Published: February 3, 2016
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack
Additional Photos Courtesy The Cobbs
PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — Charlie Cobb’s January 16 sale had a good selection of merchandise, and it was well advertised. But New Hampshire winter weather is beyond anyone’s control, and for awhile it looked like a morning snowstorm might mess up the event. Perhaps not surprisingly, however, New Hampshire dealers and collectors are not deterred by the few inches of snow with a little frozen rain under it. When the sale started, there were more than 60 bidders in the room, with active Internet bidding and multiple active phone lines.
Bidders in the room bought many of the lots, and they took home some bargains. The sale included several pieces of Danish Modern furniture, early American furniture, Asian items, a selection of Northwest Coast and Inuit items, African carvings, sets of sterling silver, several paintings and a number of Oriental rugs, which drew buyers who were new to The Cobbs. Cobb runs a smooth auction and sometimes lets the audience persuade him to open a lot for quite a bit less than the usual starting price.
Dealers often bemoan the lack of young collectors, but there may be hope yet. Liz Notziger and her two young daughters were examining an early National cash register. Isadora Friederichs, 7 years old, and her 4-year-old sister Oona were fascinated with it. Isadora proudly told Antiques and the Arts Weekly that she collects marbles. Oona knew she collected something, but had a little trouble remembering exactly what, and her mother told us it was rocks. The cash register they liked reached $1,440. Notziger said that she and her husband hoped to buy some of the Danish Modern furniture —and they did for their 1920s home in Jaffrey, N.H.
The sale started off with what would prove to be the highest grossing lot of the day. It was a very colorful needlework pocket with bright floral stitching and a black background on blue fabric. Three phone bidders competed and it wound up selling for $9,000, well over its $1,200 estimate. A strong start, and it got the crowd into a good mood.
Early in the sale, sets of sterling silver were sold. A sterling flatware service for 12 by Carrs, an English maker in business since 1976, with 137 troy ounces of silver, brought $2,040, and a service for eight by Towle, with 58 troy ounces of silver, reached $690. A Chippendale-style three-piece sterling tea set by Black, Starr & Frost, with 28.5 troy ounces of silver, achieved $450.
Cobb had some modern Tabriz cotton and wool pictorial rugs and they did well. Tabriz rugs were made in the city of Tabriz, Iran, and the designs on the pictorial rugs often resemble hand-illuminated manuscripts and book covers. Some patterns are derived from poetic sources. A colorful 4-foot-by-5-foot-4-inch rug depicting a young woman with a bright red shawl, flowers, birds and a decorative border sold for $4,200. A slightly smaller example, also with a gowned young woman, deer and other animals, on a blue background finished at $2,280. After the sale, Cobb said that he thought the rugs did well.
“These rugs appeal more to Persian buyers than they do to American buyers, so I wasn’t sure what to expect,” he said. “We’ll have more from the same consignor in an upcoming sale.” A modern room-size Tabriz with a dark red center medallion and an ivory border finished at $4,500, and a room-size mid-Twentieth Century silk and wool Isfahan rug, with a center medallion on a blue vine-filled field, fetched a strong $6,600.
A signed New Ipswich, N.H., four-drawer Hepplewhite mahogany chest may have slipped under the radar. Signed in pencil on the back “Made in New Ipswich, NH, by Peter Clayes [1775–1850], made for and bought by….,” it was an attractive chest on flared French feet and went for $1,080. A six-drawer Chippendale tall chest with old finish and old brasses was the most successful furniture lot of the day, finishing at $2,280. A set of six birdcage Windsors with an unusual arched crest and bamboo turnings, sold well over the estimate, reaching $2,040. Several phone bidders competed with buyers in the room, but the set went to a phone bidder.
There were several bargains in the furniture category. A lot with two pair of decorated thumb back Windsors in original yellow paint and stenciling achieved only $96. Two were side chairs and two were armchairs. In need of tender loving care was a Pilgrim Century cradle in old red but missing one end panel and one rocker. Someone got it for $24.
The sale included several pieces of Danish Modern furniture. A 12-piece dining room set with nine chairs, a dining table, a double cupboard and a two-tier cart earned $1,560. A reverse top game table with four chairs went for $360, two teak coffee tables made $570, and a group of three upholstered arm chairs reached $660. A Norwegian Modern rosewood rocker fetched $510. Most of the Danish Modern furniture sold over the estimates with bidders in the room competing with the phones.
