Auction Action In Cincinnati
CINCINNATI, OHIO – No one can argue that Andrew Clemens’ sand bottles are enjoying a moment. In the past six months, five of his bottles have sold at auction for a combined $3.5 million, with the current record set at $956,000 at Hindman on September 30, followed by two bottles, both offered at Skinner in late November, that each realized $852,500. The most recent of these awe-inspiring pieces – of which there are only about 100 known to exist – sold at Hindman on March 10 for $800,000, the top price realized in a two-day Americana auction March 10-11.
Is the market for Clemens’ sand bottles cooling? Will a better one come to market that resets the record? What we do know is that the most recently auctioned bottle checked many of the boxes to warrant a high six-figure price. It was of impressive and unusually large size at 10Ã½ inches tall; it had a highly detailed composition that featured several different and complex decorative elements, and it had stayed in the family of its original owner, so it was fresh to the market. Made in 1889, near the end of Andrew Clemens’ (1857-1894) life, the bottle demonstrated the mastery he had developed. It depicted on one side a coal burning locomotive at a railroad station, with freight cars stretching into the distance and another locomotive in the background; a solitary freight yard worker stacks pieces of freight. “N.J. Goll” is written in script below the scene. The other side is equally complex and features a central panel with the sidewheel packet boat St Paul under a full head of steam. A wingspread eagle clutching a patriotic shield and “E Pluribus Unum” banner is situated above the ship; interestingly, the bottle is one of just two known to feature both the eagle and shield motifs.
An unbroken line of ownership through Nicholas J. Goll’s family was outlined in the sale’s catalog. Born in St Louis, Mo., in 1840, Goll had a long career working for the railroad, working successive positions for various railroads before his last job as an assistant general freight agent for the Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul Railroad. At the time the bottle was made, a major arm of the Chicago Milwaukee and St Paul Railroad ran from Milwaukee, Wisc., to Rapid City, S.D. The line passed through Clemens’ hometown of McGregor, Iowa, a major transshipment point for Midwestern wheat as well as a regular stop for steamboat traffic.
If there were any excuses to be made for the bottle, it might be a small area of the lower decorative register that had been disrupted that affected the colorful ripples.
“We were not concerned,” Benjamin Fisher, Hindman’s director of Americana said. “Seemingly, it was a condition that had been there for a great portion of the bottle’s existence, but it did give a bit of a pause. I’d be willing to bet that it might have sold for more if that issue had not been there.” He was quick to say that the seller “is thrilled” with the price it brought.
Fisher noted that the field of serious competitors for these bottles is fairly small, with the buyer and underbidders being on the phone. He was pleased to see new bidders who left absentee bids. While he couldn’t identify the buyer, he said this was not their first purchase of a Clemens bottle.
The two-day auction offered 680 lots of American furniture, folk and decorative arts, with a sell-through rate of 85 percent and a total of $1,795,000, a tally Fisher said with post-auction sales would likely conclude at $1.8 million.
Two regulators claimed the second and third highest results in the sale. Clocking in at $68,750 was a Gothic Revival carved mahogany tall case astronomical regulator, made by the Boston firm of E. Howard & Co., circa 1860. It sold to a private collector who “has others,” Fisher said. The other was a Renaissance Revival carved walnut example that was taller at 126 inches. Made in 1880 for J.S. Townsend of Chicago, it was attributed to George Jones, New York. A trade buyer that Fisher thought might have been bidding for a client paid $50,000 for it.
“Provenance doesn’t get much better than that,” Fisher said, referencing a group of glass that had once been in the collection of George S. McKearin Sr, who, along with his daughter, Helen, co-authored the authoritative work, American Glass, which, despite having been published more than 75 years ago, remains a bible for enthusiasts.
An unidentified Midwestern institution that had acquired the pieces from George S. McKearin Jr offered 27 lots of flasks, bottles, vases, salt cellars, pitchers and decanters in a veritable rainbow of colors. Leading the group was an American pint sized circa 1824-40 molded flask in yellow green that featured Columbia wearing a Liberty cap on one side, the other side with an American eagle and the initials B&W. A New York molded glass flask in light sapphire blue made by the Lancaster Glass Works had a locomotive design with the inscription “Success To The Railroad” on both sides. Bidders took it to $23,750.
While Fisher could not disclose the identity of the buyers, he said they were “a variety of buyers, all in the United States, all of whom have a strong affinity for this type of material.”
The best buy in the sale was probably a Classical parcel-gilt, stencil-decorated, carved and inlaid mahogany tilt-top breakfast table attributed to Anthony Quervelle (1789-1856), circa 1825, which sold below estimate and achieved $13,750 from a private Southern collector. Fisher said a set of drawings from the Quervelle Archives illustrating a near identical tabletop and base, with wood choice suggestion, was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The tradition of livestock portraits was commonplace in the United Kingdom but less widely practiced in the United States. Two paintings of cows, both belonging to Gideon Sibert of Jacksonville, Ill., were in the sale. Both oil on board portraits measured 10 by 14 inches and had been painted by E.W. Dewey (American, 1850-1939), who worked in Illinois. Each were offered at $400/600, and both sold to the same buyer, with the portrait of a 3-year-old blue roan named Richard Yates selling for $10,625, while the portrait of a 5-year-old prize cow named Flora rode to $5,625.
