Published: March 20, 2012
“We certainly didn’t plan it this way,” stated Crocker Farm auction house principal Tony Zipp, “but we are more than pleased with the way it ended up.” The auctioneer was referring to the exceptional quality of the offering that was about to be sold at Crocker Farm’s auction of American stoneware and redware pottery on March 3. The auction, attended by a standing-room-only crowd, featured just under 400 lots and was subjected to active bidding throughout the day.
“Lots of people have come up to us and said that this is the best sale we have had to date,” stated Zipp, who along with his wife Barbara and their three sons, Brandt, Luke and Mark, make up the staff at Crocker Farm. “I would love to take credit for getting all of these great objects here, but people just kept on calling and wanting to consign. It seemed that every box we opened had another great piece and each one seemed to be better than the last one we opened.”
The auction was chock-full of superb examples with a lot of early incised pieces, some rare and extravagant forms and some pieces with exceptional decoration. Preview for the auction was well attended, with a good-sized crowd arriving the day before the sale so that they could take their time inspecting the lots. Preview the morning of the sale was packed as collectors from throughout the Atlantic states, New England and Midwestern states lined up to inspect the select offering.
Drawing as much admiration from the crowd as the stellar selection of stoneware was the restored early Nineteenth Century barn that Crocker Farm has called home for the past couple of years. An architectural wonder located in the historic hunt country of Baltimore County, the Gorsuch Barn is one of the few retail properties in the area, having been converted to an antiques shop in the 1950s. Zipp and family have restored much of the stately building to its former glory and have also incorporated modern facilities to support their auction business.
The sale kicked off right on time with a Warne and Letts, S. Amboy, N.J., jar crossing the block first. Decorated with cobalt-filled swags, the jar sold reasonably at $1,035 to a telephone bidder. A large early jar with an incised light colored cobalt-filled flower across the front sold reasonably at $862, while an attractive jar from Old Bridge, N.J., with bird and sprig coggled decoration around the rim, went under the money at $460.
It was not long before things heated up in the auction room, and the first indication of exactly how fierce competition would be throughout the day came as a heart-shaped stoneware inkwell was offered. Measuring 6 inches across and 5 inches tall, the inkwell had a depth of 2 inches. Fitted with a well and a sander, all three pieces were profusely decorated with cobalt.
It was cataloged with a Mid-Atlantic state origin, but some questioned that assignment based on the catalog images. Inspection the day of the auction changed everyone’s mind, however, as the coloration of the clay clearly indicated that the Zipps’ attribution was correct, possibly produced by Henry Remmey in Baltimore, or his son, Henry Harrison Remmey, in Philadelphia.
Estimated at $20/30,000, bidding on the lot opened with one of two phone bidders at $15,000. The second phone bidder jumped in at $17,000, and the battle waged on between the telephones until the second phone bidder stalled at $25,000. The lot was hit right away by an Internet bidder and again by the original phone bidder, with the lot hammering down their way at $31,050.
The next lot to take off was a superb, large early ovoid jar with vertical loop handles and a profusely incised and blue-filled flower in a pot. Measuring almost 15 inches tall, the rare jar was further decorated with initials, hearts and flowers. The verso featured an abstract design that resembled animal intestines and may have been suggestive of being owned by a butcher who made use of the jar to store such items.
It was the strong form and decoration on the front of the jar that garnered the appeal, however, and the Zipps attributed the piece to either Manhattan or New Jersey, where shards similar in appearance have been excavated during digs. Opening at $5,000 with a bid coming from the rear of the room, the piece shot past presale estimates, selling to a bidder on the telephone at $28,750.
The top lot of the auction came as a large stoneware pitcher, standing close to 12 inches tall, and attributed to the Bell family was offered. The catalog attributed the large pitcher to Samuel Bell, and the Zipps believed the piece had been made in either Winchester or Strasburg, Va., circa 1835. The pitcher featured a tooled rim and spout with cobalt foliate decoration and applied facial features across the front of vessel, consisting of a large forehead, applied eyes, nose, ears, lips and a pronounced chin or goatee. The back of the pitcher was elaborately cobalt-decorated with a large tulip plant with sprigs extending to both sides of where the handle, now missing, was applied.
Estimated at $15/25,000, the pitcher opened for bidding at $5,000, with several in the gallery chasing the lot. Three telephone bidders were also active, one of whom claimed the lot after intense bidding ended at $63,250.
