Wednesday, October 30, 2013


In my regular work week I see hundreds of things.  Some things have a definite and finite value, for example, scrap gold and silver.  Simply weighed and assayed it is a math problem, a calculation with a numerical solution, the answer... value.  Many things however, defy a simple formula, a beautiful unsigned 19th Century painting for example.  Although we can estimate its value based on experience and sales records of similar paintings in style, age, subject and execution, the true value is enigmatic.  In real terms, it is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it and no more.  This applies to anything in fact, from a house to a bottle of California Cabernet.

Everything we sell at auction has a monetary value.  This value is simply the highest price bid by the last bidder.  I see many objects however, which have a value which transcends dollars and cents.  Some things have historic value, educational value, cultural valuenostalgic value Some things also possess a deeper value... soul.

Two of these soulful items came through our doors this month from two different consignors.  Antique 19th Century game boards.  One of these wonderful examples of American folk art was created from wood,  maple to be exact.  An artistic execution in curly maple, blond and darker wood, with a hand made check inlay make up this beauty.  The other is a wonderful reverse painted glass board in an oak frame. They are of a similar vintage and purpose.  What makes them most alike though is soul.

I imagine the place of honour these remarkable works of art held in their respective households over the past century or so.  They were passed down from generation to generation. They were venerated as each family recalled time spent as children and adults in fierce competition.  Whether a fast paced game of checkers, or a strategic duel of chess,  the laughter, tears, victory and defeat these boards witnessed give them that all important element...soul. 

Soul cannot be pegged to a monetary system.  It cannot be monetized in dollars, euros or yen.  But these boards will sell to the highest bidder Tuesday evening on November 19th.  You could write the next chapter in their respective lives and add to their soul.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


A gentleman crossed our threshold with a very large box of silver.  I am always thrilled to have precious metals show up, although often upon closer inspection I see the dreaded letters "E.P.N.S" or "Rodgers & Co".  I would estimate that for every piece of Sterling Silver, I see 20 pieces of electroplate.  So with this ratio in mind, I am usually a bit skeptical.  

As we began to unpack the box, the first thing I saw was a beautiful heavy gauge water pitcher.  It looked like early 20th Century Gorham, but I held my breath as I inverted it and made out the marks.  Wrong! It was signed Wallace, but also carried that wonderful word "STERLING".  Another Pitcher followed, this one signed "Gorham" and fortunately "STERLING".  Alright, I was beginning to get excited.  The next piece was a large oval serving tray.  It had a beaded edge and was heavy.  Underneath I beheld another one of my favorite markings "TIFFANY & Co".  I just love anything made by this legendary producer. 

The box turned into a second box and then a third.  Another solid silver tray appeared.  A beautiful Sterling flatware set was the finale.  Late 19th Century heavy quality from a rare and elite maker, with 117 pieces.  After we unpacked this collection and weighed everything, the total was nearly 400 Ozt of .925 Sterling Silver!  

These beautiful and artistic pieces generally sell simply for the price of silver they contain.  I am always amazed, as it is the biggest bargain in the business,  all of the artistry of design and fine craftsmanship comes free.  Antique Sterling Silver draws the eye like nothing else and we are always grateful when it comes through our door.  We will be offering almost 600 Ozt for our November 19th sale! Looking forward to seeing you at the auction.

Monday, October 7, 2013


An ordinary phone call.  The caller has an antique Victrola.  She attended our last sale and saw one sell for good money, so we booked an appointment.  As I pulled into the unpaved drive and came upon the beautiful lakeside home, my optimism began to soar.  I hopped out of the Jeep and sampled the air, a perfect 72 Degree Indian Summer's day.

I was greeted by a smiling woman, who thanked me for coming.  She explained that she was downsizing and was ready to sell some of her things.  As we walked through her home, I quickly realized that she had been a collector for many years, with a keen eye for the interesting, eclectic and unusual.  She explained that she was a veteran of countless auctions and estate sales over the years and simply bought things which spoke to her.

We began our tour in the kitchen, which was full of vintage gear, including a working 1920's "Sunbeam" mixer, with original bowl and a beautiful porcelain scale.  A stack of yellow ware mixing bowls and a super tin lot made our list.  Around the corner I spied a simply amazing turn of the century flip top Physician's cabinet, with black glass top.  This piece was in beautiful original condition, with a gold manufacturers label.  I just love a collection like this. The objects seem unrelated, except for the cool factor!

As we continued our progress, the collection began to show another common thread.  Most of these pieces were from the first three decades of the twentieth century, an epic period of American design and ingenuity.  In the basement an iconic example greeted us, an early Barber's chair.  I love this heavy metal!  The chair was a classic, with a Chicago maker mark, original headpiece and upholstery.  As I was thinking how great this would be for our sale, little did I know that the best was around the corner. 

As I entered the next room I beheld an amazing sight:  A colossal antique sidewalk scale towered over everything.  It was an absolutely superb example, the best I have ever seen.  Heavy porcelain over iron, a fluted column supporting a lollipop dial with reverse painted glass.  This piece came from the North End of Boston, where it enticed curious pedestrians for decades.  What an amazing piece of Americana!  I can't wait to see this baby in our catalog.

It was another great week of our endless treasure hunt.  I am ready to do it again.