Some incredible prices at Rago’s 20th/21st Century Design Auction, October 26-27, 2012

Monday’s blog will be posted by 1 PM.

My goal is to publish new posts twice a week — Mondays and Thursdays. However, if you don’t see a new post on Thursday, it’s because I was too busy, so please look for a new one the following Monday.

First I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! It’s a wonderful holiday, so enjoy it with your family and friends.

Superb Frederick Hurten Rhead peacock tile, Rago lot #542

David Rago held a 20th/21st Century Design Auction on October 26-27, 2012, with some results for the history books. Most incredible of all was a Frederick Hurten Rhead four-part tile panel, 20¾” sq., given as a personal gift to Levi Burgess of the Weller Pottery. Estimated to sell for $35,000 – $45,000, it soared to $637,500. A hit-the-jackpot price for the consignor and a record for ANY piece of American Arts and Crafts at auction, ever.

A superb Tiffany Favrile wheel-carved floriform vase, Rago lot #932

A wonderful Tiffany Studios Favrile glass, wheel-carved, floriform vase was the second best performer of the sale. Selling as lot #932, it realized a stunning final price of $100,000 — almost 20 times the low estimate, including buyer’s premium. What’s even more amazing is that the consignor, a dealer, bought the vase at a country auction two months ago for $75. Now there’s a story he’ll be able to tell his grandchildren!

Tiffany Favrile Milkweed pottery vase, Rago lot #538

The second-best Tiffany lot of the sale was a pottery vase with milkweed design, with a few minor flaws. Tiffany pottery vases are rarer than glass vases and those with organic designs tend to be the most desirable, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when it more than tripled its low estimate, selling for $42,500, against a pre-sale estimate of $12,500 – $17,500. But as amazing as the Tiffany floriform vase, this vase was rescued from a New York State home about to be demolished. It was saved from the trash and free. Kudos to the consignor!

For the complete results of the sale, click on the following link. Rago 20th/21st Century Design results.

No more shows in 2012, so we’ll be spending the time buying treasures for the 2013 antiques season which begins with the Birchwood Manor Antiques Show in Whippany, New Jersey, January 5-6, 2013. (We might also find a little time for R&R.) After that we’ll be traveling south for the important Miami shows in late January and early February. In the meantime, we’re still in business, so keep the inquiries coming. Let me know what you’d like to buy, sell or trade. If you need a Christmas present, NOW is the time. I’ll be adding many new items to my website this week.

Just purchased this unbelievable Gallé seagull vase — one of the best Gallé vases I’ve ever owned

Click this link to view some of the new objects I recently purchased and listed. French glass for sale. We always strive to offer the finest objects for sale on our website and at every show.

Wonderful Schneider controlled bubble vase with wheel-carved Art Deco handles, recently acquired

Look around my website. There are many items for sale, sold items with prices and free lessons about glass and lamps. I regularly add Tiffany vases, lamps and desk accessories, as well as French cameo glass by Galle and Daum Nancy and etchings by Louis Icart. Here’s the link. Philip Chasen Antiques.

The 2010 year in review for Tiffany Studios

Tiffany Studios Magolia floor lamp

2010 was a very good year for better Tiffany Studios items, continuing a decades-long trend of new records nearly every year. The fireworks began at the Cottone sale of March 27th. A Tiffany Magnolia floor lamp that descended in the family of Merton Armstrong, sold for $661,250. In the same sale, a very good 20″ Dragonfly, on a great lily pad base, sold for $172,500.

Tiffany glass and pottery came up for sale at the Rago sale of April 24th. A rare 6″ tall pottery artichoke-form vase, sold for $19,520, approximately double the high estimate. In the same sale, a 9″ Favrile vase with elaborate gold hearts & vines decoration on a deep carmel background sold for $26,840, approximately four times the pre-sale estimate.

Tiffany Studios Dragonfly table lamp, Sotheby's New York, lot #4, June 16, 2010

Tiffany Studios Dragonfly table lamp, Sotheby's New York, lot #4, June 16, 2010

Those were just the warm-up acts for the 20th Century Decorative Arts sales in June. Sotheby’s was first, offering 22 important Tiffany Studios lots. Three of the lamps sold just above or below the half-million dollar mark, including a gorgeous 17″ Dragonfly on a matching mosaic base, which sold for $554,500.

Tiffany Studios Grape chandelier, Christie's lot #45, June 17, 2010

Tiffany Studios Grape chandelier, Christie's lot #45, June 17, 2010

Christie’s held their Decorative Arts sale the next day. A beautiful Tiffany Studios Grape chandelier sold for $398,500, more than double the low estimate of $150,000-200,000. Christie’s results were not as good as Sotheby’s, but that wasn’t a total surprise as Sotheby’s offerings were better.

