Friday, February 12, 2016

Lessons Learned from the Schorsch auction - January 2016 at Sotheby's

Remember the Schorsch Americana auction, some weeks ago at Sotheby's? 
    I thought you might enjoy another look at what was there, what sold well (and what didn't)...
        and some of the lessons I learned. 

First on the docket:
     If this auction, and succeeding auctions this year at Sotheby's, are any indication:
                 Furniture no longer is the reigning king.
 Especially older furniture...and especially if it's large. Like this lovely piece:


Estimate 30,000 - 50,000 USD

Beautiful finish...    It sold for $12,000 -- considerably under pre-sale estimates.

This one was supposed to be one of the big stars of the show. Experts were confidently predicting that it would bring much more than its pre-sale estimates.


Estimate 150,000 - 250,000 USD
 It sold for $150,000 -- barely its lowest estimate.
*Furniture -- what can I say. This uniformly did badly. An "exceptional" Chippendale block-front chest of drawers (Lot #714) sold for $75,000 -- but it was valued at double or triple that amount. Even the Chippendale highboy so fussed about (Lot #697 -- experts said it was worth a million dollars...or much, much more) barely hit the high end of the pre-auction estimate: $970,000. Any time the words 'important,' 'exceptional' or 'rare' were used, the sale amount did a little better -- but not always. Very early era furniture (think Pilgrim time period), especially those in excellent condition, or unusually-decorated pieces held their own, or even did quite well. (One exception to this: Lot #851, a 'very rare' Pilgrim era (c.1685) turned spindle 'Great' chair -- way under its estimate. It was from Israel Sack...did that affect the price? Lot #853, also from Sack's firm, also sold for much less than its low estimate. Restoration work? (The seats were replaced.) Condition? Or maybe the chairs were uncomfortable to sit in...I'm pretty sure, though, that the Schorshes lost a good bit of their original investments in these pieces.

One odd question: why did Israel Sack, nor his sons, NOT collect the same Americana antiques they were known for authenticating -- and selling? (They said it was because they didn't want to compete with their clients...but I still don't understand.)

* * * * * * * * * * *

Bedcoverings, quilts and other bed-related textiles were not a big deal -- and their prices reflected that general lack of interest. Which is sad...there were some beautiful pieces up for the gavel. Like this Jacquard-style coverlet:

Only one in the auction -- and it sold for around $2000. About what I figured.  (Lot #794)

Samplers and other smaller textile pieces did much better. (More on this in a bit.)

*There was a lot of Staffordshire ware in the auction. If you're looking to collect Staffordshire, ensure your investment by collecting pieces that are well-made, with strong decorative value, good provenances, and excellent condition. The agateware teapots sold at higher prices. (Look in the Lot #340s range for examples of these.) Some of the lead-glazed pieces did well -- some didn't. Ditto for the salt-glazed figures. (Which I mostly thought were kind of goofy-looking. Ah well.)

 Or just choose a squirrel design. (The Schorsch's piece went for $5000, considerably more than its pre-auction estimate.) As the auctioneer pointed out, "Everybody loves a squirrel."

*I learned more about 'posset jugs.' Fuddling cups, too...though neither type sold that well.

*Delftware sales were so-so. Some pieces did okay, but nothing spectacular. This surprised me a little, considering blue-and-white's popularity in home dec.

*Toby jugs did not do well at all. They're apparently not in fashion right now. (Don't worry -- they're too decorative not to make a return appearance. They'll be back.)

*Stay away from the chandeliers. They did NOT sell well. Case in point: Lot #408, a six-light German piece, late 19th century, valued at $3000-5000. It sold for $250.

*Same for mirrors. If they were extremely old, they 'sort of' sold. Otherwise, forget it. Lot #471, a Charles II beadwork mirror, was the rare exception -- it went for $25,000, considerably more than its $3000-5000 estimate.

*Or cooking utensils or fireplace equipment, in general. This trend, by the way, was evident in succeeding auctions at Sotheby's, too. Pre-sale estimates were way overblown.

*If you're going to invest in brass and pewter, particularly candlesticks and cooking utensils, study up first. Many did 'okay,' but a few were especially bad. The exceptions: 18th century English pewter tankards -- but even they weren't selling for huge bucks.

