Apple-1 still tops the list of most-wanted tech collectibles

 

NEW YORK – The allure of possessing No. 1 never grows old, whether it’s attaining the top ranking in college basketball or owning the first issue of Action Comics. Ask just about any collector of late-20th-century electronics and they’ll tell you the ultimate prize is a rare Apple-1, perhaps the most iconic of all devices to emerge during the personal computer revolution.

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Earrings, or ear pendants. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Style yourself: Holiday dressing at auction

Earrings, or ear pendants. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Earrings, or ear pendants. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

NEW YORK (ACNI) – I recently watched Advanced Style, a documentary produced by the creator of the eponymous blog that chronicles the personal style of women over 50: a purple, blue and green caftan topped with an orange scarf and pounds of silver bangles to teach an art class (llona, age 93); a red and black patterned skirt suit with matching hat, all made from African textiles, for lunch at the neighborhood diner (Lynn, age 89); and five strands of opera length pearls just because (Jacquie, age 78). These women walked down the street or rode their bike (Tziporah, age 63, in a Japanese kimono, 1920s turban and loads of coral necklaces) with the magic gait that only comes from feeling completely and comfortably yourself.

What struck me most was not that these women had better style than the majority of women at any age (they did), but how happy and vibrant they were. When the film cut to a shot of models walking the runway at New York Fashion Week or the latest ad for so and so brand, the young and the new were lifeless in comparison.

I was going to write about how statement jewelry makes the perfect holiday party accessory, but after watching these women excitedly fling open their closets, I realized that the only way to dress for a celebration is to simply wear what celebrates you – your creativity, your taste, your style.

We don’t have to put on a boring sweater when visiting our family and we aren’t confined sequins just because the invitation says “festive.” I can’t count the number of times I bought a dress last-minute because I thought I needed to look “holiday-ish” for a party, only to drag the dress over to Housing Works during my next closet cleanout.

I’m not saying to ignore all decorum and run around your grandmother’s house in one of those Gaultier bustiers just because you think they’re really cool (they are), but wouldn’t that moment of “ugh, what do I wear?” be a lot less stressful if we simply wore what we loved? Plus, when we feel like ourselves, we have way more fun.

I’ve found that the best places to find those “you” pieces that truly make your heart stop are auctions and flea markets. There is endless variety and you can buy a piece knowing that it is completely and entirely yours. You won’t ever fall victim to a “who wore it better” scenario, although once I had this serendipitous moment when a woman stopped me on Christopher Street and absolutely swore that the vintage floral skirt I was wearing had been her mother’s.

Here are the most special (I think) pieces coming up for auction that I can’t wait to wear this holiday season and then forever. But really, the best thing to do is explore for yourself. What have you always dreamed of wearing?

These Eleni Prieston earrings, sapphire diamond geode earrings, diamond enamel Buddha earrings, ruby and tourmaline earrings, gold earrings and coral earrings: Each pair is so special that I can’t pick just one. Earrings are perfect in the winter since they work when wearing a turtleneck or scarf (a bright cobalt scarf would look superb with those Buddhas), and these bright pieces add the necessary pizzazz to leggings and sweater days but are fancy enough for the fanciest party. Fellows, the auctioneer selling the gold pair, calls these “ear pendants” instead of earrings. That sounds so much better, doesn’t it? The coral, diamond and gold ones remind me of Christian Lacroix’s designs in the early ’80s, and check out those diamond spiders crawling across the geodes.

This black and white dress designed by Rei Kawakubo for Commes des Garcons. Kawakubo always garners acclaim for her avant garde ready-to-wear (remember her entirely flat Fall/Winter 2012 collection, full of two-dimensional coats and dresses?), but this piece is incredibly wearable, while still being adventurous, of course. It’s part of her Spring/Summer 2014 collection, but just throw a turtleneck on underneath (I would do a red or yellow one) and put on some tights – purple ones if you’re feeling bold or heather gray if you’re feeling a little less bold.

This Thea Porter embroidered and printed chiffon dress reminds me of what Anita Pallenberg would wear while spending the holidays in Marrakech with Keith Richards. Porter was an artist and designer who brought Middle Eastern style to London in the 1960s, and her clients included the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Lauren Bacall. This dress was actually inspired by a Celtic pattern and features Uzbek hand-embroidered sleeves. It definitely deserves to be worn with one of those pairs of earrings and some classic flat riding boots.

This hand-painted cape! It’s hard to not sound overly enthusiastic about this cape because just look at it. It’s velvet, from the 1920s, has Art Deco design brocade bands – and it’s lined in lame gold. This cape is an opera cape to be exact; meant to protect a lady’s evening finery. Honestly, you could just throw this on over a pair of sweatpants and be set for any and all holiday events. All joking aside, this incredible antique piece can be completely modern – I would wear it with a white tee, pair of jeans and ballet flats to a more casual get-together.

This Issey Miyake striped knit ensemble from the early ’80s. It will be completely comfortable – and so much better than pajamas – on Christmas morning, but will also look amazing (in a Grey Gardens sort of way) with a pair of red heels and a vintage fur stole. Miyake later become famous for his innovative pleated garments, but experimented with knits when first beginning his career. Steve Jobs saw his designs and loved them, leading the men to develop a friendship – and Jobs’ signature black turtlenecks.

The only thing more fun than bidding on a new holiday wardrobe is bidding on one-of-a-kind presents. These antique sketches of brooches, pendants, rings and bracelets (done by a designer for a famed jewelry house? It’s a mystery and that’s the best part) are the perfect gift for any fashion lover. Imagine each one framed and hanging in a bedroom or living room.

Happy holidays and happy dressing!


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Earrings, or ear pendants. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Earrings, or ear pendants. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Jewelry designs, 1920-1950, sketches and gouaches on cards or celluloid. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Jewelry designs, 1920-1950, sketches and gouaches on cards or celluloid. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Issey Miyake knit ensemble. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Issey Miyake knit ensemble. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Rei Kawa Kubo-Commes des Garcons dress. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Rei Kawa Kubo-Commes des Garcons dress. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Thea Porter dress. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Thea Porter dress. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Velvet and lame opera cape. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

Velvet and lame opera cape. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive

LiveAuctioneers' Halloween scream team, left to right, standing: Andrew Valente, Jonathan Harford, Torr Duer, Karl Hohn. Foreground: Eddie Fu. Photo by Erwin Hungerbuhler

Halloween: LiveAuctioneers’ team recalls the costumes that rocked

LiveAuctioneers' Halloween scream team, left to right, standing: Andrew Valente, Jonathan Harford, Torr Duer, Karl Hohn. Foreground: Eddie Fu. Photo by Erwin Hungerbuhler

LiveAuctioneers’ Halloween scream team, left to right, standing: Andrew Valente, Jonathan Harford, Torr Duer, Karl Hohn. Foreground: Eddie Fu. Photo by Erwin Hungerbuhler

NEW YORK – Some childhood memories, like being teased for a bad haircut or not being picked for a sports team, are best forgotten. But one thing no one ever forgets is a favorite Halloween costume.

Today being All Hallows’ Eve, some of the team members at LiveAuctioneers’ Manhattan headquarters came to work in costume. In blasé New York, you have to make a real effort to grab anyone’s attention as you’re walking down the street, but our colleagues in this photo probably managed to muster a few amused gazes on Chelsea’s gallery-lined sidewalks.

Some of those who didn’t dress up in costume today still took the time to tell us about favorite Halloween outfits and traditions they remembered from years back.

Camille Davis of LiveAuctioneers’ marketing department, said: “My mom always sewed my costumes by hand. My very first one was a ghost, complete with a metallic silver sash, and the next year I had a beautiful light blue and white gingham dress, just like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Being a kid, I always wanted the ‘cool’ store-bought costumes that my classmates wore, but I realize now how incredible my mom’s creations were…I definitely want to continue the tradition! Oh, and my other standout memory was that favorite house on our street that gave out full-size candy bars.”

