Thursday, August 11, 2016

Americana Auctioned: The Lewis Scranton Collection

Lewis Scranton, a Connecticut antiques dealer well-known for his interest in slipware and lighting (sconces, candleholders, etc.), put 395 of his choicest pieces in the hands of Skinner Auctions back in May 21, 2016. ("...his personal favorites from 60 years of discerning acquisition.") Baskets, jugs, plates, fireplace-related items and blanket chests, too.  Results were just posted:

More than a million bucks. 

Scranton had specified that the auction be held in his backyard, with no reserve prices. He didn't even want pre-auction estimates included. (Though they were.) Even with those loose parameters, a few pieces didn't sell: a toy motorcycle (#384), two toy autos (#385 and #388) and a hired man's bed (#324). Shoot, I would have offered a few dollars...

Maybe it was the size -- 74" x 50"

Interestingly, furniture prices, so devalued during the Schorsch Auction back in January, did much better at this auction. The pieces were generally smaller, in good condition, and generally lower-priced, without fancypants provenances or attributions -- all factors I personally think drove prices up, rather than down. (As the blogpost pointed out, "The auctioneers commented that smalls are beautiful, in this sale and in the overall antiques market.") Nearly all of the furniture stayed within pre-auction estimate ranges, with a few notable exceptions -- like this gorgeous tiger's-eye maple folding bookcase (#290), late 18th century, that only went for $4250. (Pre-auction estimate: $6000-8000.) Granted, I'm a sucker for this particular wood and style, so I may be a bit biased.

True to form, a large and elaborate candle stand, complete with said fancypants provenance, went for $36,000 -- but that was still under its $40,000-60,000 estimate. Impressive...I guess.

Needlework and textile pieces more than held their own. A silk embroidered parrot piece (#206, 9 1/2" x 12") went for $2100 -- within estimates, but I would have said overpriced. Samplers stayed within or above estimates, with the exception of an 1829 sampler (lot #208) that sold for $300. (The estimate was $400-600, so not really that much difference.)
     Other samplers sold for at least $2000+. Compare that, though, to what other auctions have brought for this style. Granted, these examples weren't that striking, but still...
Lot #208, 1829 sampler... poor baby

An 1832 sampler (#207). This one sold for $2200. See the difference?

The ceramics, as anyone would have expected, did great. Scranton had a real eye for redware, particularly. Even though some of the pieces had damage and needed restoration, they generally did very well. Even this "Cheap Dish," which fetched $4500.

#150, early 19th century. Go figure!

The one George Washington piece, an early 19th century redware platter (#228), was supposed to fetch only $3000-5000. It sold for $13,000. If I were you, I'd start investing in George Washington Americana. Remember: it did well at the Schorsch auction, too.

A few areas didn't do that well. Candle sconces weren't much of interest to buyers...perhaps most clients don't dare put lighted candles next to wallboard?? Baskets did okay; wood boxes, sort of. There were a lot of them, too.

       Paintings also weren't particularly valued. And there were some nice portraits, like this pair (unsigned -- lot #293), which went for $1200.

      Perhaps it was the slight retouching and spots noted. At any rate, they would have been valued -- and sold, I think -- for thousands more at the Schorsch auction. 

An 18th century crewel-embroidered woman's pocket, even with "wear and thread loss" noted, went for $3000 (lot #276). It was valued at less than half that price pre-auction.

Candlesticks of all sizes and types did very well, considering -- but again, Scranton is noted for that sort of thing. His personal collection would only contain the best -- and collectors/dealers would have known that. Too bad the auction didn't seem to draw collectors of fireplace tools -- or maybe those are just out of fashion right now.

     His metal toys did 'okay.' Most were 20th century cars and trucks, which stayed under $150. Most sold, including this fun 19th century Goat and Cart (#382). At $250, it was right on the money.

The 19th century Santa and Sleigh, however, did thousands better than its pre-sale estimate.

Pre-auction estimates for furniture seemed to be considerably lower than what I've seen in previous years -- which may be why actual pieces sold consistently within those estimates. It was hard to tell, after I'd picked through chest after chest after chest. (Scranton really did have a thing for those -- especially blanket chests. And chairs. The man LOVED chairs.)

Jugs, plates, platters and bowls were interesting, in wide variety -- and valued accordingly. But then again, with Scranton specializing in those styles, the right collectors and dealers were there to bid.

Take a look here at the lots, for your own stroll through Scranton's collection. It's good practice if you're a collector or appraiser... even if you're just a wannabe, at this point.

The Skinner Auctions post concludes:
     "It's often said that 'the antiques marketplace isn't what it used to be.' It is certainly true that collecting like everything else has its fads and fashions.
     The Scranton auction is Exhibit A for another truth: the best of the best is timeless, and will always find eager buyers."

Thanks to Skinner Auctions for all photos

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