*You might be better off going to silver, instead. These pieces generally held their value, based on the pre-auction estimates. The silver tankards, which I followed more closely (probably because of this), kept to the higher end of the pre-auction price spectrum...provided they had some provenance, both on the maker and the owner.
    Silver serving pieces held their own, as did (surprisingly, at least to me) silverware.

*Whaling-related and whalebone items, including ship's models, ships in a bottle, etc. were not that big a draw. (Scrimshaw and shellwork were the big exception -- some of these sold quite well, the group of walking-sticks -- Lot #960 -- that went for more than $10,5000, including premium -- far more than their original estimate of $1200-1500.)
       I'd thought they would, in the New England area. But then again, we just saw In the Heart of the Sea.
     The ship paintings did much better, especially if they were Chinese-painted.

*Husband-and-wife colonial portrait pairs generally did not do that well. They were selling for thousands of dollars...but nowhere near their pre-auction estimates. (Was this the appraiser's slipup?) A few exceptions depended on the painter or subject matter, like Ralph Earl's paintings of a couple (Lot #691.) They were valued at $25,000-50,000 -- but sold for $274,000. Well-deserved, too.
     The Schorsches obviously were fond of this subject matter....they owned a number of pairs.
     I'm fond of it, too. Maybe now's the time to invest?

George Washington tiebacks. These did way better than buttons or shoe buckles.

*Miniature portraits, with a few exceptions, did quite well.

*Oriental rugs held their own -- or in some cases, did very well. At least these could be in use while you're collecting them.

*Metal garden sculptures did well. (These people had EVERYTHING. Really.)

*Most anything connected to George Washington did GREAT.  Even the copperprinted cotton display piece and handkerchiefs (Lots #1002-1004) sold for higher prices than I've seen them go for. (Granted, these were in excellent condition.) There were exceptions, like #1018's group of (paper) objects connected to Washington's death -- these didn't sell well at all.

*Paper drawings and prints (think frakturs, lettered hymns, etc., as well as prints, like the Boston Massacre) did 'okay.' But not that great, unless they were really unusual.

A nice 'sheepish' sampler...

*Needlework pictures easily held their own -- or more. There were a few exceptions, mostly in the embroidered family pictures, but basically embroideries, stumpwork, beading and such held their value -- or much more. Want to invest in this? Look for excellent condition and workmanship -- and if possible, somebody famous as the subject matter. Like George Washington. Who also had an effect on the sales of...

*Mourning pictures. Some of these sold very well (especially if they were mourning Washington) -- most had mediocre results. (And this was the collection of a family known for establishing a 'mourning museum' in an old cemetery.) In general, though, there seemed to be less interest in this area than in past years. Maybe sobbing isn't in vogue?!?
    But mourning-related jewelry is -- it sold quite well. One of the most expensive pieces was, naturally, connected to Washington -- a pin (Lot #1048 - see text below) that held a lock of his hair -- it sold for nearly $50,000, more than quadruple its pre-auction estimate. (I really am starting to feel sorry for the poor man; he must have been pestered to death with requests for letting himself be painted, his hair, etc etc.) Take a look at Lot #1049 -- a Washington mourning ring -- also with hair -- in a spiffy labeled red box. Estimated at $8000-12,000, it went for $30,000. Very cool.

Enclosing six strands of hair stated to be George Washington's, in a chased gold surround, apparently unmarked. Together with envelope and paper packet: "Gen Washington's hair from Bettie G Webb / Given to her by Mr. Hamilton, to whom it was left by his mother, to whom it was sent by Lady Washington."
Length 1 5/8 in.

I fell in love with a little Delft blue-and-white washbasin, Lot #713, valued at $300-500. (It sold for $125.) I had fun calling up The Mama: "Why didn't you buy that piece for me?!"

A Gentleman's court wig and stand (Lot #776)  (sold for $1250).

Reindeer hides went for big bucks -- but they were also extremely rare Russian-tanned hides salvaged from an old shipwreck. (I hope to tell you more about this in the future.)

Shoe buckles...really?!?  They did 'okay'...or worse. (Lots #798 and #799 are representative.)

