Stanford University professors Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson, winners of the Nobel Prize in economics (2020), were recognized “for improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats.” “Auctions are everywhere and affect our everyday lives,” the prize committee said in a statement. Milgrom and Wilson’s work “benefit[s] sellers, buyers and taxpayers around the world.”
Auctions have been around for almost 2,500 years, and if you haven’t participated in one, now may be the time. For buyers, collectors, and consignors, online bidding has proven to be a flexible, helpful tool to acquire or deaccession possessions to a wide-ranging audience. Skinner Maine and Northern New England representative, Elizabeth Turner, notes that the auction house’s online platform has been active since 2008. With limitations on gathering in public caused by the pandemic, the ability to bid in person curtailed, bidding online or by phone has resulted in consistently high auction prices. Following are some of the successes and fascinating stories associated with property found or associated with Maine.
This c. 1909 Marblehead pottery vase was found at a yard sale and made its way to the Skinner 20th Century Design department. It sold for $303,000 against an estimate of $10,000-20,000. The vase is very rare—one of only four known examples.
The banjo clock is a familiar form to many readers. The catalog entry for this Simon Willard banjo clock, estimated for $8,000-12,000 and sold for $33,750, has an interesting Maine provenance. According to the consignor, Charles Snow Livingstone acquired the clock. Known to his friends as “Chick,” he and his wife were avid antique collectors. Chick grew up in the coastal town of Calais, Maine, the son of a ship’s blacksmith and dry dock owner. One year prior to World War II, friends invited him on a fishing trip to New Brunswick, Canada. At dinner, one evening, one of the friends announced he had discovered a Simon Willard for sale in Bangor, Maine. Chick excused himself from the table, went directly to his car, and drove to Bangor. He found and purchased the clock, beating his friend to it. He was never invited to go fishing again. The clock hung on the wall in The Stone House, on the St. Croix River in Calais, Maine. The Stone House itself is a unique historic property built in 1825 as an advertisement for a granite quarry on the property with a large wharf out front for loading granite into schooners and a ship’s store in the daylight basement.
Also with strong ties to Maine is this antique gold, enamel and diamond pendant brooch, descended in the family of Gardner Colby (1880-1879) a Maine native, Boston merchant, and a prominent philanthropist. After his large donations to Waterville College allowed the school to remain open, it was renamed Colby College in his honor. Mr. Colby had this brooch made from his mother’s wedding ring for his daughter. It sold for $2,520 against an estimate of $800-1,200.
This miniature painted salesman’s sample canoe is merely 42″ long and was made by the Carlton Canoe Co. The Carlton Canoe Company was founded in the 1870s in Old Town, Maine, and produced canoes until the company was purchased by Old Town Canoe in 1910. It sold for $6,765 against an estimate of $4,000-6,000.
Many famous photographers have captured images of Maine—notably Berenice Abbott and Walker Evans. While Abbott’s photographic output is primarily remembered for her documentation of an increasingly metropolitan New York, she moved away from the city for her health upon her doctor’s advice later in life. She purchased a house in Maine in 1956, moving there permanently in 1966. She continued to photograph her surroundings extensively, and her signature bird’s-eye view of city streets and buildings translated into aerial shots of the shimmering Maine coastline. Soon after her move, she was approached by the publishing company MacMillan to create a series of photographs to be set alongside text by Chenoweth Hall in a book on Maine. With the book contract, she took to the skies via plane, capturing the state’s vast beauty as seen here in Moosehead Lake. The images included in A Portrait of Maine demonstrate Abbott’s deep appreciation for the way of life in rural Maine and embody a quiet reverence for the land, work, and people of the area.
From the estate of Natica Inches Bates Satterthwaite (1919-2015) came this antique emerald and diamond brooch. She was the daughter of Oric Bates, an archaeologist at Harvard University, and Natica Ysnaga Inches Bates. The Bates family divided their time between Puritan Hill Farm in Groton and Boston. She graduated from the Winsor School and then attended the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture for Women. During World War II, she was a member of the New England office of Dogs for Defense and the WAVES. She attended Bryn Mawr and then transferred to Radcliffe, where she majored in Politics. In 1961, she married James Satterthwaite, the chairman of the English department at Groton School. Together they developed their Freeport, Maine, property, “Tidebrook,” which is now part of the Freeport Conservation Trust. Estimated at $7,000-9,000, the brooch brought $110,700.
Coming from a private Maine collection, Aufstief der Schifahrer by Alfons Walde sold for $612,500. Bidders, many of them first-timers, competed for the painting via the Skinner website, Bidsquare, and with telephone and absentee bids.
There’s no question that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about considerable changes in how almost everything is bought and sold. There is no time like the present to participate either as a consignor, buyer, or someone who is passionately curious. Skinner auctions has shown itself to be highly adaptable to these challenging circumstances using a creative mix of old and new technologies to satisfy clients’ needs.
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