Tiffany Favrile Lava loving cup, Leland Little lot #438, September 18, 2010

Leland Little held a sale on September 18th with some important estate-fresh Tiffany Favrile glass. They didn’t know how good their glass was, so they underestimated a loving cup to sell for $1,000-2,000. It soared to $62,100, including buyer’s premium — a price commensurate with its quality and rarity.

Tiffany Studios turtleback inkwell, Nadeau's lot #150

The string continued on October 30th when Nadeau’s sold a killer Tiffany Studios inkwell for $37,500, against a pre-sale estimate of $15,000-20,000.

Tiffany Studios Peony window, Christie's lot 252

Like a good fireworks show, the year ended with the finale — both Sotheby’s and Christie’s sold Tiffany items for approximately $1 million. Sotheby’s was first with the sale of a magnificent Peony window for $962,500. Christie’s followed the next day, with the sale of a Grape lamp for $1,202,500. These were only the headline results. Both sales were solid throughout with many very strong sales.

Rare Tiffany Studios Grape table lamp, Sotheby's lot #221

I rarely give investment advice but I did when a wealthy client asked me about ten years ago. I told him that the better Tiffany Studios items had performed best over the previous twenty years and I had no reason to doubt that they wouldn’t continue. I never found out if he followed my advice, but I hope he did. He surely would have done significantly better than the last decade in the stock market.

2011 is looking up. The antiques business saw a significant recovery from 2009 levels and appears to be continually getting better. The Miami Beach Antiques Show at the end of January is always a good barometer for the rest of the year. I’m cautiously optimistic.

If you like my blog, please let your friends know by sending them a link. Then check out my new Tiffany, Daum, Gallé and R. Lalique acquisitions. I’ve recently listed many of them on my website, including Daum blackbirds, swans, rain, and more to come in the next few days, plus a killer red Tiffany Favrile vase. Here’s the link.

Excellent results at Rago’s early 20th Century/Arts & Crafts auction, October 1, 2010, including a few lottery winners

The results at Rago Auctions on October 1, 2010, showed just how much the public appreciated the assembled variety of pottery, glass, lamps and furniture. Many of the items were high quality and fresh to the market — a combination that’s hard to beat. Talk of recession is finished. Now buyers have to compete strongly for the best merchandise.

Rare Marblehead decorated vase by Arthur Hennessey, Rago lot #131, October 1, 2010

The top lot of the sale was a rare 7″ Marblehead vase, decorated by Arthur Hennessey. Even with a 1½” hairline crack (usually the kiss of death), the vase soared to $134,200, against a pre-sale estimate of $25,000-35,000. Bidding was fierce as this was only one of four known to exist.

Martin Brothers bird tobacco jar, Rago lot #209, October 1, 2010

The Martin Brothers of London and Southall were nicely represented with nine lots, six of which were the very desirable bird tobacco jars. Four of these birds were among the top ten lots of the sale. Lot 209 was estimated to sell for $17,500-22,500. It doubled its estimate to sell for $39,040. Again damage didn’t seem to be much of an issue. The public was looking for excellent examples and they weren’t going to be deterred by a few chips or hairline cracks. Ceramics buyers are much more tolerant of condition issues than glass buyers.

Tiffany Studios pottery bowl, Rago lot #463, October 1, 2010

There were more than a couple of lottery winners at this auction. Lot #463 was a rare Tiffany Studios pottery bowl with fern decoration, the only example known. It was recently purchased at an estate auction in Pennsylvania for $115. It sold for $25,620, against a pre-sale estimate of $15,000-20,000. Not a bad day’s pay.

I emailed David for his impressions of the sale. Here is his reply.

“We were surprised by how strong the Tiffany and Lalique performed in the sale. I knew the material well enough to understand it was unusual, but not nearly enough to think it could take off. The first Tiffany glass lot, the early blue vase (lot #473, $23,180), both the consignor and I thought wasn’t even Tiffany. That collection of glass (and including the large jeweled desk set) did more than double what we told the consignor to expect. The Tiffany pottery fern bowl was recently purchased by the consignor at a local auction for $115 and I knew it would do well, but the $25k was above our expectations. And the Tiffany sketch book, from his trip up the Nile in 1908, passed but sold after the sale. That was a surprise because there were like 28 sketches in the book which, individually, had to be worth $1500 – 2k each on the average and the reserve was $35k. And I’m thinking that the book, as a whole, is worth more than the sum of its parts.

I’m still not sure about the Lalique and why the prices, especially for the jewelry, were so high. There must be a new buyer or three out there focusing on that niche and driving the prices. In any case, we had most of them in for $1000 – 1500 and many brought from about $4k to 11k including premium. The only sour note was again the non sales of tired dealer merchandise (lamps mostly) that were taken in at fair prices but didn’t sell for the same reasons the dealers who consigned them couldn’t sell them. Estate lamps, like our daffodil? It’s like buyers have a sixth sense for what’s new to the market and there to be sold (that brought 40k…) on top of that, we ended up having to pull the Tiffany parasol lamp because the base was doctored. We had a buyer in Europe who left a covering bid and a serious buyer on the phone from the east coast, so it was more than sold. But we have no interest in getting behind a piece with problems. The auction as a whole was over 80% sold for the weekend and hammered in estimate range, totaling (with bp) over 5.5 mil.”

