Antique button mania returns to Lion and Unicorn April 10

Large early 18th-century blue foil-backed butterfly button, estimated at $1,200-$2,500 at Lion and Unicorn.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Some of the world’s most desirable buttons will be offered at Lion and Unicorn on Wednesday, April 10 as part of its Florida Spring Time Antique Button Auction. Low estimates range from $50 to more than $5,000, with bidding available via LiveAuctioneers.

Helpfully tagged as ‘the rarest button in the auction’ is an 18th-century engraved copper example sporting a profile portrait of William of Orange. Although dated 1688, the year of the so-called Glorious Revolution, the button was likely made a century later to mark the anniversary of the Protestant succession. The legend reads Pro Libertate (For Liberty). One of a number of copper pictorials offered from the collection of Harry Case of Missouri, it comes with a mighty estimate of $5,000-$8,000.

Also from the Case collection is a large circa-1790 two-color copper mourning button set with a watercolor-on-ivory scene of a lady by a funerary urn, and a large early 18th-century brass button with a foil-backed reverse-painted image of a butterfly. Both in good condition, they are estimated at $2,000-$4,000 and $1,200-$2,500, respectively.

The National Button Society formed in 1938 and created a series of guidelines for the classification of antique buttons according to size, date, type, and status. All are laid down in the Official NBS Classification System handbook, fondly known as the Blue Book, which is still provided to each new member.

‘Large’ buttons are classified as those measuring between 1.25-1.75in, while ‘Extra-large’ buttons are those that exceed 1.75in. Another prize in the April 10 sale is an extra-large cut brass and steel picture button meticulously worked with a Commedia dell’arte scene of Punchinello and Harlequin. Estimated at $1,000-$2,000, this is the very button pictured in the Big Book of Buttons by Elizabeth Hughes and Marion Lester – the collecting guide that is itself something of a collector’s item.

When the first button collections were formed in the early 20th century, the focus was very much on these deluxe items dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Today, some of the buttons made during the Art Deco period are equally sought after. Estimated at $2,000-$3,500 is a large silver and sepia tinted glass button by René Lalique. Molded with the image of a nymph picking flowers and dubbed Floret, it is one of six button designs Lalique produced.

Tiffany Studios windows radiate beauty and stir the soul

A circa-1916 Tiffany Studios ‘Gabriel Blowing His Horn’ window made $85,000 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2021. Image courtesy of Fontaine’s Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers.

NEW YORK — The use of stained glass windows in churches to illustrate stories from the Bible dates back as far as the 10th century. Pictorial lessons for the masses were key as literacy rates in medieval Europe were poor. These colorful windows typically depicted Jesus, angels, and religious figures amid symbolic and venerated motifs signifying concepts such as rebirth, immortality, truth, charity, love, and purity. The practice of wealthy donors funding stained glass windows has a long history as well, and in the 19th century, patrons turned to Tiffany Studios when they wanted to make a statement while glorifying their house of worship.

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Ancient Gothic Jewelry for Modern Wear presented in New York April 3

Undated gilt bronze Viking man’s ring, estimated at $3,500-$4,000 at Jasper52.

NEW YORK – On Wednesday, April 3, kicking off at 2 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will conduct a sale titled Ancient Gothic Jewelry for Modern Wear, featuring more than 200 lots of rings, sorcerer’s amulets, pendants, and other jewelry forged between the 8th and 15th centuries by the Scandinavian peoples who, when they boarded boats and sailed far from home, became Vikings. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

First among the highlights is an undated gilt bronze Viking man’s ring, sporting an intricately detailed loaf-shape top or bezel with high angled ridges in a roped or spiral arrangement, alternating between smooth ridges and stippled ridges. Professionally refurbished, with the 24K gold surface restored, and approximating a size 11 1/4, the ring is estimated at $3,500-$4,000.

Another prize is a silvered bronze Viking battle axe pendant dating to circa 850-1050 AD and estimated at $1,400-$1,650. It, too, has been professionally refurbished, with the pure silver surface restored, and has been strung on a sterling silver neck chain to make it more easily wearable.

Dating to the same era as the battle axe pendant is a gilt bronze Viking woman’s warrior bracelet estimated at $1,000-$1,250. Its lot notes state: ‘This example accords with the examples found in Viking woman warriors’ burials which have been broken as part of the funerary ritual. Being complete, it was likely lost by the owner, perhaps in battle.’

Celebrity autograph book from Johnny Kan’s San Francisco Chinatown restaurant commanded $20K at Michaan’s

Kan's Restaurant autograph book, $16,000 ($20,800 with buyer's premium) at Michaan's.

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Johnny Kan (1906-1972) was the father of authentic Cantonese cuisine in America, creating a legacy among restauranteurs that is still felt today. Growing up with American Chinese food such as chop suey, Kan piloted the industry’s shift to genuine Chinese food, served from his flagship, Kan’s Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown, which opened in 1953.

So famous and popular was Kan’s that it was routinely visited by celebrities from around the world. As was the tradition, visitors would sign the red-and-gold Kan’s autograph book, and in doing so, created a living history of the restaurant’s worldly patrons.

The autographs read like a who’s who of the 20th century: Winston Churchill, Anne Bancroft, Terry Bradshaw, William Shatner, Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe, Monty Hall, Jack Cummings, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Groucho Marx, Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Goldie Hawn, Gene Wilder, Barbra Streisand, Chevy Chase, Dick Cavett, Michael Douglas, Andy Williams, Francis Ford Coppola, Chuck Woolery, Julia Child, Carl Reiner, Itzak Perlman, Ruth Buzzi, Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, Shari Lewis and her famed puppet Lamb Chop, Jimmy Stewart, Pat Morita, David Carradine, Lois Maxwell, Hubert Humphrey, Mel Brooks, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Joe Namath, and many more.

After Kan’s passing in 1972, a new proprietor took over Kan’s Restaurant and somehow the autograph book survived. It was offered at Michaan’s March Gallery Auction on March 15 with a modest $1,200-$1,800 estimate. So beloved is the memory of Kan’s that LiveAuctioneers bidders sent the action into outer space, though the final winning bid of $16,000 ($20,800 with buyer’s premium) came from the floor.