1925 Michelin stone-lithographed poster leads our five auction highlights

Italian-market Michelin poster from 1925, sold for €80,000 ($87,040, or $113,115 with buyer’s premium) at Aste Bolaffi April 16.

1925 Michelin Stone-lithographed Poster, $113,115

TURIN, Italy – Italian auction house Aste Bolaffi’s April 16 Advertising Posters sale was dominated by its anticipated top lot: an Italian-market 1925 poster for Michelin tires.

Printed with the now-lost stone lithography method, the colorful poster measured 55 by 39in and featured an oddly turned-away Bibendum, aka the Michelin Man, riding in a Michelin tire while perusing a Michelin map of Italy and enjoying a cigar. Reading Il Cable Confort (the comfortable cable, presumably talking about the cables embedded in the tire rubber) and Miglora La Strada (Improve The Road), the legend information on the poster noted that it was Stampato in Italia (printed in Italy) by Reproduzione Vietata, the lithographer.

Estimated at €10,000-€15,000 ($11,000-$16,000), the poster received dozens of competing bids, finally hammering for €80,000 ($87,040, or $113,115 with buyer’s premium).

Yellow-ware Mortar and Pestle Emblazoned with the Word ‘LEECHES’, $832

Yellow-ware pottery store mortar-and-pestle display jar emblazoned with the word ‘LEECHES’, which sold for $832 with buyer’s premium at Hunt and Peck Estate Services on April 18.
Yellow-ware pottery store mortar-and-pestle display jar emblazoned with the word ‘LEECHES’, which sold for $832 with buyer’s premium at Hunt and Peck Estate Services on April 18.

In its single-owner Staffordshire and Ceramics sale on April 18, Hunt and Peck Estate Services offered an unusual little piece: a yellow-ware pottery store display jar in the form of a mortar and pestle, in two separate pieces, with embossed letters on the front that spelled the word LEECHES.

The combination of these details prove that the mortar and pestle was for a pottery store display and not an apothecary. While leeches have a long history of medicinal use and are employed today by doctors who perform tissue grafts and similar operations, it doesn’t appear that they were routinely ground up and crushed into powder.

Described as ‘unusual’ and ‘early’, the mortar-and-pestle set was estimated at $300-$500, hammered at $650, and sold for $832 with buyer’s premium.

Two Pieces of 1990s Chicago Bulls Championship Jewelry, $30,000

14K gold Chicago Bulls World Championship ring from the 1991-1992 season, and a 1998 Chicago Bulls World Championship 18K gold pendant on a 14K gold necklace, which sold as separate lots for $30,000 with buyer’s premium at Leonard Auction on April 21.
1998 Chicago Bulls World Championship 18K gold pendant on a 14K gold necklace, which sold for $13,750 with buyer’s premium at Leonard Auction on April 21.
14K gold Chicago Bulls World Championship ring from the 1991-1992 season, and a 1998 Chicago Bulls World Championship 18K gold pendant on a 14K gold necklace, which sold as separate lots for $30,000 with buyer’s premium at Leonard Auction on April 21.
14K gold Chicago Bulls World Championship ring from the 1991-1992 season, which sold for $16,250 with buyer’s premium at Leonard Auction on April 21.

ADDISON, IL – The top two lots in Leonard Auction’s April 21 sale were both sports-related pieces of jewelry, issued to mark world championships won by the Chicago Bulls.

The two pieces neatly bracket that 1990s era of dominance when the Bulls, led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and coached by Phil Jackson, won the National Basketball Association (NBA) championship six times between 1991 and 1998.

The leader overall was a 14K gold Chicago Bulls World Championship ring by Jostens, commemorating the 1991-1992 season. Estimated at $8,000-$10,000, it hammered for $13,000 and sold for $16,250 with buyer’s premium. The other item, a 1998 Chicago Bulls World Championship 18K gold pendant on a 14K gold necklace, hammered for $11,000 and sold for $13,750 with buyer’s premium against an estimate of $3,000-$5,000.

Both pieces of championship jewelry were consigned from the West Chicago estate of a longtime Chicago Bulls office administrator.

