Martin Brothers stoneware on fire at Skinner’s sale of the Richard Wright Collection

Richard Wright had quite an eye for the best and that included very fine examples of Martin Brothers stoneware. The auction results of that good eye showed at the Skinner auction of his collection on October 24, 2009.

The Martin Brothers were well represented in his collection. There were vases, tobacco humidors, face jugs and a spoon warmer, that ranged from the early “normal” items to the very desirable and collectible “grotesque” items. The standard early ceramics don’t usually command much interest because collectors have zeroed in on the grotesque, but that didn’t stop a determined crowd and phone bidders. A large stoneware vase with realistic lily flowers carried a low pre-sale estimate of $4-600 and sold for $4,444, including the buyer’s premium.

A wonderful Martin Brothers spoon warmer, Skinner lot #100

A wonderful Martin Brothers spoon warmer, Skinner lot #100

Other early standard vases also did well, but the real fireworks started when the grotesque items came up for sale. The first important item was lot #100, a large spoon warmer in the form of a fish. It soared to an incredible $53,325, against a pre-sale estimate of $3-5,000.

A fine Martin Brother bird, Skinner lot #151

A fine Martin Brother bird, Skinner lot #151

That set the stage for the other important Martin Brothers items, two tobacco humidors in the form of birds. Martin Brothers birds are the best known and most sought after of all Martin items and these two did not disappoint. The first was lot #151, a brooding bird, 10½” tall. Collectors pay the most for the best personality and this bird was good. The pre-sale estimate was $12-18,000. It brought an astounding $82,950, including buyer’s premium.

Martin Brothers bird, Skinner lot #152

Martin Brothers bird, Skinner lot #152

The next lot was larger and in my opinion, more interesting, but the buying public disagreed. It still sold very well, but not quite as well as #151. The final price was $59,250, against a pre-sale estimate of $12-18,000.

The fireworks continued with very strong results for vases, face jugs, and an unusual Eskimo jug. Only the most determined of collectors went home with any of the Martin Brothers items — it was quite a showing.

Please send me your suggestions or questions about art glass, lamps, Louis Icart, shows, auctions, etc. If it’s interesting, I’ll answer your question in a future blog entry.

Call or write and let me know what you would like to buy, sell, or trade. philchasen@gmail.com or 516-922-2090. And please visit my website. chasenantiques.com

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