Opposites Attract Buyers

This weekend, we visited Pook & Pook Auction in Downingtown, PA and Rago’s in Lambertville, NJ. In many ways, these two venues represent polar opposites of the auction market in terms of product offerings.

Pook’s Saturday sale featured about 750 lots of 18th and 19th century American furniture and decorative arts. The room was filled with buyers; the phones were busy and the internet bought some items. Almost nothing was passed. Prices for beautiful pieces of finely made antique furniture and tall case clocks seemed sadly low. Competition was stiff, however, for the best examples of paintings, pen wipes (who knew?), quilts, miniatures and anything rare and unusual. The John George Brown (American, 1831-1913) oil painting The Monopolist, hammered down for $115,000 (plus 18.5% buyers premium) on a $35,000-55,000 estimate.

Rago’s Saturday sale consisted of over 1000 lots of 20th and 21st century furniture and dec art. There appeared to be more workers in the room than buyers. The phones and internet were active. Modern furniture by known makers such as Nakashima, Springer, LaVerne, Parzinger, Evans and Robsjohn-Gibbings were popular.

A Victor Schreckengost Jazz Bowl hammered down for the same price as the JG Brown painting at Pook’s, plus Rago’s 22% buyer’s premium. David’s estimate was $20-30,000. David presented quite a few “experiments;” decorations by offbeat or unknown artists. There were a lot of items passed or bought in.

Many an antique collector has lamented that “they just don’t make ’em like they used to.” 21st century buyers are proving to be savvy, as well. Fine furniture and art have been and are still being made today. It appears that modern furniture by well-known makers seems to be selling better than antique. Decorations that are cool or rare are selling regardless of their age.

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