Like practically every other kid since 1928, LiveAuctioneers designer Tiffany Moy was a Disney fan from an early age. “When I was four, I HAD to be Minnie Mouse for Halloween. She was my favorite and I just loved her,” Tiffany said. “My mom and I went out to look for a costume, but they were all creepy or poorly made so she decided to make the costume herself. After a couple hours of sewing, she called for me to come upstairs so I could do a fitting in the red and white polka-dot skirt she had just made. I stood on a bench while she pinned the bottom to fit me perfectly. It was was prettiest Minnie skirt I had ever seen.’

“She also made ears and a tail out of black felt and a matching red and white polka-dot bow. I wore a black blouse and little black patent leather Mary Jane shoes with white ruffled socks. She painted a nose and ‘pretend’ eyelashes on me, and we set out to score as much candy as possible. I still have this costume. It’s one of the few things I have that my mother made.”

Emily Pugh, VP content at LiveAuctioneers, recalled: “I grew up in a home that fostered creativity and using our imaginations. My mother kept a huge ‘dress-up box’ fully stocked year-around, so Halloween wasn’t the only time we dressed up. She put clothing, uniforms, and accessories in there from my grandparents, parents, and vintage items she picked up from time to time so we had a wide range of ‘costumes’ from different time periods. My grandma also contributed an old jewelry box full of costume jewelry that she used to wear (I remember a huge ‘pearl’ bug pin with gold legs, sparkly floral clip-on earrings, and brooches). My younger brother and I absolutely loved to not only dress up as characters but also to get into character. We transformed ourselves into the police (my dad was a policeman), hippies, and my all-time favorite was a group costume that we called ‘elegant elderly.’ My brother, two male family friends and I put on the finest ballgowns, shawls, velvet smoking jackets, wigs, costume jewelry (huge “pearls” and “diamonds”), glasses, top hats, and canes. Fast forward to 20+ years later, and when the four of us get together we still talk about it and address each other by our play names. My brother, who was probably under 10 at the time, liked to wear a pair of round vintage eyeglass frames, a shaggy wig, and cap and pretend that he was John Lennon. My mother also found a gorgeous blue satin vintage ballgown, so I used to pretend that I was Catherine the Great.”

Lucy Warren-Meeks of LiveAuctioneers’ UK marketing department, said, “Halloween is not quite such a big deal in the UK as it is in the USA, but my favorite memory was dressing up as Morticia from ‘The Addams Family’ when I was about 11, and my grandmother letting me borrow her very scary brooch, which was a real bird of prey’s foot clasping a large amethyst. I loved it so much. We went trick or treating down my very quiet cul-de-sac, and all the neighbors played along, pretending not to know who we were and being ‘scared’ of our costumes. We got lots of sweets that night!’

“At home my mother would make blancmange (a sweet, wobbly dessert made from cornstarch and milk) with green food dye, and add gummy worms to it, saying it was witches’ stew. We would bob for apples and play ‘wrap the mummy.’ We’d all be given a toilet paper roll, and the first one to completely wrap up their partner in paper (and use it up completely) was the winner.”

Tom Hoepf, associate editor of Auction Central News, said: “As a boy growing up in rural Ohio, Halloween and trick or treating was foreign to me. That changed when I was a first grader and our school held a Halloween party. The costumes my brother and I wore to that party became part of family lore. My parents raised turkeys in open fields long before the term “free range” became significant. The birds left many beautiful bronze-colored feathers scattered on the ground. After gathering up few dozen of the nicest feathers, Mom sat down at her Singer treadle sewing machine and started making our costumes. We decided we were going to be Indians. Trying on the beautiful Indian costume, which included a full feather headdress, I pondered whether I should have instead dressed up as a cowboy, like my hero, Roy Rogers. But after arriving at the party, my outlook changed. Everyone thought our Indian costumes were cool. The judges thought so too, as we both won top prizes for best costumes. We won again when we dressed up for our town’s Halloween parade. All we have of those costumes are some black and white photos taken with Mom’s Kodak Brownie. During spring cleaning a few years later, she discarded the costumes, along with our American Flyer electric train set. We forgave her long ago for that. Thanks, Mom.”

Chief Technology Officer Jason Burfield recalled: “Besides the awesome costumes, the thing that sticks out most in my mind about Halloween and trick or treat when I was a kid was carrying around a jack-o-lantern candy bucket. Not sure why, but I still love those things — way cooler than the standard plastic bag most kids use these days.”

As for my own favorite Halloween memory, it isn’t actually from childhood; it happened some years ago when I was a rock music journalist. I had a circle of friends who were famous – maybe notorious – for the parties we’d throw at the drop of a hat. The biggest, baddest party of the year was always our semi-legendary Halloween bash. Typically, there were more crashers than invited guests, but for one night a year, that was OK. The more the merrier.

On one particular Halloween night, I remember a steady stream of limos pulling up in front, delivering costumed revelers. The costumes were phenomenal. One of my friends came as a giant striped lollipop, a costume made out of spray-painted Styrofoam by two of our other friends who were department store window dressers. There was just one problem. She couldn’t fit into her car, even without the lollipop over her white leotard. She had to call a friend with a pickup truck and ended up being transported to the party in the back of the truck, flat on her back. Great costume.

That particular year I went as Cleopatra, complete with a gold asp headdress. My best friend came as my servant and followed me everywhere, fanning me with a palm frond. Her boyfriend, who was a football player, came as her servant and followed her around, fanning her with a palm frond. We were quite an entourage.

But to me, the most unforgettable memory about that party was the mystery guests who partied with us for most of the night. Like many others, they never took off their masks. So other than myself, no one else at the party ever knew they had spent Halloween with two of the Rolling Stones. And I never told them, even years later. True story. Happy Halloween!

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ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


LiveAuctioneers' Halloween scream team, left to right, standing: Andrew Valente, Jonathan Harford, Torr Duer, Karl Hohn. Foreground: Eddie Fu. Photo by Erwin Hungerbuhler

LiveAuctioneers’ Halloween scream team, left to right, standing: Andrew Valente, Jonathan Harford, Torr Duer, Karl Hohn. Foreground: Eddie Fu. Photo by Erwin Hungerbuhler

Halloween witch riding black cat candy container, 10in tall, sold at Morphy’s for $4,200 on Sept. 17, 2011. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Morphy Auctions

Ding-dong – Trick or treat! A look at popular Halloween collectibles

Halloween witch riding black cat candy container, 10in tall, sold at Morphy’s for $4,200 on Sept. 17, 2011. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Morphy Auctions

Halloween witch riding black cat candy container, 10in tall, sold at Morphy’s for $4,200 on Sept. 17, 2011. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Morphy Auctions

NEW YORK (ACNI) – Halloween comes but once a year, unless you’re among the many thousands of collectors whose homes are perennially decorated in orange and black. From noisemakers and candy containers to party favors and board games, anything that taps into childhood memories of the much-loved October 31st holiday is in demand with Halloween enthusiasts.

Legend has it that Halloween started as an ancient Celtic harvest and sometimes-secular celebration. In the 20th century, however, the holiday became more mainstream, without any ties to religion. The craze to collect Halloween memorabilia took off in the 1990s, due in part to the publication of Stuart Schneider’s landmark book Halloween in America (Schiffer, 1995). When showcased in print, the colorful items once considered post-holiday throwaways were given a new lease on life. Halloween items were reinvented as collectibles, and soon they began popping up on dealers’ tables at antique shows and flea markets from coast to coast.

Some of the most coveted Halloween novelties were made in Germany in the 1930s and ’40s. It’s a wonder some of them were even allowed to be marketed – like, for instance, papier-mache jack-o-lanterns – or “JOLs” – with rings to hold a candle in place. When lit, the candle would illuminate the area behind the lantern’s tissue-paper eyes. Because of their possible flammability, JOLs of that type would never meet today’s safety regulations, but fortunately that’s not an issue with collectors, whose standards have more to do with condition, color and imagery.

