This post may sound like a post from August 15, 2020, but it’s not. This time I really thought I had a chance to sneak up on a very nice Tiffany lamp at a reasonable price.
Donny Malone Auctions held a TIFFANY LAMP – ART – UNIQUE TREASURES sale on August 3, 2020, with one good Tiffany Studios lamp, a 17″ diameter Poppy. So I spent a day with my wife driving up to the auction house in Saugerties, NY, a 3-hour drive, to view it in person. The estimate was $10 – $1,000, meaning there was no reserve. It was going to sell for whatever it brought. That’s always a plus.
Since it was the only good lamp in a country auction, there was a possibility I could buy it at a reasonable price. But I couldn’t risk buying the lamp without seeing it in person. The lamp could have been a fake, or repaired, or with extensive damage. The only way to know for sure was to hold the lamp in my hands. Sure enough it turned out to be authentic, with minimal damage of 2-3 hairline cracks. It was a very hot day, but I didn’t go inside to a dark corner to see the true color because of the pandemic, so I had to do my best in bright sunlight. I rated the color a 7.5 on a scale of 1-10. Certainly not the best example I’d ever seen, but nice enough. There was money to be made if I could buy it at the right price.
The auction was being held the following week on a Monday night. Lot #398 was three lots from the end, so it wasn’t going to sell until after 10 PM. So while watching TV, I also kept a constant eye watching the sale on my mobile phone. My goal was to buy the lamp for $35,000 or under, hammer price, or $43,750, including buyer’s premium. I thought I had a pretty good chance, but come auction night, another buyer had the same idea. It was just the two of us, back and forth. I bid beyond my maximum, to $37,000 ($46,250 with buyer’s premium), but had to stop at $38,000 ($47,500 with buyer’s premium). I thought I could sell the lamp in the $55,000 – $65,000 price range, but it was too close for comfort. Oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’ve had my share of good deals over the years, but not that night.
Every single item in the sale was estimated at $10 – $1,000, so it was all there to be sold, with commensurate results. The last lot of the sale, #400, a 19th century painting of American Indians by Alfred Jacob Miller, was also the top lot. It sold for $102,500, including buyer’s premium.