Published: February 26, 2008
Hesse Galleries sold a stoneware cooler for a record $58,300 at auction on February 16. The cooler was part of the Margaret (Jane) Merrick estate from Cooperstown, N.Y.
Dating from the Nineteenth Century, the cooler had an exceptionally strong presence, with the main motif being a dark blue embossed American eagle and 13 stars.
It was found nearly hidden away in the Merrick home on top of a corner cupboard where it was pushed to the back and hardly visible. Although the pottery was not perfect, its imperfections did not dampen the widespread interest in this piece.
“It was a gorgeous piece, very striking,” said Jackie Hesse, co-owner of the auction gallery. “I have never seen another like it.”
There were eight strong bidders competing for the stoneware prize, five of whom were bidding by telephone. After much spirited bidding, it was hammered down to a phone bidder from Richmond, Va., whereupon the audience burst into applause, having witnessed an exciting moment of auction history.
The Merricks were esteemed resident managers of the renowned Cooper Inn, one of the early Treadway Inns group, in Cooperstown during the 1930s and 1940s. They collected antiques for many years during their rather extensive travels on the eastern seaboard, with New England being a favorite destination.
Americana was the theme of this estate sale. Country furniture; Oriental carpets; early bottles and flasks; more than 30 lots of good pewter, many with American marks; portraits and landscape paintings, including an important Charles E. Brittan watercolor; candle molds; early pattern glass; toleware; silver; good ceramics; clocks; curtain tiebacks; woodenware; and lighting were among the rich offerings.
Among the many other choice antiques from the Merrick estate were an unusual country cupboard in old paint that sold for $2,530, an Oriental rug for $3,300 and a Sheraton card table with eagle inlay brought $2,860. A second pottery cooler, a figural example of a man’s head with a beret cap, brought $2,145; and a signed Emile Galle art glass decanter found a new home for $1,210.
Additional furniture gems included a two-drawer formal Sheraton stand with lollipop top that went out at $1,815, while a two-piece Queen Anne highboy with unusual dew claw legs realized $1,430.
The highest priced pewter lot was an unmarked salt and pepper set, which drew $336. Teapots ranged from $132 to $242, with the exception of one marked “Trask” that went for $451.
A four-piece silver tea set with matching finials of bone or ivory, made in England and hallmarked, fetched $523.
Miniature portraits brought big prices, such as an oil painting on ivory depicting a woman in white dress in an ivory and ebony frame, 4½ by 5¾ inches, which sold for $743.
Two other portraits of note were oil paintings on canvas portraying a man and a woman. The man, dressed in black coat and tie, elicited $715, while the woman, depicted with long black curls wearing hair bracelet with anchor and signed “M. Billings (?) 1853,” inexplicably sold for a lesser $575.
In March, Hesse Galleries will sell another Cooperstown estate, the Dorothy (Campbell) VanLeuven estate. The sale will be conducted in two sessions: March 15 and March 27. For information, www.hessegalleries.com or 607-988-2523.
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