New Year's Day traditionally has been a time for country auctions. Thanks to online directories such as AuctionZip, it is now possible to see just how popular they are. On Jan. 1, a dozen are scheduled within 50 miles of Philadelphia.
Generally, the people who attend these sales go for the sake of going, not in search of specific bargains or collectibles; and the sales emphasize volume, not rarity, such as the venerable Farmersville New Year's Day antique and collectible sale that actually spreads over next Friday and New Year's Day in Ephrata and advertises 1,500 lots of small items and 600 lots of furniture, "too much to list." (Details at www.farmersvilleauction.com.)
A big exception is Stephenson's New Year's Auction in Southampton, Bucks County, now a good 20 years old. It, too, will be a big-volume event, with more than 800 lots to be offered over two sessions next weekend.
But an imposing number of them are top-of-the line specimens of fine and decorative art, furniture, silver, and jewelry.
The silver and jewelry plus some decorative arts will be among the 500 lots in the first session, beginning at 11 a.m. at the gallery at 1005 Industrial Blvd. The largest silver items are American tea and coffee services, one by International Silver, the other by Stieff, each of which includes creamer, sugar bowl, waste receptacle, and tray.
The most interesting silver, however, is to be found among the Mexican pieces, including two with presale estimates of $200 to $300: One is a 30-inch link necklace by Los Castillo of Taxco; the other is a silver cuff bracelet decorated with amethysts and a depiction of the famed Mayan feathered serpent figure Quetzalcoatl, the civilizing hero god of the West and perhaps the best known of the Mesoamerican pantheon figures.
Other notable silver pieces include a Russian silver menorah and a Gorham sterling "Standish" punch bowl.
Victorian, contemporary jewelry. The 120 lots of jewelry to be offered at the Saturday session feature Victorian items, notably a rose-gold enameled brooch and a dragon-head necklace encrusted with garnets, each with presale estimates of $500 to $700. The top presale estimate is for a 303-inch double strand of uniform 8mm pearls with a 14-karat gold and carved cameo opal and diamond clasp that should bring $2,000 to $3,000.
The jewelry also features contemporary pieces, including a 1940s gold and bloodstone Tiffany owl pin with a presale estimate of $300 to $500 and a 1950s George Jensen sterling silver cuff bracelet.
The bracelet has a conservative presale estimate of $600 to $1,000, but Stephenson's jewelry expert Theresa Szengle says estimates are difficult because no comparable bracelet showed up in available reference material.
Decorative art items in the session include ceramics, such as a pair of Sevres-style porcelain urns, and Lalique and Daum crystal.
Paintings, furniture. The top items will be in the 300-lot second session, beginning at noon on Jan. 2 and devoted to furniture and fine art, including two oil-on-canvas works that should bring the auction's highest prices. Halloween, by the 19th-century English painter Emma Brownlow, depicting a group of children, some masked, creating holiday decorations, has a presale estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
Accompanied by laboratory and restoration reports, it comes from a former area resident, now living in Florida, who had become familiar with Stephenson's sales before moving south, owner Cindy Stephenson said this week. Also from that consignor are a bronze tazza signed by Henry Cahieux with a Barbedienne foundry signature, a French bronze jewel box, and a Japy Freres bronze and rouge marble three-piece clock set.
Another major painting in the session is a signed 21-by-29-inch Hudson River Valley landscape by American William Mason Brown. It comes from a Bucks County consignor and has a presale estimate of $6,000 to $10,000. Also from that consignor is a Steinway ebony grand piano with a presale estimate of $8,000 to $12,000.
The session also features works by Bucks County painters Joseph Barrett and David Hahn.
Furniture includes 15 pieces of high-end Kittinger Colonial Williamsburg dating to the mid-20th century. Stephenson said the furniture originally came from a Main Line estate, but is being auctioned by the Holy Redeemer Hospital thrift shop in Warminster, with proceeds to go to Holy Redeemer.
Other furniture items include a Pennsylvania cherry corner cupboard; an Art Nouveau glass-door oak bookcase; and an English burled walnut secretary desk dating to about 1790.
The session also offers miscellaneous items, including a running horse copper and zinc weathervane on a copper cupola; an Enterprise Mfg. Co. manual coffee grinder (the kind with the cart-size wheels); and an early brass National cash register.
According to Stephenson's news releases, the auction is to be on LiveAuctioneers.com. Previews are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, 1 to 5 p.m. next Friday, 9 a.m. to sale time on New Year's Day and 11 a.m. to noon on Jan. 2.
For further information, call 215-322-6182 or go to www.stephensonsauction.com.