New Fashioned Ways, Old Fashioned Results at Skinner

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Virtual auction “rooms” packed with bidders competing from the safety and comfort of their homes on a few early New England spring days drove a $1.28M result for two highly successful online auctions of American Furniture and Decorative Arts which closed on on April 13th and 15th. Overall, bidders embraced the online platform and operated with a familiar competitive vigor, often causing the bidding on a lot to extend far beyond its prescribed closing time. Satisfied consignors witnessed their property bring strong prices – good for any market – even in these unprecedented and uncertain times.

Samuel Lancaster Gerry (Massachusetts, 1813-1891) Painting of a Tavern in Ashburnham, Massachusetts (sold for: $12,500)
Samuel Lancaster Gerry (Massachusetts, 1813-1891) Painting of a Tavern in Ashburnham, Massachusetts (sold for: $12,500)

The April auctions presented material consigned to Skinner by numerous collectors and institutions from New England and across the country. These included a decades-old family collection from Chestnut Hill; a carefully chosen collection of Federal furniture from a gentleman in Salem, Massachusetts; a group of early decorative arts from an astute eastern Massachusetts collector; a selection of furniture approved for Deaccession by the Board of Trustees of Historic Deerfield, Inc. which benefitted the institution’s Museum Collections Fund; and an extensive array of material from an inveterate collector of cast iron objects, folk art and signage – some small and some very large but altogether very heavy! – who, to paraphrase him, was glad he didn’t live in the apartment below his.

Skinner is long-recognized for providing honest and trustworthy advice to potential bidders. More than ever, Skinner specialists’ observations, written condition reports, overall impressions, and thousands of additional photographs added to the online catalogs, provided the needed information in place of in-person previews. “We see to it that our bidders, many of whom we’ve known for decades, are well-informed,” said Partner/Executive Vice President and Department Director Stephen Fletcher.

Federal Mahogany and Flame Birch Veneer Inlaid Bowfront Chest of Drawers, northern coastal New England, c. 1815-25 (sold for: $17,500)
Federal Mahogany and Flame Birch Veneer Inlaid Bowfront Chest of Drawers, northern coastal New England, c. 1815-25 (sold for: $17,500)

The sale which closed on April 13th featured a pair of extraordinary and colorful 18th century needlework pictures (lot 82, sold for: $36,250) and rare colonial silver including an octagonal John Burt pepper pot dated 1720 (lot 7, sold for: $12,500) from the same collector, a small box by the ‘compasswork decorator’ of Lancaster County, Pennsyvlania (lot 166, sold for $16,250), and a labeled Simon Willard tall clock with an inscribed dial (lot 89, sold for $25,000).

Notably, several pieces of fine Federal furniture from northeastern New England, which helped define the sales overall, excelled, including a striking bowfront chest with figured veneer paneling (lot 148) which brought $17,500, a rare Massachusetts desk bookcase with two tambour sections (lot 91) which climbed to $11,875, and a pair of Salem sidechairs with carving by Samuel McIntyre (lot 130) which achieved $16,250. Furniture from the 18th and early 19th centuries made up nearly 200 of the offered lots over the two sales and 89% of them sold, an indication that there is still hunger and desire out there for fine examples of that type of antique American craftsmanship.

A variety of paintings also performed well – a scarce portrait of a tavern in Ashburnham, Massachusetts (lot 172, sold for: $12,500) by Samuel Lancaster Gerry of New Hampshire, a serene folk portrait of a young boy by William Kennedy (lot 178, sold for: $10,000), and a set of three China trade still life pictures in extraordinary carved frames (lot 118, sold for: $12,500). Also notable were American paintings from the 19th and early 20th centuries including a beachscape by Edward Moran (lot 224, sold for: $8,750), a quiet figural work by Edward Bannister (lot 216, sold for: $8,125), George Loring Brown’s 1835 Portrait of the Early 18th Century Faneuil-Phillips house (lot 87, sold for: $7,500), and a domestic scene by history painter Alonzo Chappel (lot 1676, sold for: $8,125).