Hummel Possible Future Edition Off To School figurine, $3,840

Hummel Possible Future Edition Off To School figurine, which sold for $3,840 with buyer’s premium at Valley Auctions on April 20.
Hummel Possible Future Edition Off To School figurine, which sold for $3,840 with buyer’s premium at Valley Auctions on April 20.

DUBLIN, VA – The dizzying array of Hummel figurines released by Goebel Porcellainfabrik in Germany have been enjoyed by generations of collectors worldwide since 1935. Most are commonplace and possess only modest value for the collector.

That is not true for a small fraction of Hummels, called by Goebel ‘Possible Future Editions.’ These limited-run figurines are hand-decorated and fired, then presented to the sisters at founder Maria Innocentia Hummel’s convent in Germany. The sisters keep Maria’s critical eye alive and approve – or disapprove – of all possible releases.

The ones that the nuns flunk never go into production, and at least at one point, the handful of extant samples were routinely given out as trinkets to employees and others.

One such PFE appeared at Valley Auctions on April 20. Known as Off To School, the figurine has two classically styled Hummel children in a walking pose. Modeled in early 1955 by master sculptor Arthur Möeller with an incised 1955 copyright, its base is clearly marked W. Goebel with an accompanying 72/89 mark, indicating this was number 72 of a run of 89 pieces. It is documented on the official Hummel site as a genuine PFE. Bidders clamored for Off To School, issuing dozens of bids before finalizing a winner at $3,200 ($3,840 with buyer’s premium).

Replica 13-star American Flag Stitched by Betsy Ross’s Great-granddaughter, $7,150

Replica 13-star American flag stitched in 1907 by Mary Catherine Albright Robison, the great-granddaughter of Betsy Ross, which sold for $7,150 with buyer’s premium at Jackson’s International Auctioneers on April 23.
Replica 13-star American flag stitched in 1907 by Mary Catherine Albright Robison, the great-granddaughter of Betsy Ross, which sold for $7,150 with buyer’s premium at Jackson’s International Auctioneers on April 23.

CEDAR FALLS, IA – A 13-star American flag made in 1907 by Mary Catherine Albright Robison, the great-granddaughter of Betsy Ross, claimed top-lot honors in Jackson’s International Auctioneers’ April 23 sale. Estimated at $800-$1,200, it hammered for $5,500 and sold for $7,150 with buyer’s premium.

It seems that several generations of descendants of Betsy Ross engaged in the all-American pursuit of cashing in on her fame by stitching replicas of the first-ever American flag, which she is purported to have made in 1777. The lot notes for the example offered at Jackson’s state:

‘Flags made by Robison are much rarer than the flags made by her mother. It is understood that Betsy’s granddaughter Rachel Wilson Albright began making little flags for tourists in the East Wing of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, possibly around the centennial of 1876 but certainly by the end of the 19th century. Her daughter Mary Catherine and niece Sarah Wilson joined in the making of flags. Records indicate that the sale of these flags was in support of the American Flag House and Betsy Ross Memorial Association. Both Rachel Wilson Albright and her daughter, the maker of this flag, are buried in Fort Madison, Iowa.’

Jewelry, silver, and art highlight Stephenson’s Spring Decorative Arts sale May 31

Alphonse Mucha Job Cigarette Papers Poster, estimated at $3,000-$5,000 at Stephenson's.

SOUTHAMPTON, PA — Nearly 500 lots of jewelry, silver, and artworks are featured in Stephenson Auction‘s Spring Decorative Arts sale on Friday, May 31. The complete catalog is available for review and bidding now at LiveAuctioneers.

The sale is topped by a 14K yellow and white gold diamond engagement ring with one round transitional-cut diamond weighting 2.39 carats. In very good condition with no visible defects, Stephenson’s estimates it at $3,000-$5,000.

Next up is a 19th-century French color lithograph for JOB (Joseph Bardou Company) cigarette papers. With artwork by Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) depicting a woman with a cigarette in her hand against a background featuring JOB monograms, it comes complete with Ursula Hobson Fine Art Framing. Previously sold in 1994 at Freeman’s, it carries a $3,000-$5,000 estimate.

