lots of quilts and five lots of hooked rugs. It is fitting that the top lot in her sale was a colorful hand quilted “Button & Bows” example that featured 63 different squares and measured 76 by 62 inches. A local collector with connections to Madden, bidding online, took the quilt from an estimate of $70/150 to $427. A buyer in Texas paid $220 for a lot of two hooked rugs, the highest price achieved in that category.
“Jewelry is one of those categories that always does well,” Beard said. A small handful of jewelry lots crossed the block, nearly all in large groups and largely of a decorative costume name, with some familiar maker’s names surfacing throughout. Leading the category was a large lot of jewelry that was probably sold for scrap or melt-weight and included some damaged gold rings, non-working ladies’ watches by Elgin, Hamilton, Timex, Bulova and Croton and other pieces of jewelry. Priced at $60/250, the lot was snapped up by an international buyer, for $317. That result was followed by a lot of Southwestern silver and turquoise cuffs and earrings that a buyer in Nevada acquired for $244.
Madden had refinished “all” of the furniture in the house, according to Beard. That may have kept some of the prices down, as in the case of a Federal period card table that made $220 and a pair of vintage Windsor bowback armchairs that closed at $171. A more pleasantly surprising result could be seen in a Victorian piano stool with glass and brass ball and claw feet that ran to $195.
The family home in which Madden had grown up and resided for all but her final years was a time-capsule of sorts, treasures from several generations within its walls, their condition benefitting from the inertia that comes from staying in one place for decades. Pieces in a rare state of preservation included a Victorian-era wedding dress that was sold with the dress form it covered. It sold for $220 against an estimate of $90/350. Beard described two pieces of stoneware as “spectacular;” one was a 3-gallon crock with cobalt blue berry design by F.B. Norton & Co., the other a jug by F.B. Norton Sons. The two, offered together, were purchased by a buyer from New England, also for $220.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
Simond & Oakes are at 129 Ramshorn Road in Dudley, Mass. For additional information, www.soauctions.com or 617-275-4393.
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