Published: July 24, 2018
Review and Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
WOODBRIDGE, CONN. – The onsite sale conducted July 6-7 by Thomas Schwenke’s Woodbury Auction was advertised as an old-fashioned tent sale, with no internet and bidding available only to those who showed up. Schwenke had promised the clients a clean-out, with prompt and immediate removal by the end of the sale. Lots were uncataloged and unnumbered but a few hundred photographs of the interior of the house had been posted online. Buyers were not allowed inside the house, and the only advance preview of items in the sale was the morning that particular item was slated for sale. Schwenke’s crew were busy from the early morning hours moving things under tents or onto the driveway of the seven-acre property, where they could be previewed.
The sale was comprised of the collection of a couple – still alive but now in assisted living – who had lived on the property for nearly 50 years. He was a neurosurgeon who had served in World War II, while she was a school teacher. Three of the couple’s four children were in attendance variously throughout the sale. When reached after the sale for comment, Schwenke said the sale had exceeded his expectations by approximately 20 percent and he was pleased with the results.
Schwenke announced at the start of the sale that while the auction had no reserves, it was not an absolute auction, in that he had a commitment to the sellers that he would get the best price possible for them. That commitment allowed him the discretion to either reoffer items on the following day or to withhold items for a future online Woodbury Auction sale if he didn’t feel he was getting a fair price for things.
Like many onsite sales, the offerings were eclectic and spanned a broad range, from antique and modern furniture to folk art, rugs, jewelry, fine art, decorative objects, books, general household implements and garden furnishings…in short, everything but the kitchen sink! What at first glance looked like just another group of electronics ended up being the top lot of the sale at $4,200, primarily because the group included some Mackintosh components, which are perennial favorites with buyers.
Leading the fine art was a stunning nearly life-sized portrait of a woman by Lyle Durgin. It had sold at Skinner’s in 1989 for $1,662 and acquired by the family in the early 1990s. After some spirited bidding, Schwenke sold it for $3,000. Other fine art included a portrait of a Madonna that sold for $600, and a painting signed “John Wicke” realized $960.
Highlights of the decorative arts included a Lalique “Innocence” sculpture that sold for $1,320, a small oak coffer that realized $510 and a large two-piece showcase that finished at $960. An attractive Federal-style secretary did not find a buyer at the level Schwenke felt it should and will be offered in an upcoming sale. A mantel clock with green marble was subject of competitive bidding and went out at $600, while a pair of Satsuma vases ended up at $420. A stack of 12 Mintons plates, possibly by Christopher Dresser and retailed at Tiffany’s, brought $330. Included in the sale were a few trade signs, two antique and a Twentieth Century example, which was for Rexall Drugs and led the group at $1,320. A contemporary folk art “Noah’s Ark” had a vaguely “outsider” look and finished at $420.
The top-selling jewelry lot was a moonstone bracelet that closed at $1,560, which was also the top price paid on the first day of the sale. Buyers also liked the lots by Eisenberg and Miriam Haskell.
Tent sales are at the mercy of the weather, and the rain that started shortly after the sale started on Friday drove everyone under the tents, where bidding continued until mid-afternoon, when Schwenke called it a day. For those who braved the weather, Schwenke comped the sandwiches he had ordered as refreshments for purchase. However, the rains slowed the sale down, and Schwenke could not sell as many lots on Friday that he had intended to. Despite the soggy weather, nothing builds camaraderie like a little mutual hardship, and those who weren’t deterred by the rain were in good spirits and were rewarded with some good buys.
The weather on Saturday was much better, with low humidity and warm – but not hot – temperatures that attracted significantly more buyers than had been in attendance on Friday. Though the sale was advertised to start at 10 am, auctioneer John Lee, who was assisting Schwenke, kicked things off early to make up for not being able to sell everything on Friday.
Schwenke’s crew did a great job of keeping like items together, which made it easier for Schwenke or Lee to move methodically through things. It was an efficient system and they moved quickly, dispatching lots quickly so buyers could begin paying for – and removing – their purchases from the premises. By the end of the second day, nearly 850 lots had been sold and the property had been cleaned out.
In commenting after the sale, Schwenke said there were very few withheld lots but those would be offered in his next sale on August 14.
All prices include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For information, 203-266-0323 or www.woodburyauction.com.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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