New Year's Day remains a popular day for auctions, with more than a half-dozen scheduled within a 60-mile radius of Philadelphia. As usual, however, they tend to be recreational events, catering more to the impulse bidder than to no-nonsense acquirers such as dealers.
Stephenson's, for instance, one of the most established New Year's Day auctioneers, will offer costume jewelry, small porcelain collectibles, Asian and Japanese arts, contemporary furniture, some paintings, and miscellany, such as a 1942 U.S. Navy spyglass. The 500-lot sale begins at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the gallery at 1005 Industrial Blvd., Southampton. The Stephenson sale is also one of the few on New Year's Day with a formal catalog that is now accessible at www.liveauctioneers.com, complete with presale price estimates.
The opening 70 lots of porcelain, including more than 25 lots of Lladro, as well as Boehm, Royal Doulton, Royal Copenhagen, and nine lots of Austrian Swarovski crystal figures are for the most part in the low- to mid-three-figure range, although a 1998 limited-edition Swarovski peacock on a black base should bring $1,500 to $2,000.
In fact, fewer than 20 lots in the entire sale are expected to exceed the four-figure mark. Four of them are among 10 lots of Chinese and African ivory pieces: an African tusk carving with four heads ($1,000 to $2,000), a pair of Chinese covered urns ($2,000 to $4,000), a Chinese elephant ivory figure titled "Maidens in a Boat" ($3,000 to $5,000), and an ivory shibayama table screen encrusted with mother-of-pearl ($3,000 to $6,000).
The more than 150 lots of jewelry and silver most notably include a 74-piece International sterling Joan of Arc set of flatware and a 40-piece Lunt sterling modern Victorian flatware set ($1,500 to $2,500, and $1,000 to $1,500 respectively); an Art Deco platinum, diamond, and emerald bracelet ($5,000 to $8,000); a lady's Hamilton platinum and diamond wristwatch ($4,000 to $6,000); and a man's handmade 18-karat gold and diamond ring ($3,500 to $5,000).
Furniture includes three lots of Mount Vernon-style pieces by Hickory of North Carolina, a nine-piece cherry dining room set ($1,200 to $2,500), a Federal-style sideboard ($1,000 to $2,000), and an inlaid cherry tambour roll-top desk ($1,000 to $2,000).
Among the sale's two dozen paintings are two expected to bring four-figure prices: "The Lighthouse," an oil on canvas by Ludwig Vollmar ($1,000 to $2,000), and an oil on canvas landscape with gypsies by Andreas Marko.
Far outnumbering the four-figure items are those expected to sell for three- and even two-figure prices. Among the more picturesque are a 20-inch stoneware jug with cobalt slip decoration ($40 to $80), a circa-1900 hooked folk art rug of a cat on a pillow ($60 to $150), a chestnut ballot box with an iron lock on the front ($80 to $150), an enameled copper necklace and bracelet set ($80 to $120), a Mettlach pottery beer stein with a boy bowling ($100 to $200) - and that U.S. Navy spyglass.
Made during World War II and 311/2 inches long with a 16-power lens, it has a presale estimate of $100 to $200. Despite its modest ability to magnify, however, it evokes a historic association.
It was just such a spyglass that allowed the English naval hero Lord Horatio Nelson to defy an order to withdraw at the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen during the Napoleonic wars. Nelson, who had lost the use of his right eye in a 1794 engagement, was able to ignore a flag raised by the fleet commander ordering a general withdrawal simply by putting his spyglass to his blind eye.
As the author Leigh Kimmel put it in his 1995 Lord Nelson and Sea Power, "it was an expression for creative disobedience that [during World War II] was instantly understood by all American admirals."
Previews: noon to 4 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, and 9 a.m. to sale time Tuesday. For more information, call 215-322-6182.
More suburban sales. At 8 a.m. Monday and 10 a.m. Tuesday in Ephrata, Pa., Farmersville Auction Inc. will offer 300 lots of furniture and 1,500 other lots with its usual proviso, "too much to list," at 33 N. Farmersville Rd. For more information, call 717-354-5095 or go to www.farmersvilleauction.com.
At 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Burlington VFW, 159 W. Pearl St., Burlington, 21st Century Antiques will offer pottery; porcelain; advertising materials; prints; paintings and engravings; military items, including some from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, as well as a pickelhaube helmet; jewelry; and coins.
Preview is noon to sale time on Tuesday. For absentee bidding, preregistration by 8 p.m. Sunday is required. For more information, call 609-877-6843.
At 2 p.m. Wednesday at its gallery in Chester Heights, Wilson's Auction will offer contemporary and antique furniture and decorative items, including a baker's rack, an oval hanging pot rack, and copper and enameled French cookware by Le Creuset.
Artwork in the sale includes an oil on board nude by Peter Hopkins, a Bucks County winter scene by Hugh Campbell, a French interior scene by Jacques Bartoli and antique hand-painted Asian scrolls on silk. Also in the sale are vintage bicycles, notably a red Schwinn with banana seat, and an AMF 508 firefighter pedal car. It probably should bring $165, to judge from various online entries.
Preview is noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. to sale time Wednesday at the gallery at 344 Valley Brook Rd. For more information, call 610-358-9515.