Antiques and Fine Art Auctions Blog

Skinner expert appraisers and auctioneers discuss antiques, fine art, and collectibles. Keep up on market trends and get collecting tips from antiques experts. Discover the stories behind the art and antiques Skinner offers at auction.

The Claflin Serape

The classic serape was the culmination of a century and a half of progress and growth in Navaho textile tradition. The Navajo learned to weave during the latter part of the 17th century from the Pueblos, who had been weaving cotton and other fabrics for hundreds of years. When the Spanish settled in the Southwest (from 1598) they introduced European treadle looms, Churro sheep to supply wool, and blue indigo dye. Churro wool and indigo blue soon became a part of the Pueblo weaving tradition. When the Navajo learned to weave they took over the Pueblo upright loom and weaving techniques, as well as cotton, wool, and indigo dye.

Navajo Classic Serape, c. 1860s
At auction December 14, 2020, estimate: $200,000-250,000

The earliest textiles woven by the Navajo were like those of the Pueblos, one-piece manta dresses, shirts, and blankets. Decoration largely consisted of stripes of many types, and by the 1700s, the Navajo began to weave serape-style blankets. They mastered the techniques of tapestry weaving enabling them to weave far more complex designs. Their designs, based on terraced triangles and stepped zigzags, had long been used by the Navajo in decorating their finely coiled baskets.

This rare wearing blanket was collected in the late 19th century by Eliza Hosmer, who spent time in New Mexico. Hosmer amassed a remarkable collection of Navajo textiles, numbering between forty and fifty examples. Around 1932, William Claflin acquired this example from Hosmer’s niece, Anne Lauriat Read, who had received it as a gift from her aunt. While the bulk of William Claflin’s southwest textile collection was given to the Peabody Museum, Harvard, this example was gifted to members of his family.

The textile is in pristine condition and was possibly made before the Bosque Redondo episode in 1863. It contains Saxony yarns and handspun Churro fleece dyed with cochineal and indigo. This textile embodies all the characteristics of early Classic Navajo serapes; horizontal design layout incorporating narrow bands, with three wider joined terraced diamond devices between, the larger being in the middle of the blanket. This configuration of larger central diamonds is often used in serapes of this period. With three concentric terraced elements top and bottom, the central device in each is surmounted by a small cross. The predominate colors of red, blue, and white add to the appearance of complexity and the use of the Saxony yarn creates an extremely tight weave in a longer-than-wide format. This rare and exceptional weaving is a high point of Navajo craft.

Create the Look | SKINNER + Phillip Thomas, Inc.

Skinner welcomed Phillip Thomas, Founder and Principal of Phillip Thomas Inc., a New York-based design firm, for a behind-the-scenes look into the warehouse to view furniture, objects, and works of art. Phillip created “get the look” interior vignettes with pieces from our December 20th Century Design auction.

On December 10, we will be hosting Phillip for a casual, free-flowing conversation on Zoom with Skinner’s Director of 20th Century Design, Dan Ayer.… Read More

December Regional Consignment Days | Maine & Westchester

We invite you to join us online for regional consignment days in Maine and Westchester, New York. Skinner specialists look forward to evaluating items via email, and beginning the conversation about the advantages of selling at auction.

Gather information and images for up to three items of fine & decorative arts, furniture, jewelry, silver, watches & coins and much more. Send an email with the information and images at, or at the buttons below.… Read More

Skinner Sets Auction Record: Andrew Clemens Patriotic Presentation Sand Art Bottle Sells for $275,000

The bottle, featured in an episode of Antiques Roadshow filmed at Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 2002, estimated at $4,000-6,000, set a record at Skinner’s American Furniture & Decorative Arts online auction on November 23rd when it sold for $275,000. 

Andrew Clemens Patriotic Presentation Sand Art Bottle, McGregor, Iowa, c. 1885-90, sold for $275,000

The most ideal attributes and auction elements were all present: artist, design, condition, provenance, and competitive bidding (the presale estimate was $50,000-70,000).… Read More

Inspired Design: Encaustic Wedgwood and its Historical Origins

Left: Ancient Apulian Small Volute-krater, c. 380 B.C. (Lot 196, Estimate: $2,500-3,500). Right: Wedgwood Encaustic Decorated Black Basalt Volute Krater Vase, England, 19th century (Lot 302, Estimate: $5,000-10,000)

The Wedgwood factory’s beginnings coincided with discovering the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the blossoming of the neoclassical style based on the architecture, art, and artifacts revealed through archaeological excavations.Read More

5 Tips for Bidding with Success in Online Auctions

Believe it or not, Skinner held its first online-only auctions in 1999. At the time, bidders experienced a platform built on emerging technology. Fast-forward to 2020, and it’s hard to find a collector or even an occasional buyer who hasn’t participated in an online auction.

The main feature of an online-only auction is that bidding takes place over an extended period of time—as a bidder, there is no need to spend hours in a saleroom waiting for the lot(s) you are interested in to come on the block.… Read More

It’s Your Move—the Market for Vintage and Antique Chess Sets

Above and below: French .800 Silver and Parcel-gilt Chess Set, late 19th/early 20th century, bearing maker’s mark “G Fres” possibly for Guillemin Frères, sold for $25,830

The pandemic has fueled renewed interest in board games as people worldwide stay safe at home and seek diversions. The recent popularity of the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” has toy industry and market analysts noting triple-digit increases in the sale of chess sets to an already “hot” market. 

Chess is an ancient game, originating in 6th-century India; it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that the form of the pieces we are familiar with today were standardized.Read More

Living Collected – Creating Timeless Interiors


Skinner welcomed Phillip Thomas, Founder and Principal of Phillip Thomas Inc., a New York-based design firm, for a behind-the-scenes look into the warehouse to view furniture, objects, and works of art. Join us on Zoom for a casual, free-flowing conversation with Phillip and Skinner’s Director of 20th Century Design, Dan Ayer. Learn the inspiration for Phillip’s “get the look” interior vignettes that suggest a myriad of possibilities for elegant, timeless, and livable interiors. … Read More

Learn-iture and Decorative Smarts | Americana Trivia Game

Virtual Americana Trivia Game

Created by Chris Barber, Deputy Director of American Furniture & Decorative Arts

Test your knowledge of all things Skinner Americana (specifically, this November’s sale offerings) in this virtual game of as-competitive-as-you-want-to-make-it trivia and fun! You’ll venture through topics ranging from ceramics, glass, and metalware to furniture and folk art. Play at home with family or over a video conference with friends near and far!Read More

Virtual First Tuesday | December 1

Join us for First Tuesday online!


See what hidden treasures our experts may be able to reveal

We invite you to join us online for our Virtual First Tuesday on December 1. Submit your items anytime before the 1st and Skinner specialists from all departments will be on hand on Tuesday to evaluate items and respond by email.

Let’s get started: 

Step 1: Gather information and images for up to three items of fine & decorative arts, furniture, jewelry, silver, watches & coins and much more.Read More

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