Published: June 1, 2021
Review & Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy White’s Auction
MIDDLEBOROUGH, MASS. – John White and Kathryn Black, husband and wife, run White’s Auctions. Their sales can usually be counted on to produce a wide variety of material sourced directly from local, southeastern Massachusetts estates. Their May 23 sale hit a home run in the regional history category with a postal history collection sharply focused on southeastern Massachusetts. That same collection also included hundreds of neatly categorized postcards focusing on the same area, as well as atlases and other related material. The sale included two important and early baseball cards mounted to a section of wall from an old factory building, autographed baseballs, scrimshaw, a large collection of carnival glass, silver, Oriental rugs, coins, clocks and much more. Catalog descriptions are always thorough, and Black commented that she had to buy some additional reference books to help her accurately describe some of the material. Some of the lots in this sale had more than 15 photos posted online. Massachusetts Covid regulations allowed the auction to be conducted live, so there were about 35 people in the gallery appropriately spaced, online bidding was active as was phone bidding and there were numerous absentee bids. The sale grossed more than $305,000.
Taken together, the collection of southeastern Massachusetts material, including a major selection of early postal history items, brought in more than $133,000. It had been assembled by a Korean War veteran, who died about a year ago at the age of 78. He was not married and had no children. He directed that the proceeds of this sale, along with the proceeds from the sale of his home, be donated to a local food bank. The collector was meticulous in researching and recording the history of each item. There were dozens of albums of regional stampless covers, early stamped covers reflecting the progression of postal markings, advertising covers, 3,800 first day covers sold in one lot for $3,360, early stamps mounted on Scott album pages organized chronologically and much more.
“We have never handled stamps before and were told by the serious collectors (some as far as Virginia), in-house and online that it was one of the best collections they had ever seen,” said Kathryn Black.
One postcard lot in particular demonstrated the focus of the collection: two albums contained well over 200 postcards and ephemera all relating just to the annual Brockton Fair. It was sold as a lot for $1,050. Another lot with more than 1,000 Brockton post cards sold for $780. Considering the quality and care taken with the postal history albums of stampless covers, one could not help but wish that the collection could have remained intact, in a museum or other institution in the area. As it happened, one of the major buyers was Jim McCusker of nearby Raynham, Mass., a philatelic auctioneer. Other bidders were from various parts of the United States. Black commented that most potential bidders spent hours previewing the material prior to the sale.
The highest grossing lot in the postal collection was a Scott’s album page with 43 stamps issued between 1857 and 1861, which earned $4,560. A partially filled Scott’s album with 962 US stamps, some as early as 1851, earned $3,840. The first stamps in the United States were issued in 1847, and early issues, such as these, required that postmasters cut the stamps from sheets, as perforations had not yet been introduced. Just slightly behind this group, a mounted lot of 526 stamps and blocks, some in original condition and including 1894 issues, earned $3,600. There were several albums of stampless covers. One album of 53 stampless covers included a dated and signed 1773 post office form showing types of letters sent from Boston to Newport, R.I. A 1799 cover from Boston to Philadelphia showed a “free franking” mark, and this album brought $1,440. An album with 50 stampless covers included an 1807 cover addressed to General Henry Dearborn, who had served in the Revolutionary War, and who later was Secretary of War under Thomas Jefferson. This album sold for $1,380. As with all the covers in this collection, the appropriate detailed information was neatly typed on the page and the cover itself was carefully mounted in inked lines. Condition of the covers was universally high.
Numerous paintings were included in the sale. Two “blue” nudes by Russian artist Vassili Sitnikov (1915-1987) were the most popular and may have been very good buys. One earned $6,240, and the other, very similar, earned $5,280. Sitnikov spent most of his life painting and living in Russia. He emigrated to the United States in 1980 and was known for his painted cityscapes, nudes and buildings.
One of the heavily promoted lots in the sale with an interesting story did well. A section of a wall from the building next to the auction gallery, with Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner baseball cards attached, sold for $2,280. The building, which presently houses the Massachusetts Archaeological Society Robbins Museum, uncovered the section of wall during a 1990 restoration project and kept it safe until consigning it to this auction. The museum had formerly been a factory utilized by various companies over the years, and just when these cards, along with others, had been glued to the wall is not known. These important baseball cards, along with a circa 1910 card of boxer Tommy Ryan, World Middleweight Champion inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999, and others were on the section of wall. The cards had been issued by the Philadelphia Caramel Co and Standard Caramel Co. as inserts for packages of children’s candy, as opposed to cards issued by tobacco companies. There were penciled notations on the section of wall dated 1917 and 1927. Unfortunately, the cards were not in good condition. The section of wall was bought by a dealer in the room, and when asked what he planned to do with the wall, he responded, “take it to the Rhinebeck show next week and see what happens. I’ve always been a gambler, so we’ll see.”
After the sale, Black and White said, “We had a lot of out-of-state bidders, which we like to see. The philatelic material was a new area for us. We knew it was exceptional stuff and needed to be well described and photographed. We had numerous out-of-state bidders online for some of the lots. We had some outside help and we did a lot of reading. We both learned from handling this collection and, who knows, maybe it will lead to other philatelic collections down the road.” White, who conducts the auction, said “having bidders in the room really livens up the sale. And there were a few nice surprises, like the lot of political buttons, the posters and the rugs. We’re looking forward to our next sale, which should be about August 22.”
All prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, 508-947-9281, 508-269-9275 or www.whitesauction.com.
September 28, 2022
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