The second day of the sale got off to a fun start, with more than 50 lots of coin-operated machines and games from the Lee and Paula South Collection, Albuquerque, N.M., which Hindman’s Denver, Colo., office had been instrumental in securing for auction. Bidders emptied their pockets for a Mike Munves one-cent high striker skill game in an oak case that stood more than 100 inches tall and topped off at $8,438; it was followed fairly closely behind by a Buckley Reliance five-cent jackpot dice slot machine, made circa 1937, that closed out at $8,125.
Hindman’s next Americana sale is currently scheduled for September 13-14.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For more information, 312-280-1212 or www.hindmanauctions.com.
Leading the sale at $800,000 was this labeled sand bottle, made by Andrew Clemens (American, 1857-1894) in 1889 for railroad freight agent Nicholas J. Goll. A large size, complex composition that incorporated rarely seen-together decorative motifs combined with a history of descent in Goll’s family to attract competition from a small but determined pool of bidders on the phone ($100/150,000).
Achieving $68,750 and the second highest price of the weekend was this Gothic Revival carved mahogany tall case astronomical regulator by E. Howard & Co., of Boston, circa 1860. It stood 95 inches tall and sold to a regulator collector ($60/80,000).
At 126 inches tall, this Renaissance Revival carved walnut tall case regulator clock was described as impressive; it had been made around 1880 for J.S. Townsend of Chicago, but came to Hindman from an Indiana descendant. It brought $50,000 from a trade buyer, possibly bidding on behalf of a client ($30/50,000).
The highest price of more than two dozen lots of glass with provenance to notable collector and scholar George S. McKearin Sr was this molded glass flask in yellow green that featured Columbia wearing a Liberty cap on one side, an American eagle on the other. It achieved $40,625 ($ ,000).
Light sapphire blue was gold for this Lancaster Glass Works New York molded glass flask that stood 6¾ inches tall and featured a locomotive design on both sides. Bidders liked its provenance to George S. McKearin Sr and topped it off at $23,750 ($ ,000).
This early American blown glass eating bowl in olive green, attributed to East Hartford or Coventry, Conn., dated to circa 1790-1820 and measured 3 inches tall. The Midwestern institution that sold it had acquired it from George S. McKearin Jr, whose father had also owned it. It ran to $16,250 ($500/700).
“The buyer should be very pleased with that price,” Benjamin Fisher said of the $13,750 achieved for this Classical parcel-gilt, stencil-decorated, carved and inlaid mahogany tilt-top breakfast table that was attributed to Anthony Quervelle of Philadelphia based on a set of drawings from the Quervelle archives that illustrates a nearly identical tabletop and base. A private collector from the American South had the winning bid ($15/25,000).
Several people competed for this eight-piece group of English majolica serving articles, which dated from the mid-Eighteenth Century and later. Provenance to H.C. Ehrenfried may have been enough for bidders to overlook condition issues; they sold to a private collector for $13,750 ($500/800).
Leading two dozen lots of silver in the sale was this small 44-piece Reed and Barton silver flatware service in the rarely seen Love Disarmed pattern, which soared past its $ ,000 estimate to sell for $11,250.
“Everyone loved those; we had two in the sale,” Benjamin Fisher said of two portraits of prized cows painted by E.H. Dewey (American, 1850-1939) for the cows’ owner, Gideon Sibert of Jacksonville, Ill. This portrait — depicting a 3-year-old blue roan named Richard Yates, realized $10,625. It was purchased by the same buyer of Dewey’s portrait of a 5-year-old cow named Flora, who paid $5,625 ($400/600).
This Philadelphia Chippendale mahogany bonnet top chest on chest had descended in the family of original owner Samuel Holcum (b 1763) and had been unsuccessfully offered in 2014 at Sotheby’s New York, where it had been estimated at $60/80,000. A buyer on the East Coast paid $10,000 for it ($5/10,000).
James Longacre Wood’s (American, 1867-1938) portrait of George B. Wood and Horatio C. Wood Jr, oil on canvas, 23½ by 29¼ inches, found a new home for $9,375 ($500/700).
“Those were so, so cool,” Benjamin Fisher enthused about an early Twentieth Century collection of folk art scientific drawings that illustrated evolutionary connections, the endocrine system, a map of the world with spheres of human settlement, two astrological maps, Omebic Life, Earth’s orbit and the solar system. A private collector snapped it up for $10,000 ($2/4,000).
Leading 55 lots of coin-operated machines and games from the Albuquerque, N.M., collection of Lee and Paula South was this Mike Munves one-cent high striker skill game in oak case. It brought $8,438 from a private collector ($4/6,000).
This 11¾-inch-tall Ohio script decorated 4-gallon stoneware crock from an Ohio estate will be staying in Ohio. It sold for $8,125 despite condition issues ($1,5/2,500).
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