Pair of Shepherd and Shepherdess Needlework Pictures, England, early 18th century (sold for: $36,250)
Pair of Shepherd and Shepherdess Needlework Pictures, England, early 18th century (sold for: $36,250)

An extraordinary and select collection of Staffordshire Historical Blue brought nearly $45,000, and was led by rare and desirable examples of “State” pattern pieces – a small platter with the arms of Massachusetts (lot 135, $5,000), a “Maryland” pitcher (lot 137, sold for: $5,625), a “Virginia” covered vegetable dish (lot 136, sold for: $4,063) – and the Esplanade & Castle Garden and Battle of Bunker Hill fruit basket set which sold as consecutive lots (142 and 143) and totaled $15,000.

The Flushing, New York, collection brought over $100,000 across the sales, led by a large Cast Iron Statue of Liberty figure (lot 260, sold for: $6,875), Coca-cola Bottle Fence Posts (lot 271, sold for: $2,250), a pair of cast iron horse-head hitching post finials (lot 1001, sold for: $2,000) and a bizarre fish-form downspout (lot 1153, sold for: $1,750), and was filled out by a huge variety of cast iron and other signs, architectural elements, and utilitarian objects.

The April 15th sale closed Wednesday evening and was big in smalls – well over half of the sale in both lot numbers and sold value. But there were successes in categories across the board. In addition to the Chappel painting mentioned above, $5,938 was paid for a Knuckle-arm Windsor Fanback Chair (lot 1397), and the same price for an early 18th century turned-leg circular top table (lot 1452). Two desirable early armchairs from Deerfield’s collection each brought $5,000 (1449 and 1451). A set of four rare Chinese Export Plates with magenta decoration (lot 1322) and a painted cast iron greyhound carnival target (lot 1244) also achieved $5,000 in highly competitive bidding. A couple of Amish quilts (lots 15741571) in good condition and great color brought $3,750 and $2,250, respectively, and a Thomas Danforth pewter sugar bowl (lot 1752) climbed to $2,500.

In all, both buyers and consignors continued to experience what Skinner has exhibited for years – an ability to establish broad and enthusiastic interest for well collected and fresh-to-the-market property. Even in uncommon circumstances, and using a modern format, buyers proved once again that they will brave new worlds to acquire fine antiques and decorative art presented honestly and carefully. Even more important, consignors who entrusted Skinner for the sale of their lifelong collections have witnessed that relying on Skinner’s long-established experience and deep market exposure pays the same dividends now as always. Skinner is currently accepting consignments for 2020 auctions.  

Skinner attracts top consignments and commands record-breaking prices in the international auction marketplace. With renowned expertise and extraordinary service, Skinner is the place for buyers, sellers and the passionately curious. Skinner appraisers are familiar faces on PBS’s 17-time Emmy Award-nominated ANTIQUES ROADSHOW. Visit us in Boston, Marlborough, New York, Maine or Florida, or online at

Skinner, Inc.
274 Cedar Hill Street
Marlborough, Massachusetts

About Skinner, Inc.

Skinner auctions draw international interest from buyers and consignors alike, with material regularly achieving record prices. The company’s auction and appraisal services focus on fine art, jewelry, furniture, and decorative arts from around the globe, as well as wine, fine musical instruments, rare books, clocks, Judaica, and more. Monthly Skinner Discovery auctions feature a breadth of estate material. Widely regarded as one of the most trusted names in the business, Skinner appraisers have appeared on the PBS-TV series, Antiques Roadshow, since the show’s inception. Skinner has galleries in Boston and Marlborough, Massachusetts, as well as in Coral Gables, Florida, with an international audience of bidders participating in person, by phone, and online through the SkinnerLive! online bidding platform. For more information and to read our blog, visit the website at, find us on Facebook at, or follow us on Twitter @Skinnerinc.

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