A trick skeleton in a coffin, carved from whalebone (the skeleton, at least) #958 -- 600-800 pre-estimate, sold for $5000, including buyer's premium! (Another skeleton-in-coffin piece, Lot #1015, did equally well.)

and one of the goofiest sale of all -- the "silver-mounted" sewing ball.

I've hardly mentioned the Staffordshire pieces, considering how many were in the auction. (And I'm not even including the pearlware and other ceramics.) Don't take my word for it -- go see for yourself! The final inventory and sales, including descriptions and condition reports is still up on the Internet -- who knows how long it will stay there.

Go here -- quick -- to see the full sales results. It will take a while to scroll down through everything -- but it will be worth it.  (You can also see several posts with examples in the January part ofis blog -- including needlework caskets, samplers and more. Scroll down to find them.)

The final total:  $10,262,129. My guess would be that includes buyer's premiums, which were healthy.   Sotheby's staff were bragging that the sale would bring in at least $10 million.

     On the other hand, they couldn't have known that a blizzard was going to hit New York City this week, either. At least one expert said to my group that the "blizzard effect" was nonexistent -- anyone in the world could bid, if they had a phone or access to a computer. And he was right, in that respect. But I read elsewhere that the snow and cold had a definite impact on preview events. And if you're going to spend this kind of money on antiques... well, you're going to make sure they're worth it. In detail. I do think that the blizzard was a contributing factor, even though both Sotheby and its competitor, Christie's, have been taking financial hits, especially in the past year. 

Interesting. Very interesting.

A very early print of the Boston Massacre, hand-tinted, I'd guess -- went for $1000

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mourning At the Schorsch Auction at Sotheby's

Thought you'd enjoy some of the mourning-related items from the recent Schorsch estate auction at Sotheby's. 
     This couple really enjoyed this genre -- in fact, they had a 'mourning museum' in a cemetery for some years! Their taste was interesting AND eclectic. Sometimes buyers agreed with them -- sometimes they didn't. 

Poor Old Lord Nelson did terrible; apparently he's not missed much, anymore. His tribute (Lot #815) barely cleared $500, including buyer's premium. (And the auctioneer really had to work to get that.)

This piece did better.

At Lot #747, it sold for $38,000.


Estimate 8,000 - 12,000 USD
Signed S. Folwell / Philada Pinxt.
16 in. by 20 1/4 in.
But prices could vary all over. Though nearly all the George Washington-related items did well, this piece, Lot #744, only sold for  $3500. Poor baby.


Estimate 4,000 - 6,000 USD
A tomb inset with printed reserves inscribed, THY LOSS EVER SHALL WE MOURN and SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF THE ILLUSTRIOUS WASHINGTON, stamped American eagle grasping an olive vine in its talons, the whole within an eglomisé border inscribed: AMERICA AT THE TOMB OF WASHINGTON.
21 1/2 in. by 25 1/4 in.

Makes you want to weep, doesn't it...

Embroidered Pictures at the Schorsch Auction - Sotheby's

Why am I continuing to bring up the Schorsch auction at Sotheby's? 

Because it was one of your very few chances in recent years to take a long and detailed look at decorative antiques. Mostly American (also called "Americana"), but some other pieces thrown in. Even the American pieces, like these embroidered pictures, show some European influence -- particularly that of Britain. 
    In general considering their size and condition, these sold well. Mostly.

This one, Lot #765, went for $1250.

Lot #767, shown below, sold for  $750.  Both pictures' pre-estimates valued considerably more than that. Didn't matter -- all the items at this auction sold for what they'd bring. No reserve.

This piece, Lot #769, a mourning picture to the memory of George Washington, went for $10,000.


Other mourning pieces about George did well -- but ironically, some prints, paintings and such connected with him while alive didn't always sell that well.

Moral of the story: Buy George - but make sure he's dead to get the best price.

This one did okay -- but it was stitched after his death.  Lot #827, it sold for $16,000.


Estimate 10,000 - 20,000 USD

Even a handful of George Washington curtain tiebacks before it went for $4,000.

The Schorsches had several children -- perhaps that's why they appreciated these family pictures so much.

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: How 'Bout Dem Broncos

We're finally letting out a big sigh of relief this morning.

