Auction report: October 27, 2008

For those of you who have never been to a live auction, where some of your favorite antiques, collectibles and memorabilia are up for sale and it’s something that you have been meaning to do, don’t wait.

This past weekend, I was representing WorthPoint at the live Bob Hope auction in Beverly Hills, Calif., working with Auction Network and Julien’s Auctions. There were more than 700 lots that included political/presidential letters and photographs, memorabilia from Hope’s 70-plus years in the entertainment world and personal items that had the added cachet of being worn by Hope.

One of the surprises? The highest seller of the show, Lot 343, a signed and dedicated photograph of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor taken in 1972 by the well-known photographer, Yousuf Karsh. There was a bidding war on this item, and the hammer went down at $22,000.

Autographed Karsh photo of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Next, and this seemed to be a surprise to Auction Network’s hosts Tava Smiley and Leila Dunbar, was the Gucci suitcase, Lot 44, that went in with an estimate of $200-$300. My prediction was that that estimate would be blown out of the water because this piece was well used and a personal item. Brand-name luggage of this caliber always sells well. The hammer went down at $6,000.

Hope’s Gucci suitcase

Once again, personal items, a collection of cuff links, Lot 160, was one of my picks of the show. The collection went for $5,250. And it was anyone’s guess as to what the sterling-silver putter made by Tiffany’s would sell for, knowing that it was unique and collectible because of the Tiffany and Hope factor. We were not surprised when it sold for $9,500.

And, yes there were some other surprises. Lot 235, in the sports-memorabilia portion of the sale, a baseball signed by Hope, Johnny Bench, Gloria Loring, Lola Falana, Bobbi Martin, Jennifer Hosten and others from the 1970 USO Christmas tour went for $2,400, where most of the signed baseballs were going in the hundreds. I think Lola bought it.

Lot 423, the Johnny Carson Friars Club Roast program, had an estimate of $500-$700. It sold well at $8,500 in part because of the photo and because it contained autographs by George Burns, Buddy Hackett, Jimmy Stewart and Carroll O’Connor.

Reuters reported that the auction raised $601,000.

Overall, it was a great experience.

Upcoming auctions

Ivey-Selkirk of St. Louis, one of WorthPoint’s more than 400 partner auction companies, is having its Twentieth Century Design Sale November 15-16.

There are more than 800 lots of 20th-century modern that includes glass, pottery, porcelain, furniture, paintings, sculpture from and done by some the leading names in the 20th-century world of design and art. Truly, a comprehensive sale. Let’s take a look at some of my picks.

Lot 8 Handel lamp. Handel lamps are an excellent investment. They have never lost their appeal and foothold in the collectibles market. This one is a reverse-painted glass shade with sunset over a landscape and marsh scene, on a bronzed metal base. Signed and with four labels, the lamp’s overall size is 26-½-inches high and going in with an estimate of $4,000-$6,000.

In the pottery collection, it was tough to pick one, but Lot 15, a scenic vase by Edward Diers for Rookwood signed and dated 1921, may be a sleeper of the show.

Diers vase

Furniture is across the board excellent. Some the best-known names in the design business are represented here. Now is your chance to bid on Lot 34 an original L and JG Stickley oak sideboard with plate rail, series mark 738, with two drawers flanked by a pair of cupboards, circa 1902-26. The estimate is $4,000-$6,000 and will exceed that estimate. Lot 44 is a unique Tiffany Studio five-light gilt-bronze and iridescent-glass candelabrum, signed and impressed 7543 underfoot. The estimate is $8,500-$9,500.

This next one is a sleeper, and I think it may be overlooked because of its low estimate. Lot 74, a Steuben, Aurene, Calcite and gold iridescent glass bowl done in the Ming style, it’s estimated at $600-$800. Frankly, it is perfection in both its design and finish.

Lot 74 glass bowl

In the decorative line, Lot 187 is a Line Vautrin-designed, soleil-a -pointes convexed Talosel mirror similar to one that sold at the Christie’s December ’06 sale. It is going to the block at $6,000-$8,000. This design unique to Vautrin has always sold well.

Dale Patrick Chihuly, world famous as both a personality and glass-design genius, has one item in this modernist sale—Lot 233 from the Persian series, a two-piece vermilion-red to orange with black lip glass sculpture. Signed and numbered, its estimate is $4,000-$5,000. Not one of his more structural or over-the-top pieces but nevertheless a great investment piece.

In the painting collection is American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. This screen print is making its premiere in the auction world and is from his personal collection. Titled “Head,” Lot 375, this screen print is rendered in bold color and is an excellent piece for the seasoned Basquiat collector at $15,000-$18,000.

Basquiat’s “Head”

No modernist sale would be complete without Alexander Calder or Robert Motherwell. Lots 381 and 526 respectively are both signed and dated lithographs making them excellent investments.

Wrapping up the collection is one of the most sought-after artists of fashion art, Erté. Look at Lots 726-728, especially Lot 726. No one “commercial” artist captured the ethereal nature of the draped physical form as he did.

– By Christopher Kent, a member of the WorthPoint board of advisers and director of evaluations for WorthPoint. He is also an antiques and collectibles generalist, fine-arts broker and president of CTK Design.

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