Three telephone bidders were also active as a stoneware bank attributed to either Henry or R.C. Remmey was offered. In ovoid form with a finial top and intricately decorated cobalt-filled incised peafowl standing on a large flowering sprig, the rare bank resembled an example sold at Crocker Farm for more than $30,000 a couple of years back. Barbara Zipp commented that the consignor was from Florida and that the bank, priced at $60, had gone unsold after a day-long tag sale recently. The bank opened for bidding at $2,000 and escalated rapidly, with it selling at $28,750 to a phone bidder.
A stoneware pitcher, with light colored clay and dark cobalt incised flowers across the front, was another piece attributed to the Remmey family. Active bidding was also seen here, with the lot hammering down to a phone bidder at $9,200, underbid by Robesonia, Penn., dealer Greg Kramer.
One piece in the auction that attracted the lion’s share of interest was a rare Cowden and Wilcox batter jug decorated with a floral sprig on the front, a bird on each side and a pair of birds above the lug handle on the rear. The Zipps commented that the inclusion of four birds on the 1½-gallon jug was “virtually unheard of.” Described as one of the best pieces of Central Pennsylvania stoneware to come onto the market in recent years, the jug was estimated at $10/20,000.
Six telephone bidders were lined up as the lot opened in the room at $5,000. A bid of $10,000 came right away, and then, $15,000. Action slowed momentarily, and the bid was cut to $17,000 by a bidder in the room. At $20,000, a phone bidder jumped into the fray; at $22,000, it was another phone bidder. The next bid was cut again to $23,000 from the room. At that point, new blood in the room entered the competition as Kramer hit the lot at $25,000. The phone countered at $26,000, and after a brief pause, Kramer executed the winning bid, with the batter jug selling his way at $31,050.
Kramer also claimed a rare Centennial stoneware mug from Philadelphia, with incised and blue-filled decoration of the Liberty Bell, at $4,600 against an $800‱,200 estimate.
A small unique presentation jug from upstate New York measured less than 8 inches tall, with the ovoid bulbous form having four handles applied from the lip to the shoulder. Decorated with flowers and floral sprigs filled with cobalt, the jug was cataloged as “one of the rarest examples of New York State stoneware to surface anywhere in recent years.” Three telephone bidders were lined up for action, and they dominated the bidding until one of them claimed the lot at $9,775.
Another exceptional example of New York State pottery was a large 4-gallon William Warner, Troy, N.Y., stoneware flowerpot that had been decorated as a presentation piece. Large flowers appeared on the front, sides and back, an inscription “Martha and Nancy from G” across one side and a very small version of Warner’s most popular design, the spread winged eagle appeared on the lower side under a cobalt-dotted handle. Four telephone bidders were poised for this piece, although a bidder in the room claimed the lot at $17,250.
A straight-sided crock stamped Ottman Bros. Fort Edward, N.Y., had an unusual and folky decoration that caught the eye of collectors. A plow horse was depicted in cobalt across the front of the crock, and the driver, whip in hand, appeared behind, actually depicted on the side of the crock under the handle. Estimated at $15/25,000, this piece opened on the floor at $2,000 and sold moments later to a buyer standing in the doorway in the rear of the gallery for $17,250.
A 5-gallon churn marked “John Burger, Rochester” came with an interesting tale. An old-time Rochester family had moved from the area early in the Twentieth Century to New Jersey, and they had apparently brought along a stoneware churn, which had been relegated to the basement. While on a house call, a dealer discovered the churn, and it was being offered for the first time “since its manufacture,” according to the catalog. Decorated in cobalt with a huge 30-inch-long peacock, whose intricately depicted tail measures some 16 inches long, the bird was standing on a well-executed branch with foliate decoration. Telephone bidders were active once again, although the rare churn sold in the room at $19,550. A restored crack was listed in the catalog.
A piece of Connecticut redware surprised many in the room, selling to one of three phone bidders. A Hartford jar, probably by Seymour, was decorated with numerous curving brushed strokes of yellow slip with traces of copper (green). Estimated at $800‱,200, the rare jar opened for bidding at $800 and hammered down moments later to a phone bidder for $3,450.
Prices include the buyer’s premium charged.
The next auction scheduled at Crocker Farm will be a general antiques auction in June, and of particular interest will be the Maryland Sale scheduled for September. For information, 410-472-2016 or www.crockerfarm.com .
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