Skinner Inc.

Auctioneers and Appraisers

Howard Roth: A Passion for Collecting

Guest blog post by Elliott and Grace Snyder.  The Howard Roth Collection of Early American Iron will be sold in Skinner’s August Americana auction on August 9, 2014 at 10AM in Marlborough, and in the Americana – Online auction from August 4, 2014 at 2PM through August 11, 2014 at 4PM. 

Wrought Iron Rotary Toaster, late 18thearly 19th century (Lot 37, Estimate $2,500 - $3,500)

Wrought Iron Rotary Toaster, late 18th/early 19th century (Lot 37, Estimate $2,500 – $3,500)

With his enthusiasm for the material, perseverance, and competitive spirit, Howard rarely let a great piece of American iron get away. It seemed that no matter how early we would show up for the opening of an antiques show, inevitably there he was in “his place” at the head of the line. The result of such single-mindedness is what you see today—the finest and most comprehensive collection of mostly 18th and early 19th century New England hearth equipment and both iron and signed bronze posnets to ever come on the market.

Howard was not only an indomitable hunter-gatherer, but was equally intent on gathering knowledge about how, when, and where his things were made and used. His untimely death cut short not only a life lived with passion, but his life’s work—a book about American iron that he had been researching and writing for the better part of a decade. And while Howard’s failing health finally robbed him of his ability to keep collecting, he continued to work on his book to the very end. To our great misfortune, he was unable to complete what he had devoted so much time and energy to: an exhaustive book on early American hearth equipment—its history and uses. For now, the Skinner catalog of the Howard Roth Collection of Early American Iron will have to serve as a humble surrogate for Howard’s “unfinished business.”

Our guess is that Howard would have wanted to dedicate that book and now, this catalog, to Judy, his devoted wife and partner, whose constant support he enjoyed throughout their 50 years of marriage and their lifetime of collecting. Without her, he could not have lived the full life he enjoyed…as a loving husband, devoted father, successful lawyer, and passionate collector and scholar. He will be missed.

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