Wednesday, January 13, 2016


At the close of the eighteenth century, the newly born United States of America was a place of unbridled opportunity and optimism.  Americans were beginning to grasp the potential of their Democracy, both as a beacon of freedom and a rising economic power.  Symbols of the new nation were all the rage from the flag forged in the fires of the revolution to the Great Seal of The United States, first used officially in 1782 .  The new nation was quickly epitomized by the symbol of the Bald Eagle.

Over the last two centuries the American Eagle has been portrayed in countless stylistic interpretations.  It is truly ubiquitous, appearing on everything from U.S. currency to Harley Davidson motorcycles. My very favorite interpretation of this patriotic symbol is the classic early 19th C. Federal eagle.  These examples often have gracefully curved spread wings and an open beak.  The quality of carving is often masterful, with paint
decoration and of course gilding. 

Carved eagles are truly works of art.  Skilled carvers could transform a block of pine or hardwood into a detailed three dimensional emblem of their nation.  Surfaces with thick quality gilding shine two centuries later as if they were solid gold.  We have two 19th C. eagles for sale in our January 16th auction.  I am asking for our bidders to do their patriotic duty and bid early and often on these wonderful works of art!

Monday, January 4, 2016


The fortunes of war have placed more Japanese Samurai Swords in the United States than in their country of origin.  Following Japan's surrender in 1945, the US military undertook a momentous task, the disarmament of the Japanese armed forces as well as the civilian population of the home islands.  The occupational forces scoured the country for military weapons, ordinance, aircraft, naval vessels and field gear.  All of Japan's military hardware was slated for orderly collection and destruction.  This regime of confiscation was conducted to pacify the potentially hostile population and prevent any continuing resistance by hard line military personnel.

This program went beyond demilitarization and included the Japanese civilian population.  The people of Japan were steeped in centuries of proud martial tradition. Many families descended from the Samurai class which had thrived in Japan for thousands of years preceding the Meiji restoration in 1868.  The vestiges of Samurai tradition resided in the homes of their descendants, most notably in the mythical and iconic Japanese sword.  Passed down through generations these magnificent and lethal works of art were cherished and honored.

In the 1930's the government of Imperial Japan launched a program to revive the martial spirit of Japanese society.  Propaganda glorified the Samurai tradition, the Samurai code of Bushido became the ideological manifesto.  Buddhist temples were closed in favor of state sanctioned Shintoism. The symbol of the warrior class was venerated again and given a prominent place in society, the traditional Japanese sword and its proud tradition was resurrected.  Forges were rekindled and sword making centers thrived once more.

Sword smiths tracing their lineage back hundreds  of years crafted masterpieces in the traditional manner and design.  Every officer in the Imperial Army and Navy carried a sword as a symbol of rank and martial status.  The quality of these modern Showa period swords varied dramatically from traditional hand forged blades to machine made examples, all appearing in period military mounts.  Some officer's preferred to carry ancient family blades in modern mounts, in a sense bringing their ancestral pride and tradition to war.

At wars end all of these weapons were confiscated by the occupying forces, many were destroyed, but many ended up in the duffle bags of soldiers and sailors returning home to the United States.  Today Japanese Samurai Swords are ubiquitous in the estates of our World War Two veterans.  As a result, the availability of these beautiful and iconic weapons has spawned a large and appreciative collector following in the United States.  

It is not uncommon to see Samurai swords offered at auction Today.  We are proud to have such an offering in our January 16th Art & Antiques Auction.  One sword has a blade dating to the Koto period.  It is a graceful beauty, with a tang signed by the smith who hand forged it over four hundred years ago.  It is housed in World War Two military mounts and carries a company grade officer tassel.  A family sword passed down through generations and carried by a high ranking Imperial Officer during the war.  Another sword crafted during the war accompanies it, it is also signed by a smith working during the Showa period in the proud tradition of his predecessors.  Both of these works of art are offered to the highest bidder with no reserve on January 16th.  See you at the auction.

For photographs and descriptions visit us at:  JJAMESAUCTIONS.COM

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Greatest Generation

In this business there sometimes seems to be a sea of interesting art antiques and curious objects lapping at the door.  These things can be described, measured, photographed, researched and dated.  This process helps us to understand them, to know what they are, maybe even affix a dollar value.  Unfortunately these objects usually appear out of context, without provenance their story is unknown.  Where they have been, who has possessed them or the role they have played is lost to time.  They are simply the sum of their parts and valued as such.  

On rare occasions an item or collection comes with a History, the story is intact!  Provenance can be the real value, whether a work of art or an antique.  One of these collections with a compelling story has crossed our threshold and will be offered to the highest bidder January 16th in J. James Auctioneers and Appraisers Winter Art & Antiques Auction.

The group consists of military documents, medals, a presented pocket watch, a US Naval Academy class ring, a cigarette case and finally a sword.  These diverse items have a common thread, they belonged to a decorated officer in the United States Navy who made the ultimate sacrifice in 1944.  USN Commander James Kent Averill was an aviator flying carrier based aircraft against a determined enemy in the Pacific.  

Averill's story begins with his graduation from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1927, went to war and served on USN aircraft carriers, U.S.S. Enterprise and the U.S.S.Yorktown.  He was part of a team of aviators which set a distance and speed record for the United States Navy, flying in formation from San Francisco to Honolulu in 1934. For this feat he was presented with a sterling silver cigarette case from the "WRIGHT AERONAUTICAL Co", commemorating the flight.

For his service, Averill was awarded the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, and the Legion of Merit.  He sadly perished on takeoff from the deck of a carrier, his body was never recovered.  A telegram and letter to his family sadly announcing this event are also included in the group.

The collection serves to tell his story.  It is a true opportunity for a World War Two Historian or collector to capture a glimpse into the lives of the men who fought and died in this war.  The collection maps out Commander James Kent Averill's life of service and ultimate sacrifice for his country.