Published: December 1, 2020
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
THOMASTON, MAINE – Over a span of four days, Thomaston Place Auction Galleries dispatched a total of 1,734 lots, selling a Collector’s Auction on Thursday, November 12, Tribal Arts on November 13, and Autumn Gathering sales in two days, Saturday and Sunday, November 14-15. More than 81 percent of the lots sold for a combined total of $1.7 million. Auction previews were allowed prior to the sale, and while bidding in the room was not permitted, absentee and phone bids supplemented online bidding on three platforms: Thomaston Live, LiveAuctioneers and Invaluable.
“The business right now – I’d say it is a well-oiled rollercoaster. It’s been interesting with Covid; using three platforms, all the phone banks and absentee bids, the sales went along very quickly. We saw plenty of action throughout. In this sale, most of the top lots, which we found in Maine, sold to buyers in Maine,” Kaja Veilleux, Thomaston Place Auction Galleries’ owner and principal auctioneer said, speaking to Antiques and The Arts Weekly a few days before Thanksgiving. “We have a huge local following of private clients and still saw interest from 30 different countries over the four days.”
When one thinks of Maine, one often thinks of summer vacations in station wagons and a 1947 Ford Woody station wagon, model 79A Super Deluxe that had been restored in 1991 with just over 64,000 miles on the odometer, rolled out the door for $44,460 to its new home with a local buyer. The car had been in the Mead family estate on Islesboro, Maine, but saw widespread interest. Veilleux said there were a lot of online bidders watching the lot as it drove across the block but the serious bidders – six in all – had all come to inspect the car and all were bidding on the phone.
A 1965 Volkswagen reproduction 356 Porsche Speedster that Veilleux said he’d found at a house in Lincolnville, Maine, is also staying in the state. It sold to a phone bidder, who prevailed against several competitors for $23,400. It clocked in just shy of 50,000 miles, had a silver exterior and black interior with removeable soft top. The sale featured three other cars, all offered on the second day of the Autumn Gathering sales, two of which were by Mercedes Benz.
A result Veilleux said he was surprised by was $16,380 achieved for local Maine artist Stephen Morgan Etnier’s painting “On Gilbert Head,” an oil on Masonite work that was found in a house on Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Multiple phone lines and online bidders chased the painting but a buyer in Maine pushed the top bid to more than double its high estimate.
More works by Maine artists were snapped up by Maine buyers. James Edward Fitzerald’s “Seagull Swarm over Fish” was discovered during one of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries’ free appraisal days and sold to a local buyer, bidding on the phone, for $12,870.
“The Rescue” by Wesley Elbridge Webber (Massachusetts / California / Maine, 1841-1914) depicted a steam tug approaching a kedged sailing ship being driven ashore by a storm had been found in a house in Southwest Harbor, Maine. It sold on the phone to a local buyer, for $8,775, just shy of its high estimate. Bringing $16,380 from a local buyer, “which they always do,” was “Kanha Sunset” by Dahlov Ipcar (Maine / Vermont, 1917-2017).
Artwork was not the only thing to meet the saying, “What’s Found in Maine, Stays in Maine.” A late Nineteenth Century Shaker-inspired blue-gray painted chimney cupboard with doors and drawers retained a worn maker’s label on the inside of one drawer that may have read “J.A. Fay & Co.” Veilleux said he had found it in a house in Western Maine and there was a lot of bidding on it; a phone bidder from Maine took it for $8,190.
One of the best pieces of painted furniture was an Eighteenth Century Canadian diamond point cupboard, attributed to Quebec, that had at one time been overpainted with a white surface but which had been painstakingly taken back down to its original blue and red surface. “Diamond point cupboards are some of the most desirable of country forms and are very rare. It went to a very sophisticated collector in Canada, who was bidding on the phone,” said Veilleux. The piece, which came from the Cape Elizabeth, Maine and Palm Beach, Fla., estate of Rosemarie Wolfe, sold for $12,870.
Several things inspired heated bidding. One of Veilleux’s favorite things in the sale was a folk art carved coat stand. This was no ordinary stand; it had an owl perched on top and two beavers on the base and stood 74½ inches high. It came from the Mead family estate on Islesboro and apparently appealed to a lot of people, generating interest on both the phones and online. In the end, an online buyer had the top price of $6,000, four times its high estimate.
Some unusual pieces from the mid-Nineteenth Century saw strong interest. A pre-Civil War dentist’s tool set with 64 hand-carved steel with mother-of-pearl handles in a rosewood case “was a really neat thing; I’ve never had anything like that,” Veilleux said, noting that it had been consigned by a client in New Jersey. In hindsight, the estimate of $800-$1,200 was conservative but it fostered extensive competition and an online bidder prevailed, for $2,520.
A pair of 1863 Chester’s Patent send/receive dial-format telegraphs made by Charles T. Chester of New York City, in mahogany cases, had come from a house in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. According to the catalog note, they were used in the field by the Union Army during the war. Estimated at $2/3,000, the lot opened for bidding at $1,000 but a bidder on LiveAuctioneers placed a bid of $6,600, essentially squelching any other interested parties. An appointment of J.H. Goodenow of Maine to be the United States Consul General of the Ottoman Empire, dated November 1864 and signed by both Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State, William Seward, more than doubled its low estimate and sold to a phone bidder for $9,360.
“I got those out of a house in Rockport (Maine); they really took off,” Veilleux said of a seven-piece nest of Victorian cast bronze Imperial measures, engraved for “County of Ayr” and dated 1869 that would have been used by the customs and excise representatives to ensure traders were not short-selling their customers, that had been estimated at $1/2,000 but sold, after heated bidding, to an online bidder for $6,000.
To be sure, many things were purchased by out-of-state buyers. Another result that surprised Veilleux was a set of four framed Chinese scroll paintings that he had found in Southwest Harbor. The set depicted Chinese children playing and had been estimated at $1/1,500; it generated much interest from Asia prior to the sale and he was “sure they’re going to Asia,” selling to an online bidder for $27,600.
In closing our conversation, Veilleux said, “I’m really thankful for all of the families who entrust us with their things, and clients who have bought from us from around the world. We’re still managing to find great stuff after 50 years. An old timer in the business said to me 50 years ago ‘there’s no sense in getting in, there’s nothing left.’ I’m damn glad I didn’t listen.”
Well put, Kaja.
Thomaston Place Auction Galleries will hold a “Vintage Accents” sale in early January.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
Thomaston Place Auction Galleries is at 51 Atlantic Highway. For information, www.thomastonauction.com or 207-354-8141.
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