The gold standard for many collectors is early figural candy containers, which generally were designed with removable heads, so candy could be accessed. But there’s always competition for these sorts of items at auction. One particularly desirable candy container we saw at Morphy’s Sept. 11, 2010 auction was a 9½-inch combination “veggie man” and lantern, with parsnip arms, zucchini legs, potato feet and a fruit-type head. When its interior candle was lit, the veggie man’s paper eyes and mouth would glow. Against an auction estimate of $5,000 to $8,000, it sold for $12,650 (inclusive of 15% buyer’s premium).

Even when initially retailed, candy containers were at the top end of the market, pricewise. In the 1940s, smaller Halloween candy containers sold for 49 to 59 cents. That sounds cheap in today’s money, but not so much back then, when a loaf of bread cost 8 cents, gasoline was 18 cents a gallon and minimum wage was 30 cents per hour.

Jack-o-lanterns were even cheaper than candy containers and originally could be purchased in dime stores for as little as 19 cents. Not all were designed as traditional pumpkins with eyes, noses and broad, toothy smiles. Some of the lanterns resembled owls, witches, ghosts, devils or bats. Generally, the offbeat character lanterns are more valuable to collectors than garden-variety pumpkin JOLs.

After candy containers and lanterns, arguably the third-most-popular items with collectors are Halloween-theme board games. Especially in pre-Civil War times, people would host Halloween parties at home. Games were always high on the list of party activities, especially those involving fortune telling. Generally, the more colorful the box and board graphics are, the more valuable a game is to collectors. Naturally, rarity is also a consideration.

By far, the greatest selection of vintage Halloween collectibles can be found online at LiveAuctioneers. Run a search for “Halloween” and you’ll be amazed at what’s available: www.LiveAuctioneers.com

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ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Halloween witch riding black cat candy container, 10in tall, sold at Morphy’s for $4,200 on Sept. 17, 2011. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Morphy Auctions

Halloween witch riding black cat candy container, 10in tall, sold at Morphy’s for $4,200 on Sept. 17, 2011. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Morphy Auctions

Possibly the only surviving example of a veggie man candy container / lantern combination, 9½ inches tall, sold for $12,650 at Morphy’s on Sept. 11, 2010. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Morphy Auctions

Possibly the only surviving example of a veggie man candy container / lantern combination, 9½ inches tall, sold for $12,650 at Morphy’s on Sept. 11, 2010. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Morphy Auctions

Jack-o-lantern candlestick and holder, ex Tom Fox collection, 4¼ in tall, featured in Mark B. Ledenbach’s book ‘Vintage Halloween Collectibles,’ sold at Bertoia’s for $4,950 on Nov. 10, 2013. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bertoia Auctions

Jack-o-lantern candlestick and holder, ex Tom Fox collection, 4¼ in tall, featured in Mark B. Ledenbach’s book ‘Vintage Halloween Collectibles,’ sold at Bertoia’s for $4,950 on Nov. 10, 2013. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bertoia Auctions

1901 McLoughlin Bros (American) ‘Hand of Fate’ Halloween board game, sold at MBA Seattle Auction House for $501.50 on March 8, 2012. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and MBA Seattle Auction House

1901 McLoughlin Bros (American) ‘Hand of Fate’ Halloween board game, sold at MBA Seattle Auction House for $501.50 on March 8, 2012. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and MBA Seattle Auction House

Clockwork trade stimulator of mama duck in witch costume holding a duckling under her arm, 22in tall. Both mother and baby duck nod their heads and open their mouths when activated. Sold at Bertoia’s for $4,575 on March 29, 2014. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bertoia Auctions

Clockwork trade stimulator of mama duck in witch costume holding a duckling under her arm, 22in tall. Both mother and baby duck nod their heads and open their mouths when activated. Sold at Bertoia’s for $4,575 on March 29, 2014. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bertoia Auctions

Vintage composition tabby cat lantern with paper inserts for eyes and mouth, 4in tall (not counting handle), comes with lift-out candleholder. Sold at Bertoia’s for $2,074 on March 29, 2014. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bertoia Auctions

Vintage composition tabby cat lantern with paper inserts for eyes and mouth, 4in tall (not counting handle), comes with lift-out candleholder. Sold at Bertoia’s for $2,074 on March 29, 2014. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bertoia Auctions

Bo Eden Tillmanns-Ellison (American, b. 2006-), ‘Julia and Eric,’ 2012, colored marker on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

A Valentine’s tale: Boy courts girl? Not so fast!

 Bo Eden Tillmanns-Ellison (American, b. 2006-), ‘Julia and Eric,’ 2012, colored marker on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

Bo Eden Tillmanns-Ellison (American, b. 2006-), ‘Julia and Eric,’ 2012, colored marker on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

NEW YORK (ACNI) – The flowers have begun to wilt, the heart-shape boxes of chocolate have been picked over, and Cupid’s annual messages of love are now propped up on bedside tables or pasted into scrapbooks for future generations’ amusement. Yes, another Valentine’s Day has passed, but oh how the holiday has changed.

As antiques authority Terry Kovel wrote in her Feb. 13 column in Auction Central News, Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for centuries. The tradition of sending romantic cards became entrenched in Western society by the 1790s, Kovel says. Over time, the artistry seen in valentines has become more sophisticated, evolving from lacy, pasted-together cards of simple design to 3-D pop-ups and modern talking cards.

What will come next? If our youngest generation has any say about it, the whole Valentine’s Day process just might become a girl’s prerogative. No longer content to sit about waiting for a red envelope to appear in the mailbox, today’s young ladies seem to want a more proactive approach to courtship. Take, for instance, the self-confident message in this Valentine’s story written by 5-year-old Bo Tillmanns-Ellison:

The Boy and the Girl that Fell in Love

By Bo Tillmanns-Ellison

On Valentine’s Day, the boy named Eric was going to work in the afternoon. He was walking down the street and he saw the girl named Julia.

Julia was going to the bakery for a cupcake and a cake with her friend Rachel. Eric saw Julia first, then Julia saw Eric. Eric said, “Hello,” and Julia said “Hello” back. Then they wanted to get dinner together.

Julia asked Eric to go to Meme [her favorite restaurant] with her, and he said, “Yes!” They went at 7:30.

Julia had macaroni and cheese, and Eric ordered a burger, with fries and Ketchup. For dessert they shared chocolate ice cream with presents all around it. Then he walked her home and it started raining. Neither of them had an umbrella. It was a storm. They loved the rain. They stepped in puddles. Finally, Julia got home. Julia said, “Let’s meet for breakfast,” and Eric said, “Sure!”

THE END

This Valentine’s Day scenario, in which the girl takes the reins, asks the boy to dinner and even chooses the restaurant, would have been unheard of in previous generations. But whether it’s the girls or boys calling the shots in future editions of Valentine’s Day, one thing we know for sure is that the very personal experience of choosing a special valentine, and the excitement of receiving one, will never go out of style.

Additional editorial written by ACN staff

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About Bo Tillmanns-Ellison:

Bo Tillmanns-Ellison is 5 3/4 years old. She attends school in New York City and enjoys spending weekends and summers in the Hamptons. Bo loves to draw, paint, collect shells on the beach, and watch movies. Her friends are very important to her, and she loves ‘all the princesses in the world, especially Princess Ariel.’

 


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


 Bo Eden Tillmanns-Ellison (American, b. 2006-), ‘Julia and Eric,’ 2012, colored marker on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

Bo Eden Tillmanns-Ellison (American, b. 2006-), ‘Julia and Eric,’ 2012, colored marker on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

Victorian paper-lace valentine with verse professing ‘True Affection,’ auctioned by Bonhams in Oxford, England, March 14, 2006. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Bonhams.

Victorian paper-lace valentine with verse professing ‘True Affection,’ auctioned by Bonhams in Oxford, England, March 14, 2006. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Bonhams.

This carved stone statue of a young man playing bagpipes got the April 24, 2010 auction at Kamelot off to a rousing start, making $5,280, with premium, against a $1,000-$1,500 estimate. Image courtesy Kamelot.

Profile: Kamelot caters to the castle-and-garden set

This carved stone statue of a young man playing bagpipes got the April 24, 2010 auction at Kamelot off to a rousing start, making $5,280, with premium, against a $1,000-$1,500 estimate. Image courtesy Kamelot.

This carved stone statue of a young man playing bagpipes got the April 24, 2010 auction at Kamelot off to a rousing start, making $5,280, with premium, against a $1,000-$1,500 estimate. Image courtesy Kamelot.

PHILADELPHIA – Before he got into the auction business, Jeff Kamal was a collector—who soon learned that auctions are an incomparable source of art, antiques and decorative objects.

“I started buying things at auction to furnish my house,” he recalled. “I realized that there were ways I could do a better job of it.”

At the time, Kamal had a successful career in pharmaceuticals. Friends were perplexed as to why he would give it up to launch an auction house.

“People look at auction houses the same way they do funeral homes,” he said. “They think you have to be born into the business and have it handed down to you.”

Kamal founded Kamelot Auction House in 2004, opening a 15,000-square-foot showroom in the historic Atwater-Kent Building in northwest Philadelphia. In addition to abundant free parking, the site offers ready access to major highways.

Kamelot grew rapidly by making the auction process easy for consignors and buyers. The house has a trusts and estates department, which provides top-notch support to banks, law firms, museums, corporations, and estate executors. Lots are staged in attractive room-like vignettes. Free appraisals are offered on most Wednesdays. Kamal, CEO and president, developed an international client pool through LiveAuctioneers.com, where prospective bidders can browse through digital catalogs, place bids and track sales.

To set himself apart from the pack, Kamal established a niche in architectural antiques, especially elements associated with the garden. That strategy quickly took root and blossomed through an annual sale in April, ideally positioned between the Chicago Garden Show and the New York Botanical show.

“It provides the top dealers with a great opportunity to replenish their inventory before the New York show,” Kamal noted.

The 2010 sale on April 24 got off to a cracking good start. The first lot, a Vincenza stone statue of a young man with bagpipes, resonated with bidders to the tune of $5,280, including 20-percent buyer’s premium. That’s five times the $1,000 low estimate.

A pair of Continental Neoclassical cast-led garden urns with ram’s-head handles, estimated at $3,000, fetched $13,800 with premium, taking honors as the top lot of the sale.

Along with such classics as urns and statuary, Kamal likes to offer the unexpected, as in the ancient fragment of a cypress tree consigned by an entrepreneurial Alabaman.

“She goes into swamps and drags out pieces of petrified wood,” he said.

The consignor’s sweat equity paid off, with the tree bringing $1,200, including premium.

Although the high end is strong, Kamal said many consignors are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the economy to improve.

“The middle of the market is still very difficult,” he said. “A jardinière on a stand that would have brought $400-$600 several years ago will bring $200.”

Still, the cream rises to the top. At the April 2010 garden sale, a fine example of a bronze and iron circa-1910 Oscar Bach conservatory table with marble top brought a handsome $12,000, including premium. Kamal noted that several years ago a similar piece garnered $8,000.

Every auction tells a tale, and the account of Kamelot’s top lot to date is a genuine human-interest story. The coveted item on the block was a bronze-on-mahogany pedestal of a pensive seated scribe titled Nestor the Chronicler, by Russian sculptor Mark Matveevich Antokolsky (1843-1902). The bidder in the gallery was an elderly tailor, whose family had been acquainted with the artist.

“He had saved all his life for this one thing he could cherish,” Kamal recalled.

Bidding quickly zipped past the $20,000-$30,000 estimate, with the tailor and a dealer on the phone from New York competing in an electrifying duel.

The gavel went down at $253,000, when the tailor had to drop out of the bidding.

“He was tearful—and the people in the audience had tears in their eyes, too,” he said. “Everyone in the room wanted him to win the piece, but it spiraled beyond his grasp.”

In September 2009, Kamelot hosted the aftermath of another drama, a high-profile, no-reserve sale sparked by the acrimonious divorce of billionaires Tim and Edra Blixseth. Bidders from 27 countries registered for the sale through LiveAuctioneers.

The Blixseths lived large, as evidenced by the antiques they collected to furnish the posh Yellowstone Club they built near Big Sky, Montana, including two 1875 sideboards from a French chateau, measuring 12 feet high and more than 13 feet wide.

Kamelot’s reputation as a resource for architectural elements has inspired a few unusual requests. When the Pennsylvania Lottery wanted to depict its mascot Gus the Groundhog as royalty, Kamelot got the call.

“They borrowed a bunch of big, important chairs that look like thrones,” Kamal said.

When patrons of the Philadelphia Art Museum are looking for help in transporting large sculptures and statues, curators frequently suggest asking Kamelot for advice.

“Having a reputation for being able to move heavy things isn’t always a blessing,” Kamal said.

View Kamelot’s fully illustrated catalog for April 24, 1010 auction, complete with prices realized, by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


The top lot at the spring garden sale was a set of Continental Neoclassical cast-led garden urns with ram’s head handles. The pair was expected to fetch $3,000 but bidding sprouted to $13,800. Image courtesy Kamelot.

The top lot at the spring garden sale was a set of Continental Neoclassical cast-led garden urns with ram’s head handles. The pair was expected to fetch $3,000 but bidding sprouted to $13,800. Image courtesy Kamelot.


In Kamelot’s brief history, the highest-priced lot to date was "Nestor the Chronicler," by Russian sculptor Mark Matveevich Antokolsky. The piece surpassed estimates by ten-fold, garnering $253,000. Image courtesy Kamelot.

In Kamelot’s brief history, the highest-priced lot to date was "Nestor the Chronicler," by Russian sculptor Mark Matveevich Antokolsky. The piece surpassed estimates by ten-fold, garnering $253,000. Image courtesy Kamelot.


Mother Nature was the artist that created this petrified cypress tree, pulled from an Alabama swamp and sold for $1,200. Image courtesy Kamelot.

Mother Nature was the artist that created this petrified cypress tree, pulled from an Alabama swamp and sold for $1,200. Image courtesy Kamelot.


This Oscar Bach conservatory table is decorated with a frieze of lions and castles and supported by bronze legs with acanthus leaf detailing. It sold for $12,000, including premium, at the April 24 garden sale. Image courtesy Kamelot.

This Oscar Bach conservatory table is decorated with a frieze of lions and castles and supported by bronze legs with acanthus leaf detailing. It sold for $12,000, including premium, at the April 24 garden sale. Image courtesy Kamelot.


One of a pair of similar monumental rosewood sideboards, this circa-1875 French piece with central cast-iron rosette sold for $7,200, with 20-percent premium, when Kamelot auctioned off the contents of an exclusive club following a billionaire breakup. Image courtesy Kamelot.

One of a pair of similar monumental rosewood sideboards, this circa-1875 French piece with central cast-iron rosette sold for $7,200, with 20-percent premium, when Kamelot auctioned off the contents of an exclusive club following a billionaire breakup. Image courtesy Kamelot.

Several advertisements have survived on this building in downtown Schenectady, N.Y. You can see a Uneeda Biscuit ad at the top; the Boston One Price Clothing House at the bottom, and Seeley's 'The Star' Restaurant, an 1890's eatery, at far left. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Documenting ghost signs – ads on brick from another era

Several advertisements have survived on this building in downtown Schenectady, N.Y. You can see a Uneeda Biscuit ad at the top; the Boston One Price Clothing House at the bottom, and Seeley's 'The Star' Restaurant, an 1890's eatery, at far left. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Several advertisements have survived on this building in downtown Schenectady, N.Y. You can see a Uneeda Biscuit ad at the top; the Boston One Price Clothing House at the bottom, and Seeley’s ‘The Star’ Restaurant, an 1890’s eatery, at far left. Photo by Chuck Miller.

ALBANY, N.Y. (ACNI) – They blend into the background, touting products like Pillsbury Flour and Bond Clothing for Men. They exist in big metropolitan areas and in small-town America, with such painted and fading mantras as “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco” or “Uneeda Biscuit, the Perfect Soda Cracker.” And while the products they pitch may have long vanished from popular consumption, their original advertisements remain visible – almost – on the façades and sides of buildings and barns. To collectors and aficionados, they’re known as “ghost signs.”

I discovered several of these ghost signs on buildings in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area of upstate New York. Many of these signs have paled to the level of near illegibility; others were painted over so many times, that with decades of elemental and environmental wear and tear, they’ve actually created multiple exposures, as one vintage ad competes with another for space on a plein-air canvas.

One of the most famous sets of ghost signs reflects the National Biscuit Company’s Uneeda Biscuit advertising campaign. While soda crackers were previously purchased in big barrels, where the customer filled up a bag with as many unbroken crackers as they could find, the National Biscuit Company advertised their line of “Uneeda Biscuits” – soda crackers wrapped in special protective pouches – with a million-dollar advertising campaign. Thousands of buildings were painted with “Uneeda Biscuit – The Perfect Soda Cracker.” The campaign was so successful, the signs were repainted over and over again, and today those signs are still visible, even though Uneeda Biscuits ceased production in 2007.

Another famous campaign was for Mail Pouch Tobacco. In exchange for a few dollars a year each, thousands of farmers agreed to have the words “CHEW Mail Pouch Tobacco” painted onto their barns. Nowadays, to have a Mail Pouch Tobacco barn is a status symbol in itself, and many of these barns have been restored, advertising intact, to achieve the status of historical sites. Mail Pouch also painted several brick city buildings in areas where barns were not found. Those ads have survived to this day as well.

Painted brick-face ads eventually were replaced by billboards, whose messages could be updated or replaced as quickly as a construction crew could roll out a new banner. Brick-face ads, on the other hand, had to be fully repainted by hand in order to stay presentable. Amazingly, these brick-face ghost signs often survive because the only way to really remove them is to either paint over them or knock the building down, removing the ad once and for all.

There are several tricks to capturing ghost signs on film. Because many of these ads have faded almost to nothingness, photographing these signs is best done after a late-day rain shower, where the colors have a sharper contrast upon the brick face. Other advertisements are only visible on cloudy, overcast days when one can best capture the ghost sign without direct sunlight burning into the ad.

The best place to find ghost signs? Look up. The tallest, oldest buildings often retain ghost signs that were painted on their facades 100 years ago. In an age before the Internet and billboards, painting an ad on the tallest building ensured that more people would see it from different locations. Sometimes a ghost ad will emerge after years of obscurity. A ghost ad I recently discovered in Schenectady, N.Y., had been blocked by the construction of a newer structure. When that second building burned to the ground, the ghost ad on the first building became visible for the first time in a century.

About the author:

Chuck Miller, a frequent contributor to Toy Collector Magazine and Auction Central News. His new book, Ghost Signs of the Capital District, (see book cover at bottom) is available through blurb.com:

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail1196331

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Other online Web sites for ghost signs:

Mail Pouch Tobacco barns: http://www.ohiobarns.com/mpbarns/

Lost Landmarks: http://www.lostlandmarks.org

Copyright 2010 Auction Central News International. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


One of several surviving Uneeda Biscuit 'ghost sign' advertisements, this one is on an apartment complex at the corner of 4th and Polk Streets in Troy, N.Y. You can make out the words 'The Perfect Soda Cracker' in upper left, the early Nabisco logo in upper right, and the words 'Uneeda Biscuit,' along with 'National Biscuit Company' at the bottom. Photo by Chuck Miller.

One of several surviving Uneeda Biscuit ‘ghost sign’ advertisements, this one is on an apartment complex at the corner of 4th and Polk Streets in Troy, N.Y. You can make out the words ‘The Perfect Soda Cracker’ in upper left, the early Nabisco logo in upper right, and the words ‘Uneeda Biscuit,’ along with ‘National Biscuit Company’ at the bottom. Photo by Chuck Miller.


This wall in Gloversville, N.Y. has been repainted several times with brickface ads; the ghost signs that still survive reference everything from Pillsbury flower to the local Chevrolet car dealership.  Photo by Chuck Miller.

This wall in Gloversville, N.Y. has been repainted several times with brickface ads; the ghost signs that still survive reference everything from Pillsbury flower to the local Chevrolet car dealership. Photo by Chuck Miller.


The only remaining identification that this was once a music store on the corner of State and Martin Streets in Schenectady, N.Y. is the remnants of the word 'Accordions' as a ghost sign. Photo by Chuck Miller.

The only remaining identification that this was once a music store on the corner of State and Martin Streets in Schenectady, N.Y. is the remnants of the word ‘Accordions’ as a ghost sign. Photo by Chuck Miller.


Signed Jean Knaeps, Liege (Belgium), this carillon clock with 24 bells has been rehoused in an 11-foot-tall Victorian oak case. Once owned by a clock museum, it sold at Tom Harris Auctions for $45,200. Image courtesy of Tom Harris Auctions.

Quest for clocks leads majority of collectors to trusted online sources

Signed Jean Knaeps, Liege (Belgium), this carillon clock with 24 bells has been rehoused in an 11-foot-tall Victorian oak case. Once owned by a clock museum, it sold at Tom Harris Auctions for $45,200. Image courtesy of Tom Harris Auctions.

Signed Jean Knaeps, Liege (Belgium), this carillon clock with 24 bells has been rehoused in an 11-foot-tall Victorian oak case. Once owned by a clock museum, it sold at Tom Harris Auctions for $45,200. Image courtesy of Tom Harris Auctions.

NEW YORK (ACNI) – Any way you slice it, time is money. The adage certainly holds true for buyers and sellers of antique clocks, especially those who bid online at auctions through Live Auctioneers.

Auctioneers are finding that collectors looking for higher-grade and scarce models are “winding up” at their sales online though Live Auctioneers.

“It’s the convenience factor. A person can save time and expenses by staying at home and bidding through Live Auctioneers,” said Tom Harris of Tom Harris Auctions, Marshalltown, Iowa.

“It you’re the winning bidder you have the expense of shipping, but it costs you nothing to try,” said Harris, who conducts antique and collectible clock auctions twice a year.”

Buyers save both time and money by searching for valuable clocks being offered at auctions.

“The availability of cream of the crop examples have prompted collectors to online auction portals like LiveAuctioneers,” said Dirk Soulis of Dirk Soulis Auctions, Lone Jack, Missouri.

Soulis believes potential buyers can accurately determine a clock is worth pursuing by examining its listing on LiveAuctioneers.

“You have the ability to post up to 10 images of an item, which can even give some indication of the movement,” he said, referring to the clock mechanism.

“The movement scares a lot of people. They want to see close-ups of the movement – very detailed,” said Jerry Holley, executive vice president and auctioneer at Dallas Auction Gallery. “They want to know if the movement is original to the case.”

Holley said that clock prices in general have slipped in recent years. “A lot of the American-made clocks are fairly common. Prices for the unusual, those in exceptional condition or by a rare maker draw the big buyers,” he said.

Kathleen M. Pica, auctioneer and owner of Auctions Neapolitan in Naples, Fla., said that clocks appeal to two distinct groups of buyers – collectors and individuals who are looking for a clock for decoration.

“For either group it helps to have fabulous-looking shots,” she said.

“Brand is very important. J.C. Brown clocks are very desirable for their cases, but collectors want the original works too,” she said, referring to the 19th-century Connecticut clock maker.

If pictures don’t provide adequate information, she advises asking the seller important questions.

Typical questions are:

What is the condition of the case?

Has the case been refinished?

If the clock is spring driven, in what condition are the springs?

Are parts broken or missing?

Have decorative elements been repainted?

“Surprisingly the question they don’t often ask is, ‘Does it run?’” said Gordon Converse of Wayne Pa., an auctioneer who has appraised antique clocks on PBS Television’s Antiques Roadshow for 10 years. Many collectors don’t often ask the seemingly obvious question about working order because they often have the ability to get a clock running with a thorough cleaning and oiling.

“They often want to know arcane details like the shape of the weights … to confirm their knowledge of what’s original,” said Converse.

Because clocks were in constant use, they are seldom found in perfect condition – finials get lost, glass breaks and parts stop moving. Collectors are not very forgiving, however, when it comes to condition.

“They measure the amount of restoration and it sells accordingly,” said Converse.

Soulis concurred, saying, “Most clocks have turned over a time or two since being in the hands of the original owner. A lot of people like to work on clocks and not all of them are qualified. Collectors want them fresh. … A repainted dial is the kiss of death.”

Pristine, original condition is the ultimate goal for clock collectors.

“That’s true whether it’s a hundred-thousand-dollar handmade clock or a hundred-dollar manufactured clock,” said Robert Cheney, director of Science, Technology and Clocks at Skinner Inc., in Marlborough, Mass.

“If the cataloging, condition reports and photographs are done right, collectors are pretty comfortable bidding online through LiveAuctioneers,” Cheney said.

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Watch for clock sales at these auction houses who us LiveAuctioneers’ Internet live-bidding services:

Auctions Neapolitan

Dallas Auction Gallery

Dirk Soulis Auctions

Gordon S. Converse & Co.

Patrizzi & Co. Auctioneers

Schmidt’s Antiques

Skinner Inc.

Tom Harris Auctions

Copyright 2010 Auction Central News International. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Dallas Auction Gallery sold this 18th-century English chinoiserie long case clock for $5,000 in September. The black lacquered oak case has gilt chinoiserie decoration. It has a brass eight-day time and bell strike movement. Image courtesy of Dallas Auction Gallery.

Dallas Auction Gallery sold this 18th-century English chinoiserie long case clock for $5,000 in September. The black lacquered oak case has gilt chinoiserie decoration. It has a brass eight-day time and bell strike movement. Image courtesy of Dallas Auction Gallery.


The blue orb held aloft by two maidens contains the movement of this French Louis XV-style clock, which stands 28 inches high. The late-19th-century timepiece sold for $3,000 in September. Image courtesy of Dallas Auction Gallery.

The blue orb held aloft by two maidens contains the movement of this French Louis XV-style clock, which stands 28 inches high. The late-19th-century timepiece sold for $3,000 in September. Image courtesy of Dallas Auction Gallery.


Dating to the second half of the 19th century, this French boulle cased bracket clock in an ormolu mounted case stands atop its matching wall bracket. The clock, which has a two- train brass movement striking on a wire gong, sold for $1,900 in September. Image courtesy of Dallas Auction Gallery.

Dating to the second half of the 19th century, this French boulle cased bracket clock in an ormolu mounted case stands atop its matching wall bracket. The clock, which has a two- train brass movement striking on a wire gong, sold for $1,900 in September. Image courtesy of Dallas Auction Gallery.


The original stencil decoration and reverse-painted glass remain intact on this circa-1830 American shelf clock. With carved paw feet and a wooden geared mechanism, it sold recently at auction for $574. Image courtesy of Gordon S. Converse & Co.

The original stencil decoration and reverse-painted glass remain intact on this circa-1830 American shelf clock. With carved paw feet and a wooden geared mechanism, it sold recently at auction for $574. Image courtesy of Gordon S. Converse & Co.


The reverse-painted glasses are original to this rare candlestick shelf clock, which has an ingenious ‘wagon-spring’ mechanism. It sold for $1,840. Image courtesy of Gordon S. Converse & Co.

The reverse-painted glasses are original to this rare candlestick shelf clock, which has an ingenious ‘wagon-spring’ mechanism. It sold for $1,840. Image courtesy of Gordon S. Converse & Co.


One-weight regulator clocks, especially American-made models, are unusual and desirable. Dirk Soulis Auctions sold this one-weight regulator produced by Gilbert Clock Co. in Connecticut to an online bidder for $2,090. Image courtesy of Dirk Soulis Auctions.

One-weight regulator clocks, especially American-made models, are unusual and desirable. Dirk Soulis Auctions sold this one-weight regulator produced by Gilbert Clock Co. in Connecticut to an online bidder for $2,090. Image courtesy of Dirk Soulis Auctions.


Close-up shows the carved dog’s head on the Gilbert one-weight regular. Image courtesy of Dirk Soulis Auctions.

Close-up shows the carved dog’s head on the Gilbert one-weight regular. Image courtesy of Dirk Soulis Auctions.


The Ithaca No. 3 1/2 double-dial parlor clock also gives the day and date. It sold at Dirk Soulis Auctions in November for $2,100. Image courtesy of Dirk Soulis Auctions.

The Ithaca No. 3 1/2 double-dial parlor clock also gives the day and date. It sold at Dirk Soulis Auctions in November for $2,100. Image courtesy of Dirk Soulis Auctions.


Stages of Christ’s life, religious figures, Greek gods and Christopher Columbus are all depicted in this rare animated Black Forest astronomical clock in a golden oak case. Tom Harris sold this extraordinary clock at auction for $50,850. Image courtesy of Tom Harris Auctions.

Stages of Christ’s life, religious figures, Greek gods and Christopher Columbus are all depicted in this rare animated Black Forest astronomical clock in a golden oak case. Tom Harris sold this extraordinary clock at auction for $50,850. Image courtesy of Tom Harris Auctions.

An Issey Miyake orange pleated minidress, sewn using only one seam, sold for $2,196 at Leslie Hindman’s April 19, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a pre-sale estimate of $700-$900. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

Today’s Market: Vintage Fashion and Accessories

An Issey Miyake orange pleated minidress, sewn using only one seam, sold for $2,196 at Leslie Hindman’s April 19, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a pre-sale estimate of $700-$900. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

An Issey Miyake orange pleated minidress, sewn using only one seam, sold for $2,196 at Leslie Hindman’s April 19, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a pre-sale estimate of $700-$900. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

It’s been awhile since I caught up on the vintage fashion auction market. It’s easily my favorite auction category, because almost every human being “collects” and wears clothing of some kind. Increasingly, whether purchased for a few dollars at a thrift store or for many thousands at auction, vintage fashion is becoming a wardrobe staple for all kinds of people. I think it enlivens us, makes us look more interesting. Surely it saves wear and tear on the earth’s resources.

When Wal-Mart starts having vintage clothing manufactured somehow, please let me know, and I will just throw in the (interesting, vintage) towel once and for all. Meanwhile, I have gathered notes on some upcoming auctions, followed by market insights by Millea Bros. auction house co-owner Michael Millea, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers’ couture specialist Abigail Rutherford, and renowned Los Angeles dealer Doris Raymond.

Millea Bros. auction house steps into the fashion spotlight

New Jersey-based Millea Bros. made their presence well and truly known in the fashion arena with a Nov. 21, 2009 auction featuring the personal collection of the late Lucia Moreira-Salles, a Brazilian-born philanthropist and top model on the Paris catwalks during the 1960s. Moreira-Salles – muse to the great couturiers Chanel and Valentino – owned a breathtaking wardrobe of designer fashion. A feeding frenzy ensued once the news surfaced that her clothing and accessories were to be auctioned.

Michael Millea, who operates Millea Bros. together with his sibling, Mark Millea, remarked after the opening session that buyers had shown strong interest in Chanel and Hermes accessories, such as handbags and belts. He admitted to being surprised by the results.

“In particular, I had no idea the Chanel sweaters would do so well. Some were bringing $2,000. I almost didn’t take the sweaters; now I’m glad I did,” he said.

Millea called the auction “a shopping paradise” for many buyers. Commenting on an Hermes handbag that sold over the phone for $18,000, Millea predicted with a smile, “I think some of these things are going to end up in Christmas stockings.”

Millea remarked that Internet bidding through LiveAuctioneers was “fantastic…there was a lot of participation. Before the Couture session even began, we had 850 left bids. We also noticed that some of our good clients [who’ve bid in person in past sales] were participating online through LiveAuctioneers.”

Established players: Doyle, Sotheby’s Christie’s and Charles Whitaker

A few years ago, Doyle New York was a leader in this field, with its regular auctions of couture and textiles. Now, according to Doyle PR head Louis L. Webre, with so many other sources of vintage available to buyers and sellers, this full-service Manhattan auction house presents only large and important private collections when they become available, rather than assembling sales from various consignors.

Fashion historian and author Caroline Rennolds Milbank is Doyle’s consultant for their couture auctions and held a signing there of her new book Resort Fashion: Style in Sundrenched Climates. She noted that vintage jewelry at all levels is booming and that Doyle has added a new category between Costume and Important Jewelry, called simply Fine Jewelry.

Sotheby’s, whose vintage fashion sales were once the province of the visionary Tiffany Dubin, has teamed up with Kerry Taylor Auctions for a beautiful sale coming up Dec. 8 in London, including gowns from Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe.

Christie’s London calendar, meanwhile, lists The Isabella Blow sale in March 2010. Isabella “Izzy” Blow was a beloved member of the fashion world, a vivid, singular personality who died in 2007 at the age of 47. Details of the sale’s contents are not yet available, but during her career as a Vogue fashion editor and muse-discoverer of milliner Philip Treacy and designer Alexander McQueen, among others, she accumulated a formidable personal collection.

Charles Whitaker offers a mixture of vintage clothing, textiles, and historical clothing and costumes at auction on April 9 and 10, 2010. The sale will feature property of The Historical Costume Museum, Inc, of Miami Florida.

A visit with Leslie Hindman Auctioneers’ Vintage Couture specialist, Abigail Rutherford

For years, Leslie Hindman Auctions has been holding regular auctions of clothing and accessories at its Chicago galleries, often featuring beautiful collections from private estates. A notable recent example was the wardrobe of Catherine Tiffany Abbott, a cousin of Louis Comfort Tiffany, whose highlights included early-20th-century French couture gowns from which the designer labels had been removed, possibly to avoid customs duties. An unmarked green velvet evening gown believed to be a rare Vionnet design sold for $5,368, likely a fraction of its value had it been labeled.

I spoke with Abigail Rutherford, the talented specialist in charge of vintage couture at Hindman, about market trends. “First of all, we are seeing a lot of interest in very bold and sculptural pieces, especially dresses,” Rutherford said. “Styles that are emblematic of the 1980s are huge at the moment. Buyers love designers from that period like Alaia, Chanel, and Claude Montana, whose designs feature aggressive shoulders, neon colors, and meticulous tailoring…”

Art-inspired clothing and accessories from that decade are sought after as well, with Issey Miyake’s sculptural dresses and colorful, graphic pieces by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Moschino and Versace selling very well in the secondary market. The look Abigail is describing is reflected on contemporary runways. She sees “an obvious interface between these looks and new work by designers like Alexander McQueen, and Christophe Decarnin for Balmain.”

Another important trend, according to Rutherford, is the popularity of heavily embellished costume jewelry by makers like the Chanel jewelry designer Gripoix, and Iradj Moini. Big, sculptural metal pieces by Robert Lee Morris are in demand, as well.

Rutherford’s clientele comprises a spectrum of serious collectors and museums – who would frown on seeing valuable archival garments worn as fashion statements – and women who simply love fashion and stock their wardrobes with vintage clothing.

For images and prices from recent Hindman auctions, handpicked by Abigail for this article, see below.

Doris Raymond’s fashion observations

With more than 30 years’ experience, vintage fashion specialist Doris Raymond has built a reputation as one of the most highly respected dealers in the field. Her Los Angeles shop calle “The Way We Wore” is perpetually haunted by stylists, costumers, movie stars, and the kind of teenage girl who raids her grandmother’s closet for Ossie Clark caftans. Doris has provided material for a number of films, including Walk the Line. Her private collection is legendary and her extensive by-appointment archives are used by top designers seeking inspiration.

Raymond shared her view on the current market for vintage fashion: “In the high-end range, it’s all about red carpet glamour,” she said. “In tumultuous financial times, celebrities and socialites are turning to vintage as an alternative to modern haute couture. Vintage examples of Dior, Chanel and YSL are just as desirable and [available] at more comfortable prices than their contemporary counterparts. Also sought-after are Alaia, Leger, Halston and Versace – from within Versace’s lifetime, that is.”

“Similarly, in the middle range, young girls are buying vintage dresses for proms and parties. Looks from the 1950s through1980s are being referenced right now.”

Raymond sees the influence of glamour looks from the 1930s through1950s in the collections of Prada and Marni, whom she says are both showing great 1940s dress looks. “John Galliano’s latest runway show reflects inspiration from the 1920s and 1930s,” Raymond said. “As you can see in any current fashion magazine, all fashion is derived from looks of the past.” She also mentions the contemporary practice among young designers of recycling and repurposing vintage pieces into new designs.

Asked to name a few emblematic items, by decade, that are au courant among serious collectors, Raymond responded:

1960s “Rudi Gernreich! An amazing West Coast designer who is growing in collectibility and [whose designs are] still wearable today.”

1970s “Halston’s chiffon evening wear is the ultimate in easy-breezy night-time dressing.”

1980s “Donna Karan’s power shoulders and soft wraps – empowering and now.”

1990s “Still up for grabs, but anything lifetime Versace, Romeo Gigli, Thierry Mugler is likely to stand the test of time.”

Doris also mentioned Gripoix’s poured-glass jewelry and “anything else by Chanel – a camellia, a quilted bag…” as being strong sellers now.

Given her extensive long experience, Doris is better positioned than most to predict what the It-Bag set will be clamoring for next: “Softer silhouettes, a la Gigli and Sybilla; and minimalism in both silhouette and surface treatment will continue to be a strong direction. If the economy continues to slow down, grunge will be baaaaack.”

Catherine Saunders-Watson contributed to this report.

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ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Circa-1990s Chanel couture evening dress, black silk chiffon, from the Estate of Lucia Moreira-Salles, NY. Sold through LiveAuctioneers.com in Millea Bros.' Nov. 21, 2009 sale for $2,196 against an estimate of $600-$800.

Circa-1990s Chanel couture evening dress, black silk chiffon, from the Estate of Lucia Moreira-Salles, NY. Sold through LiveAuctioneers.com in Millea Bros.’ Nov. 21, 2009 sale for $2,196 against an estimate of $600-$800.


Group lot comprised of five pairs of circa-1990s Chanel flats, from the Estate of Lucia Moreira-Salles, NY. Sold through LiveAuctioneers.com in Millea Bros.' Nov. 21, 2009 sale for $1,098 against an estimate of $400-$600.

Group lot comprised of five pairs of circa-1990s Chanel flats, from the Estate of Lucia Moreira-Salles, NY. Sold through LiveAuctioneers.com in Millea Bros.’ Nov. 21, 2009 sale for $1,098 against an estimate of $400-$600.


A Chanel pink Lucite and stone cuff bracelet with a poured-glass Maltese cross sold for $1,586 at Leslie Hindman’s Sept. 2, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a presale estimate of $700-$900. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

A Chanel pink Lucite and stone cuff bracelet with a poured-glass Maltese cross sold for $1,586 at Leslie Hindman’s Sept. 2, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a presale estimate of $700-$900. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.


A stamped Iradj Moini gem set crawfish pin, 1983, with lavender, navy and clear poured glass in a gold-tone setting sold for $976 at Leslie Hindman’s Sept. 2, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a presale estimate of $800-1,200. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

A stamped Iradj Moini gem set crawfish pin, 1983, with lavender, navy and clear poured glass in a gold-tone setting sold for $976 at Leslie Hindman’s Sept. 2, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a presale estimate of $800-1,200. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.


A 1989 Moschino “Lifejacket” from the 1989 Cruise Me Baby collection, labeled Moschino Couture, sold for $1,220 at Leslie Hindman’s April 19, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a presale estimate of $1,000-$1,500. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

A 1989 Moschino “Lifejacket” from the 1989 Cruise Me Baby collection, labeled Moschino Couture, sold for $1,220 at Leslie Hindman’s April 19, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a presale estimate of $1,000-$1,500. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.


A sleeveless Moschino Mondrian dress with a round neckline embellished at the front with the phrase “Art is Love,” labeled “Cheap and Chic by Moschino,” sold for $1,342 at Leslie Hindman’s Sept. 2, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a presale estimate of $300-$500. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

A sleeveless Moschino Mondrian dress with a round neckline embellished at the front with the phrase “Art is Love,” labeled “Cheap and Chic by Moschino,” sold for $1,342 at Leslie Hindman’s Sept. 2, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a presale estimate of $300-$500. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.


A Stephen Sprouse hot pink sequined graffiti swing dress, early 1984, from one of his first graffiti-inspired collections, labeled “SS84,” sold for $2,074 at Leslie Hindman’s Sept. 2, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a presale estimate of $1,000-$2,000. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

A Stephen Sprouse hot pink sequined graffiti swing dress, early 1984, from one of his first graffiti-inspired collections, labeled “SS84,” sold for $2,074 at Leslie Hindman’s Sept. 2, 2009 auction of vintage couture and accessories, against a presale estimate of $1,000-$2,000. Image courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

A perfectly chosen, simple wood frame, almost certainly the original, enhances this untitled 1945 landscape by American regional painter Marvin Cone (1891-1964). In September, the framed oil sold for $156,400 at a Leslie Hindman auction in Chicago. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

Art 101: The wrong frame does an artwork no favors

A perfectly chosen, simple wood frame, almost certainly the original, enhances this untitled 1945 landscape by American regional painter Marvin Cone (1891-1964). In September, the framed oil sold for $156,400 at a Leslie Hindman auction in Chicago. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

A perfectly chosen, simple wood frame, almost certainly the original, enhances this untitled 1945 landscape by American regional painter Marvin Cone (1891-1964). In September, the framed oil sold for $156,400 at a Leslie Hindman auction in Chicago. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

Choosing the right frame for paintings and prints enhances both appearance and value, but choosing the wrong frame does an artwork no favors.

Frames are rather like film stars’ dresses on the Red Carpet. The perfect one flatters the celebrity model and makes headlines. A bad choice is dissected by the Fashion Police. Like the unfortunate starlet, a painting can be underdressed, overdressed, or simply surrounded by something that is not “age appropriate.”

Auctioneers recognize how frames affect fine art lots on the podium. Leslie Hindman in Chicago emphasizes that the artwork is the most important element, but “a bad frame is jarring and it takes away from the painting.”

“I think private individuals appreciate when a work comes with a very nice frame,” Hindman continued. “If you have something that is good and it is framed in a nice period frame, it can add to the value.”

In previous centuries, frames were often carefully selected by the artist. Preserving the original frame on an artwork – like an original finish on antique furniture – bolsters value. The borders chosen by an artist may be plain or elaborate, but they are part of the object’s history and integrity.

Joe Standfield of Hindman’s Fine Art Department cited the case of an untitled 1945 landscape painting by regional American painter Marvin Cone (1891-1964) that sold in September for $156,400. “For this particular painting, pretty much everyone we spoke with who were potential buyers – museums, private collectors, galleries – commented on the fact that it appeared to be the original frame,” he said.

“That particular painting had been in the family for an extremely long time; the provenance was impeccable. The great provenance and the original frame were the two things that enhanced the value of this beautiful painting.”

On the other hand, Stanfield noted, “A more ornate gilded frame would certainly make more sense on a 19th-century French painting.” Frames should be appropriate for the artwork’s period and style, not a reflection of current fashions in interior design. In June 2009, Leslie Hindman held an auction devoted to period frames.

Jerry Holley, vice president of Dallas Auction Gallery, agrees that frame selection can have a subtle but sizable effect on a lot’s appeal to customers. “You see nice little Southwestern paintings from the 1920s or 1930s that are in their very simple original period frames,” he explained. “Everybody makes a big deal out of it and comment on the frames.”

“It does seem to affect value. If you see that same painting in an ornate gilt frame that doesn’t fit it at all, people just don’t have the same perception of the painting. Sometimes people don’t really realize what the problem is, but – if you had them side by side in the two different frames – it would be obvious.”

“It can work the other way too,” Holley continued. “ A good Victorian painting that originally had an ornate carved gilt frame on it – if you see it now in a plain black modern frame, that would do nothing for it at all. No doubt about it, it can have a very significant effect on the look of a painting and – at auction – on the value of paintings.”

If the original frame for a painting or print is badly damaged, owners have several options. Restoration by a qualified conservator is ideal although may prove expensive. An alternative solution is replacement of the original with an appropriate duplicate. The original frame, however, should always be retained because it is part of the history of the artwork.

Fortunately for collectors, there are firms that specialize in frame conservation and restoration. Even better, they can supply harmonious period frames for works that have been mis-framed or lost their borders altogether.

Eli Wilner & Company in New York City is one of the best known of these specialists. Wilner is an author, lecturer, and frame crusader who has worked with major public and private collections around the country.

The expert edited the important reference, The Gilded Edge: The Art of the Frame, in which he noted in the introduction: “Although picture frames have been studied and appreciated in Europe for many years, the connoisseurship of American picture frames has been negligible…. American picture frames provide us with a unique view of American art and creativity that draws upon past centuries and national expressions from a decidedly different perspective than their predecessors.”

Eli Wilner’s workshop recently took on the challenge of creating a copy of the original frame for an iconic American artwork, Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 depiction of Washington Crossing the Delaware, which has been in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for over a century.

In a recent conversation with ACN, Wilner said, “This is a project that Carrie Barratt [Curator of American Painting and Sculpture] at the Met and I have been looking at since 1990. It was such an important painting that we didn’t feel we could just wing it and get close to what was appropriate. We were waiting for some historical data, and we got exactly what we wanted.”

“We know that Leutze actually designed a specific frame for this painting. Matthew Brady took a photograph of it in 1864 at a fair in New York City. That was only discovered two years ago by a curator at the Met who was doing research at the New York Historical Society.”

Even with this photo as a guide, the process was complex, in part because of the paintings dimensions, more than 21 feet by 12 feet. Frame construction or restoration involves the skills of many specialists including woodcarvers, moldmakers, and gilders.

“The entire crest with the eagle was carved in wood,” Wilner said. “We cast the leafy ornamentation on the top end and inside edge; everything else was carved. And then the frame was gilded and burnished. The most difficult process is the carving, but the gilding and finishing is crucial.”

“We’ve completed our end of the project. It’s at the Met, crated up, and waiting for them to complete construction of the new wing,” Wilner concluded. “The new wing will have a 300 foot long hallway where the Leutze painting will be hanging at the very end.” The work should go on view in Spring 2011.

Wilner remains devoted to his cause: “I always say that if you can’t find the proper frame for a painting, show the painting without any frame. It changes the aesthetic appreciation so much. You can really hurt any painting – I don’t care how good a painting it is – if you put an inappropriate frame on it. It changes the entire visual appearance. My whole job is to teach the world about frames.”

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ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


19th-century French frame. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

19th-century French frame. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.


American late-Victorian frame. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

American late-Victorian frame. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.


American mirror frame, circa 1900. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

American mirror frame, circa 1900. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.


American Eastlake frame. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

American Eastlake frame. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.


English 18th-century frame. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

English 18th-century frame. Image courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.