Some nice paintings can usually be found at The Cobbs sales and this time was no exception. Leading the category was a Nineteenth Century scene of the Grand Piazza in Venice. Unsigned, but in the school of Canaletto, it reached $7,200. An oil on artist board by George Loftus Noyes (American, 1864–1954) realized $6,000. It was a signed Impressionistic scene of a harbor with sailboats, and harborside homes in the background. Another Noyes, a European street scene, sold for $2,280. Both paintings had been bought by the consignor’s family from the artist. Works by this well-known artist have sold in the low five figures. Noyes was an early teacher of N.C. Wyeth, who in 1921 said, “His color knowledge is superb and I think he will give me much help at this juncture.”
An Impressionistic view of the Palisades from the Hudson River by Arrah Lee Gaul (American, 1883–1980) sold for $660. Gaul left about 200 of her paintings to Illinois Wesleyan University when she died. An oil by Clement Drew (American, 1806–1889) of stormy seas off Marblehead achieved $1,440. Marine scenes by this artist usually bring more than this one did.
A Modernistic, unusual clock that resembled a Rolodex may have been a bargain at only $240. The clock was a limited edition model made by the Howard Miller Company. It was cataloged as possibly having been designed by George Nelson (American, 1908–1986), one of the founders of American Modernism, and director of design for the Herman Miller Company. Nelson won many awards for his designs, but several designs that he accepted credit for were later determined to actually be the work of his associates.
Leading the ethnographic selection was a Totokia beaked club from Fiji, which brought $2,400. It was an exceptional example, with a fine patina, a stone-cut zigzag pattern on the shaft, a powerfully carved knob with raised bosses and a pointed beak, perhaps including two “kill-holes.” A Maori Rotorua house board, carved in high relief with a classical Maori face with large eyes and projecting tongue, finished at $1,080, and a Yua shell currency ring from Papua New Guinea earned $300. It is now illegal to export these currency rings from Papua New Guinea and they are increasingly difficult to find.
A lot of two walrus tooth Inuit cribbage boards with engraved hunting scenes went for $450. A carved soapstone hunter with a seal, signed Adiazis 505412, brought $360, and a petrified piece of walrus ivory with a contemporary engraved scene by R. Monfils went out at $150. Selling well under its estimate was a stone Pueblo Indian human fetish figure. It had a small face on a tapering head, large round eyes and a small nose. It was cataloged as possibly Zuni and earned $510.
The sale included a number of other interesting items. Two pair of Civil War shoulder boards, framed with a newspaper clipping of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, sold for $1,440, more than four times the estimate. There were five Hermes scarves, each about 35 inches square, and they sold between $140 and $240 each. An Edison floor model diamond disc phonograph in working condition with four boxes of records was a good buy at $210. An elaborate marked Teplitz porcelain bust of a woman in a low-cut fancy evening dress sold for $360. A Twentieth Century carved amber and 10K gold bracelet with six carved stones made $270.
Asian items included netsuke, sold in lots of three, some carved ivories and an outstanding fan painting attributed to Katsushika Hokusai (Japan, 1760–1848). It was a winter scene with a fox and snow-covered pines. On silk laid on paper, signed with the artist’s seal, it realized $6,000. The artist achieved fame in Japan when he completed his set of 36 views of Mount Fuji in the 1830s. After the sale, Cobb told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that the fan painting was “a pleasant surprise. Authenticating it was difficult, and we knew that if two people believed in it, it would do well. And it did.”
The groups of Nineteenth Century carved ivory netsuke sold for a very low $120 per lot. Cobb said that recent restrictive ivory legislation has almost destroyed the market for netsuke. “Dealers are afraid to buy now because of the regulations, and many of them are out of business. We mailed notices to several past customers and some came back because the businesses no longer exist. It’s a shame, because some of these were good Nineteenth Century pieces with artist signatures.” There were several Japanese woodblock prints. A pair by Ando Hiroshige (Japan, 1797–1858), each with signature blocks in the image, framed together, sold for $1,020, while others of more recent vintage went as low as $60. Cobb believed that the market is improving for the earlier examples.
Attending the sale was Tom Longacre, a Marlborough, N.H., dealer who, with his wife Beverly Weir-Longacre, was recently featured on New Hampshire Chronicle, a broadcast by station WMUR, Manchester, N.H. Beverly specializes in Christmas items, and in a conversation with Antiques and The Arts Weekly, Tom said that Chronicle had heard of their Christmas open house event, featuring about 18 Christmas trees, between 24 and 10 feet tall, each decorated with more than 300 Christmas ornaments. Some of the trees were live, some were antique feather trees and some were new feather trees. Each tree had a theme — nautical, Santa, different types of decorations, etc. The film crew spent about five hours at the Longacres’ house — for an 18-minute segment on the program.
After the sale, Cobb said that the results were about what he had expected. “The good stuff brings good prices, but some of the other stuff can be a struggle. I was pleased and my consignors were satisfied. They understand the market has changed and they seem to have realistic expectations.”
All prices include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.thecobbs.com or 603-924-6361.
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