American road classics: Indian motorcycles

An Indian single cylinder motorcycle, 1912, Hendee Manufacturing Co., is in the collection of the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History. Photo courtesy of Springfield Museums Corporation

NEW YORK — The story of the iconic Indian motorcycle began in 1901 in Springfield, Mass., when bicycle maker, racing promoter, and former racing champion George Hendee hired Oscar Hedstrom to build gasoline engine-powered bikes as a way to pace bicycle races. Hendee had previously started and run a bicycle company. In 1902, the first Indian motorcycle was sold. That same year, an “Indian” made its public racing debut, winning a competition that started in Boston and finished in New York City.

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Birdland: Martin Brothers’ pricey avians

On March 8, 2014, Morphy Auctions in Denver, Pennsylvania held a sale featuring these two Martin Brothers birds, dated 1907 and 1908, respectively. They sold for $26,400 (left) and $27,600. Morphy Auctions image

NEW YORK – It isn’t often that the words “grotesque” and “highly collectible” are used to describe decorative objects, but such is the case with Martin Brothers birds. The wildly eccentric stoneware avians were the offbeat creations of British siblings who operated from several locations between 1873 and 1923, although little was produced during or after World War I. “Grotesques” was the common (and affectionate) term often used to describe their offbeat flock.

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Portrait miniatures: personal mementos

Pair of American School folk art miniature portraits of a mother and daughter, circa 1830, 2⅛in, sold at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates for $55,000 in November 2017. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates and LiveAuctioneers

NEW YORK – Long before we carried around photos of family and friends on our phones, there were portrait miniatures. First used to decorate handwritten books in the 1500s, miniatures were then framed and, owing to their size, well suited to be carried around by people whether as tokens of worship, loyalty to a king or queen or as a cherished reminder of a loved one. Portrait miniatures were immediately popular and still are today.

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Red Grooms: father of the sculpto-pictorama

NEW YORK – Although the mane of fiery red hair that gave him his nickname as a young man has gone white over his 81 years, Red Grooms is as much a provocateur and firecracker today as he has ever been. He has spent his career distilling pop culture into his art, incorporating sports, political figures and other aspects of daily life – always with his customary dash of humor and whimsy. In nearly five decades of creating art, Grooms has effortlessly mastered a variety of artistic disciplines, from painting and sculpture to printmaking, filmmaking and theater design. He even did a stint as a performance artist in the late 1950s, mounting innovative art “happenings.”

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Early gum vendors: penny per chew

This rare five-cent Caille Liberty Package gum slot machine, circa 1905-1910, sold for $105,000 at Dan Morphy Auctions in January 2017. Photo courtesy of Morphy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

NEW YORK – The highlight of going to the supermarket with Mom as a youngster was being given a nickel or a coin to put into a candy machine and be rewarded with a brightly colored gumball of sweet goodness. In the modern era the machines are fairly utilitarian, but a century earlier these machines were artistic, often featuring smiling or frowning clowns and bold wording. They were produced in countertop and floor models.

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Vinyl records hit all the right notes

This 45 of John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over) is pressed on green vinyl. It’s a common record, but if you’re looking for colored vinyl collections, this is a good one to start searching for. Photo courtesy of Chuck Miller

NEW YORK — Digital downloading has forever changed the music industry, but the interest in vinyl is on the uptick. Some music labels, especially small indies, even continue to release new music on vinyl. For collectors, there is a thrill to removing a record from its artfully-adorned jacket and placing it on a turntable to enjoy. It’s an experience that cannot be matched by downloads from iTunes or other digital-music services.

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George Rodrigue: a legacy launched by the Blue Dog

My Yellow Oak, oil on canvas, 2002, signed lower left, 36 by 48 inches, fetched $80,000 at New Orleans Auction Galleries in February 2013. Photo courtesy of New Orleans Auction Galleries and LiveAuctioneers

NEW YORK — George Rodrigue (1944-2013) created art that has its roots in the Cajun country of southwest Louisiana, where he was born and raised, but his legacy in the art world is wholly as an American artist, not just as a Louisiana regional painter. His body of work has sometimes been unfairly reduced to just the whimsical Blue Dog paintings, but his career was much deeper and more layered.

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Canes: once a gentleman’s fashion staple

This gold quartz 1866 presentation cane earned $32,000 at Dan Morphy Auctions in January 2018. Photo courtesy of Dan Morphy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

NEW YORK — In years past, a cane, or walking stick, wasn’t just an aid to mobility; it was more of a gentleman’s fashion accessory.

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The force is strong with Star Wars collectors

A full-size working replica of Luke Skywalker’s X-34 Landspeeder from the 1977 film Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope realized $32,500 at GWS Auctions Inc., in March 2018. Photo courtesy of GWS Auctions Inc., and LiveAuctioneers

NEW YORK — There’s a universe of collectors monitoring the auction marketplace for rare and desirable Star Wars memorabilia, from action figures and pinball machines to toys, games, LEGO sets, movie posters and even housewares. The Star Wars phenomenon began on May 25, 1977, when the film Star Wars — later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV— A New Hope — opened in theaters to rave reviews. It went on to win seven Oscars and rake in nearly $800 million dollars worldwide.

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North Carolina pottery: a centuries-old tradition

A rare and important Alamance County, N.C. redware sugar jar sold for $50,000 at Crocker Farm in October 2017. Photo courtesy of Crocker Farm and LiveAuctioneers

NEW YORK — North Carolina has a long and rich history in pottery-making with over 1,000 potters plying their craft in the state today. Given the state’s abundance of clay deposits, it was only natural for pottery to take a foothold here. Native Americans began shaping coil pottery and when British citizens settled here, they embraced the art of pottery and began turning out functional and elegant earthenware items. From the Moravian potters who settled here from Pennsylvania to the Catawba Valley and the Piedmont and Seagrove communities, North Carolina pottery is renowned for its exuberant slip-decoration and lead glazes.

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