“We knew the silver was special and of fantastic quality. There was great interest in all of the antique silver prior to and during the auction,” said Morphy’s CEO Dan Morphy. “Even when the bidding on each of the Tiffany lots reached $80,000, there were still four active players, and at $90,000, there were three.”
A New York bidder prevailed on both of the Tiffany headliners – a pair of circa-1882 sterling center bowls with wavy rims and footed, domed bases, which sold for $134,400 (est. $40,000-$60,000); and a pair of nine-arm candelabra that garnered $111,600 (est. $60,000-$80,000). All four pieces were richly chased and embossed with rocaille work and a marine motif that included seaweed, tritons, seahorses and mermaids.
After the auction, Morphy received several calls from silver aficionados who told him that the candlesticks had outperformed an identical single example that had appeared in a high-profile auction last year. “Apparently one candelabrum exactly like those in our auction sold for around $20,000 at one of the big New York auction houses several months ago. They’re obviously much more desirable as a pair.”
Another outstanding lot in the silver section was the 1899 Gorham silver martele (hammered) water pitcher with chased, embossed finish. The baluster-form vessel had been created for the Chicago firm Spaulding & Co., and was extensively hallmarked and identified in a cartouche under the base. Estimated at $10,000-$15,000, it made $27,000.
Morphy said the silver results did not go unnoticed by collectors who monitor silver prices through auctions. “In fact, we’ve already received phone calls from other people who want to consign their silver to one of our future sales,” Morphy said.
An admitted white-knuckler for Morphy was the lifetime antique armor collection consigned by renowned Hollywood animator and film director Frank Andrina. “Armor is very much a European-based collectible, and we were anxious to show that Morphy Auctions could tap into a European-based market. As it turned out, our targeted marketing was very successful. Remote bidders – many of them from European countries – kept our staff very busy throughout the armor section of the sale.”
A circa-1580 German two-handed sword, 75 inches long with a flambé edge and embossed markings, handily surpassed expectations at $21,600; while a circa-16th-century mace constructed entirely of hand-forged steel more than doubled its high estimate at $16,800. An Italian or German Savoyard-style helmet made to cover the warrior’s entire head and neck, with cut-out holes for the eyes, was expected to reach $4,000-$8,000 but went the extra mile to $15,600.
Frank Andrina’s wife, Barbee, was present at the sale, along with daughter Michelle, son-in-law Jim and grandson Jimmy. Although it was a bittersweet experience to see her husband’s collection move on to new homes, Mrs. Andrina was heartened to discover that two of the pieces had been purchased by a collector who visited the Andrina home in the Hollywood Hills years ago. “She was pleased to know that this particular collector now owned the very pieces he had so admired during his visit,” said Morphy.
Clearly, Feb. 25 was a day in which antique metals put Wall Street’s commodities market to shame. “During both the silver and armor sections of the sale, there were sometimes 14 and 15 phone lines in use,” said Morphy.
Antique and vintage guns attracted so many potential bidders to the sale that both parking lots at Morphy’s recently expanded facility were filled to capacity. “I think many had come to see the Leonard Reedy rifle sell,” said Morphy, referring to the spectacular Kentucky rifle made by a master Pennsylvania gunsmith who was active in the first and second quarters of the 19th century.
Morphy’s Rifles & Firearms specialist Stephen D. Hench described the Reedy gun as “immaculate from end to end, with a million-dollar finish that’s absolutely original and untouched. No one had ever cleaned it, and it oxidized perfectly.”
The Reedy rifle deserved special attention, so Morphy’s created a special brochure about it that circulated far and wide within the antique gun-collecting community. It paid off on auction day, Hench said.
The entire phone bank buzzed as the coveted firearm was introduced with a $20,000-$40,000 estimate. Heated bidding pushed the final price to a staggering $76,800.
Other firearms highlights included a Slotter Philadelphia-style ivory-handled and trimmed Derringer, $31,200 (est. $3,500-$5,000); and a Colt Lightning Model 1877 accompanied by an original factory letter, $24,000 (est. $7,500-$15,000).
The most surprising firearms-related lot was a 14-inch-long powder horn dated “1758” and inscribed with a fish symbol and the name “Zephaniah Butler.” According to Hench, the horn was decorated by a mulatto carver named John Bush. “Bush powder horns from the French & Indian War period are, to collectors, what Rembrandts or Picassos are to the art world,” Hench said. Estimated at $400-$800, it was bid aggressively to $21,600.
Many other categories hit impressive heights at Morphy’s Feb. 24-25 sale. A heavily decorated 14K gold bridal belt weighing 578 grams earned $19,200; while a circa-1878 walnut “coffin” phone from the William A. Daniels collection rang up a $12,000 winning bid. The selection of exquisite Victorian calling card cases was topped by an enameled sterling silver case adorned with flowers, bees and dragonflies. It reached $4,200 – four times its low estimate.
LiveAuctioneers.com was responsible for delivering an average of 28.7% of the successful buyers over the two-day sale. In total through LiveAuctioneers, 2,551 bids were lodged and 369 lots were purchased.
To contact Morphy’s, call 717-335-3435 or e-mail dan@morphyauctions. View the fully illustrated catalog for the Feb. 24-25 auction, complete with prices realized, online at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.
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ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE