Auctions in Massachusetts: A New Discovery Each Month

As head of the Discovery Department, I’m in a unique position to handle the largest volume of material here at Skinner. Record prices may be achieved by our specialty departments, but in an average year over 12,000 lots ranging from American Federal furniture to estate jewelry and collectibles are auctioned under the Discovery umbrella.

The volume of material that passes through the auction room at our Marlborough, MA gallery each year is staggering! Still, I can’t walk through a preview without being drawn in for a closer look. I can’t not stop to admire.

I often pass tables laden with almost every kind of antique and collectible item imaginable—Limoges porcelain, Japanese No masks, Lincoln Drape pattern bowls and painted cast iron doorstops, and it never ceases to surprise me that I don’t just see a blur, or a sea of “stuff.” Something always catches my eye and reminds me of why I love this business. It can be as small as noticing a distinctive beaded brass caster on a Victorian chair that indicates New York origin, as in-depth as high-end manufacture leading me to scour reference material for attribution, or as simple as trying to remember the pattern of a piece of Spode pottery.

There are endless possibilities to learn.  Discovery auctions are a smorgasbord of affordable antiques that often realize prices in the hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.  Occasional hidden gems come to light each month, but more often than not I find the breadth of items more amazing than the hammer prices.

Each walk through a Discovery auction preview is an opportunity to learn something new or to answer a question. The object of my momentary affection doesn’t have to be something that is particularly rare or valuable, it may just be unfamiliar. A recent preview gave me the chance to closely examine African figural carvings from Tanganyika, and another chance to look up the name of a long-forgotten British historical figure from the title on a Staffordshire pottery figural group. In both cases a brief foray though the auction preview added to my knowledge about antiques.

At 20+ years into my auction career I can honestly say that I learn something new each and every day.  This is why I never tire of antiques, and why I can’t wait to browse the next Discovery sale.

14 thoughts on “Auctions in Massachusetts: A New Discovery Each Month

    • Patricia,

      I did a quick internet search for the artist and found that while examples of his artwork (often religious themed) are listed, there are not any auction records in the major paintings auction databases. One site suggests that Zabateri was a pseudonym for Hans Zatzka. Skinner has a staff of specialists in paintings, prints & works of art, and you’re welcome to upload images for auction evaluation through this website. –KAS

  1. I have several 19thC ceramics that have been passed down through my family and I am trying to find the best way to market them. I have Staffordshire plates, cottages,and miniatures. I also have 18thC fire tools with brass dogs. Please let me know your commission and terms for consignment and time limit.
    thank you, Jane Crum

    • Jane,

      Staffordshire pottery figures remain popular at auction & are included in our monthly Discovery estate auctions as well as our Fine Ceramics auctions. If you’re local, you’re welcome to contact our Appraisal services department at 508-970-3299 to make an appointment to bring the items to our Marlborough auction gallery, or if you prefer, you can upload images for auction evaluation through this website. Information on how to sell antiques at auction can also be found on the website. We hope to hear from you! –KAS

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  4. I have a large etching by Piranesi, which is common…but mine is signed in pencil at lower rt . border. Is this of value, can it be auctioned?. Thank you.

  5. i just got a large framed print of labrador retriever puppies swimming titled “Discovery” and signed by KM hoffman 1993 with a limited edition number.
    i can not find any info on this artist and am frustrated, as this is a beautiful piece.can you give me any help with this at all.
    thank you

    • You’re right — there isn’t too much information about the artist online which is often the case with more contemporary and less well-established artists. Always a popular subject, the limited edition print likely has a modest decorative value. KAS

      • i am contemplating buying the a print of the exact same puppies you describe, i was told it was bought at Orvis. But I dont see that anywhere on the back. Mine says 99/1800. She wants $300 for it.any more info on it?

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