Coloradoans and Broncos fans everywhere collectively held their breath until the last minute of the Superbowl. (Final score: Denver 24, Carolina 10.) True to form this season, the Broncs went out and did their job. Over and over and over again. Particularly the defense. 
     Cam Newton showed his admiration by a sulky interview that made him look like a spoiled brat. (One pundit excused him by saying he could hear Harris expounding on the Broncos' victory -- and after all, who would want to listen to that behind you, while you were talking out front. Uh huh. Sure.)
     I am amazed at all the media types who are now announcing how wonderful the Broncos are, how they knew it all the time, etc etc. Months went by this season, without our boys being able to get a fair shake...let alone any respect.
    Well, now they've got plenty.

Back in Internet-land:

Helping someone who's had a miscarriage. Spoken by someone who just went through this heartrending experience. (From Red and Honey) And building on this...

Struggling with grief -- and infertility. Another struggling post by someone who knows what it feels like. (From I Pick Up Pennies)

What blue-eyed people have in common. Yes, I am one.

A fire-scrumble. Intriguing... from Scrumble-Art. (Yes, there's more at this blog.)

The lives and lies of a con man. Who's currently in the slammer, but trying to bluff his way out...again. (Apparently he's very, very good at it.)

Was the man sucked out of a plane in Somalia really a suicide bomber whose scheme backfired?   Investigators are saying so.

The woman who got her dog back after TEN YEARS. The ex had told her it was dead. (From Life with Dogs)

A very interesting discussion of John Giduck's claimed military service and experience. Is he what he says he is...or is this a case of Stolen Valor? You decide.

A Botswanan prince and a young British clerk...and the marriage which endured, in spite of all odds. (Their story is coming out as a movie soon.)

Sneaky ways to save pennies. Keep reading this forum, and those pennies will add up to dollars.
    (This was the second thread on the subject -- here's the first thread, if you're enjoying it. What's even more important: learning from it.)

Updates on ten viral stories. The male kangaroo cradling his dying mate? He may well have been the one to kill her. Also included -- more on the guy who found the ambergris, mentioned in this post. Only it wasn't... (from Listverse)

Repatriating human remains -- museums aren't doing this as quickly as they would have us believe. In keeping with that, did you know that people used to throw:

Mummy unwrapping parties -- the lowdown.

A secret motor found inside the frame of a bicycle -- and its rider was competing in the World Championships in Belgium. It's all a horrible mistake, the 19-year-old says. The bike was a friend's, given her by mistake. Her bike looks just like the doctored one. (Uh huh. Look at the comments about that in this post.)

Update a thrift shop painting by adding something to it -- an intriguing diy from Country Living. (Just make sure it's not worth a bazillion dollars first.) Speaking of:

A whole blog dedicated to weird thriftshop finds. Page after page, year after year. I only wish she was still contributing to it. And if you enjoyed that...

A BUNCH of thrift shop makeovers that are really clever. Like a teacup bird feeder. (From DIY Inspired)

Eleven ways to make money -- without doing anything.

The ISIS bombmaker who's happy to rig up 'suicide vests' for others, but would never put one on himself.
    “I never thought of killing myself, I am not convinced to kill myself,” he said. “Actually I would leave or escape if they gave me this order. I wouldn’t explode myself. That is another level of faith."

And, in honor of the Superbowl:

25 examples of Peyton Manning's super-competitive nature. Not that we didn't know this already...

Have a great week. We are, here in Colorado. GO BRONCOS!

They Did It!

The Denver Broncos -- 

        Super Bowl Champions.  

All right, guys!  You got it...because you worked for it. 


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Can You Play the Guitar Like This?

The Brick, thanks to our guitar-playing friend Jon, found Luca Stricagnoli plying his art on Youtube.

 This guy uses other instruments and techniques while adding a bow in his version of "Last of the Mohicans."

Take a look -- wow.

Find out more about this Italian on his personal website, as well as Candyrat Records.

Superbowl's Tomorrow...

Go, Broncos!! We're rooting for ya!

Even if you're not a fan, you might want to take advantage of one of these fast food deals, to celebrate the Superbowl. (Although most of these, with the exception of Papa John's, don't seem to be that 'special.')

(Castle Rock, CO star photo from KOAA5, via Facebook)