Fans of antique silver will take note of this Hunt and Roskell English sterling silver swing tea kettle on a matching stand. The kettle boasts an elaborate chased and engraved floral design with an engraved Arbuthnot family crest and an acorn finial on its lid. Dating to 1844, the kettle and stand have a $2,000-$3,000 estimate.

Nineteenth-century photographs of San Francisco document the impact of the California Gold Rush at Freeman’s Hindman May 31

Daguerreotype of the southeast corner of Front and Sacramento Streets in San Francisco circa 1852-1853, estimated at $30,000-$50,000 at Freeman's Hindman.

CINCINNATI — Two utterly remarkable photographs will be featured lots at Freeman’s Hindman as part of the American Historical Ephemera & Photography sale on Friday, May 31. The complete catalog is now available for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

This whole-plate daguerreotype of San Francisco, California has been dated by the auction house to circa 1852-1853 based on the company names appearing in period business directories. The location is the southeast corner of Front and Sacramento Streets at the height of the Gold Rush. The large number of wooden beams in the foreground are believed to have been salvaged from ships that were abandoned at the San Francisco waterfront as crews came ashore to search for gold in the Sierras. Merchants such as those depicted in the daguerreotype would hire crews to dismantle the abandoned ships and then sell the wood to local builders.

Prior to the Gold Rush, San Francisco was a sleepy town with a population in the hundreds. By the time that this photo is believed to have been taken, its growth had exploded, and demand for building materials had skyrocketed. The image’s exceptional clarity and minute detail make this daguerreotype of San Francisco one of the most important ones to appear at auction in decades. It is estimated at $30,000-$50,000.

Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) was an Englishman who came to San Francisco after 1850 and became one of the 19th century’s most respected pioneers in the new art form of photography. This series of 11 photographs, captured in June or July of 1877, were taken by Muybridge from the top of an unfinished tower at California Street Hill, which is now known as Nob Hill.  The shadows indicate that the photographs were made during the course of about five hours. Despite the view’s vast scope, it presents minute details of city life such as hanging laundry, ships in the harbor, and shop signs. The 7ft panorama has been described as ‘one of the supreme conceptual and technical achievements in the history of architectural photography.’ It carries an estimate of $22,000-$30,000.

Colonial Boston engraving and Paul Revere war bond lead Early American’s June 8 sale

Paul Revere, 'King Philip' Bond signed by Boston Tea Party Participant Captain Joseph Lee, estimated at $20,000-$30,000 at Early American History Auctions.

WINCHESTER, VA — An original printing of a well-known image of colonial Boston will be offered at Early American History Auctions on Saturday, June 8. The circa-1761 engraving of a view of the city after a drawing by the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Pownall (1722-1805), has an estimate of $10,000-$12,000. The complete catalog is available for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

The City of Boston Drawn on the Spot by his Excellency, Governor Pownal is one of six prints based on Pownall’s sketches that formed part of the Scenographia Americana. The complete work, with a total of 28 copper engraved plates, is a legendary rarity, and as no copies have appeared for sale at auction in the past 30 years, individual prints are all that a collector can really hope for.

Pownall’s drawing of Boston, which was engraved by Pierre Charles Canot (1710-1777), shows the city from the vantage point of Castle William, looking across the Charles River. South Cove, South Battery, Fort Hill, and Long Wharf are visible. The auction house describes this as ‘the finest we have seen.’ A strong sharp impression, it is in excellent, clean, crisp condition, with its original plate line still visible to the outer margin selvage.

Governor Thomas Pownal, a skilled artist and trained mapmaker, was a longtime friend of Benjamin Franklin and one of the few colonial officials in North America sympathetic to progressive American causes as they arose in the 1760s.

This sale, titled Autographs, Currency, Political, Americana, also features what the auction house calls ‘a highly important piece of American Revolutionary War finance.’ Issued in May 1775, not only was this the first type of interest-bearing war bond, but the design, with a vignette of Native American Indian chief ‘King Philip’, was printed using a copper plate engraved by Paul Revere. A particular appeal of this printing is the signature of Captain Joseph Lee, a participant in the Boston Tea Party, who committed £50 to the cause. One of just a few held in private hands, it is estimated at $20,000-$30,000.