Skinner Breaks Record for Sand Bottles Sold in Single Sale

detail of 3 Andrew Clemens sand art bottles

Three Andrew Clemens sand bottles brought in nearly 1.8 million dollars at auction, an example of the rapidly growing market for his work

MARLBOROUGH, MA — Skinner is delighted to announce the recent sale of three Andrew Clemens sand bottles at the recent Americana auction that took place from Nov. 15 to 22, 2022. Together, the three bottles brought nearly 1.8 million dollars, a record for sand bottles sold at a single sale. The market for the work of Andrew Clemens has grown quickly and substantially over the last several years, and the most recent sale at Skinner firmly establishes a new threshold of value for these remarkable pieces.   

Steve Fletcher, Director of American Furniture and Decorative Arts at Skinner said, “Knowledge of this art form was not common among most collectors until the last two decades. It must be appreciated intimately, where one can see the incredible detail of the images made from individual grains of sand.”  

In November 2020, Skinner Auctioneers broke the record for highest sale of a single Clemens sand bottle, selling Clemens’ Patriotic Presentation Sand Bottle, for which the presale estimate was $50,000-70,000, for an impressive $275,000. Less than a year later, the Skinner record for a single bottle was surpassed when a bottle with a portrait of a young boy sold for $956,000. Records continue to be broken in this November Americana sale, bringing in impressive numbers far beyond estimates.  

Two of the sand bottles sold exceptionally well, surpassing $850,000 each. Lot 1032, titled “Capt. Lyman Hunt, Commander, City of Duluth, (Andrew Clemens, McGregor, Iowa, late 19th century) is composed of multicolored sand arranged in a glass bottle. One side of the bottle depicts the paddlewheel steamer “City of Duluth,” and the other side includes an urn of flowers with wavy lines as well as abstract and geometric bands. This bottle sold for a total of $852,500 and was created on commission for Captain Lyman Hunt (b. 1848) who commanded the Great Lakes steamship, “City of Duluth,” from 1880-88. The bottle has been passed down in his family ever since, and although the particular time and occasion of the bottle’s commissioning remain unknown, the steamship was a common motif in Clemens’ later work and a symbol of pride for the captains whose ships were so carefully depicted. 

Sand picture of a ship in a bottle, by Andrew Clemens
Sand Picture in a Bottle “Capt. LYMAN HUNT, COMMANDER, CITY OF DULUTH,” Andrew Clemens, McGregor, Iowa, late 19th century.
Sold for $852,500

The second sand bottle in the sale, Lot 1033, titled Patriotic Sand Picture in a Bottle with Irish Red and White Setter Dog and “Christmas,” (Andrew Clemens, McGregor, Iowa, late 19th century) depicts an Irish Red and White Setter in a grassy landscape within an oval. On the other side the bottle is inscribed with “Christmas” above a clipper ship, with wavy lines, marbled and geometric bands. A printed maker’s label is affixed to the top, inscribed “Pictured Rock Sands Put up by A. Clemens, Deaf Mute, McGregor, Iowa.” This bottle was owned early on by Salmon Willoughby Wilder (1823-1903) and Rose True Wilder (1838-1938), of Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, great-grandparents of the consignor.  

Sand picture of a dog in a bottle, by Andrew Clemens
Patriotic Sand Picture in a Bottle with Irish Red and White Setter Dog and “Christmas,” Andrew Clemens, McGregor, Iowa, late 19th century.
Sold for $852,500

A handwritten inscription on the bottom reads in part “Sand Bottle by Deaf Mute A Clemens” and appears to reference the dog and its owner, but is illegible. Another note handwritten by the consignor’s grandmother, Mary Pease, reports that the dog pictured on the bottle belonged to Orrin Joslin of Oxford, Massachusetts, in southern Worcester County. This bottle demonstrates both the geographic breadth of Andrew Clemens’ appeal and the substantive breadth of his work. The original owner of the bottle remains unknown, but it is believed to have been located in Massachusetts since the early 20th century. Astoundingly, it was only identified by chance when a consignor recognized its value after seeing other bottles appear on “Antiques Roadshow” with Skinner Appraiser LaGina Austin. This bottle’s intricate beauty and uncommon theme make it a particularly unique example of Clemens’ remarkable work 

About Andrew Clemens  

Andrew Clemens was born in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1857.  At the age of five he became deaf and mute after an illness.  He earned his livelihood by painstakingly arranging colored sand to make pictures in glass bottles. The sand came from the naturally colored sandstone in the Pictured Rocks area of Iowa. He worked in McGregor, Iowa, and for a short time he made the pictures and exhibited his work at a South State dime museum in Chicago, Illinois. As Clemens and his work gained renown over the course of his career, commissions that originally began for locals of and visitors to his native McGregor, Iowa, were made for patrons from increasingly far-flung regions. 

About Skinner 

Skinner attracts top consignments and commands record-breaking prices in the international auction marketplace. With renowned expertise and extraordinary service, Skinner is the place for buyers, sellers and the passionately curious. Skinner appraisers are familiar faces on PBS’s 19-time Emmy Award-nominated ANTIQUES ROADSHOW. Visit us in Boston, Marlborough, New York, Maine, Florida or online at 

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