Cowan Jazz bowl, Rago lot #869, October 2, 2010

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another wonderful story from the next day’s auction. A picker had found a Cowan Jazz bowl and brought it to a Rago Monday appraisal day. It had been used as a planter, so it was very dirty, with mineral deposits to the interior glaze at the bottom and two hairline cracks to the rim. The picker wanted a $5,000 reserve. He was advised to permit Rago Auctions to clean and professionally restore the bowl. The bowl was presented at auction with all the details of the restoration. It carried a pre-sale estimate of $20,000-30,000 and sold for $158,600 — a fantastic price, but below the more than $200,000 for another example that previously sold in perfect condition. According to David, the result will make an important impact on the quality of the consignor’s life.

If you like my blog, please let your friends know by sending them a link. Then check out my new Daum, Gallé and R. Lalique acquisitions. I’ve listed them all on my website. Here’s the link

Solid results at Rago’s 20th Century auction, April 24, 2010

David Rago

David Rago

Rago Arts held their 20th Century auction this past Saturday, April 24, 2010, with good results for pottery, furniture and glass, as well as a few exceptional results.

In an email reply to my inquiry, David made the following remarks about his sale.

“As for the ac sale, the low estimate was 690k and the sale hammered at 718k. it was 88% sold at the hammer (with things selling after the sale, as always). Better things did better, which I’m sure comes as no surprise. The market is really expressing a discerning eye and the bottom end of most things has really fallen away. The tiffany that either didn’t sell or attracted little interest were the obviously weak lots. If I never see another acorn table lamp again I’ll be thrilled. Unless the background glass is red. And the base is decorated with mosaic tiles. And the reserve is $5k.

Our approach has been to curate smaller, tighter sales with conservative estimates, and reserves under the low estimates, to attract competitive bidding. While I do miss those two day, 1000 lot Arts and Crafts/Art Nouveau auctions, our sell through rate and our total sales ($850k including bp) have been gratifying.”

Marblehead bowl with panthers, Rago auction, lot 1

Marblehead bowl with panthers, Rago auction, lot 1

The first lot of the sale was a Marblehead bowl, with rare panther decoration. It carried a pre-sale estimate of $25-35,000. The result doubled the low estimate, with the bowl selling for $61,000, including buyer’s premium.

Tiffany pottery vase, Rago auction, lot 262

Tiffany pottery vase, Rago auction, lot 262

There weren’t many Tiffany lots in the sale, but for the most part, they did very well. A rare 6″ tall pottery vase, in the form of an artichoke, sold for $19,520, approximately double the high estimate.

Tiffany Favrile decorated vase, Rago auction, lot 272

Tiffany Favrile decorated vase, Rago auction, lot 272

Lot 272 was a Tiffany Favrile 9″ vase with elaborate gold hearts & vines decoration on a deep carmel background. The vase sold for $26,840, approximately four times the pre-sale estimate — a surprising result. Perhaps the hint of red was the reason for the enthusiasm.

For the complete auction results, click on the following link Rago Early 20th Century auction results.

I’ve taken a lot of time to add new items to my website. Please take a look, as every day I’m adding more. Click on this link

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.

An interview with David Rago

David Rago

David Rago

David Rago is the owner of the Rago Arts and Auction Center, in Lambertville, NJ, specializing in 20th century design. He also appears on The Antiques Roadshow as an appraiser, specializing in ceramics, porcelain, 20th century furniture, and vintage wine.

I submitted several written questions to him.

Q. How has the recession affected your business?

Tiffany Studios Venetian table lamp, lot 409, June, 2009

Tiffany Studios Venetian table lamp, lot 409, June, 2009

A. The recession has affected our business in several ways. Most prominently, securing good consignments at reasonable price levels has become the most challenging part. We don’t believe we can BEGIN to evaluate pieces (in the form of estimates, which are driven by reserves) at 2008 or maybe even 2007 levels, which discourages many consignors from giving up pieces. I try to balance our and their expectations by saying that we often get prices at or above levels of a few years ago, but the approach now is to let pieces seek their prices through competitive bidding, NOT by starting at strong prices. We’ve found that buyers/bidders simply don’t want to be told that, to get their hands in the air for an opening bid, they have to be willing to pay anything near what used to be accepted retail. The old auction belief that, to get a record price you have to risk getting a record low price, has never, ever, been more true than now. We sold a Tiffany Venetian lamp in our last major sale (June 09) with an estimate of $27-32k.
Tiffany enamel on copper box, lot 393, June, 2009

Tiffany enamel on copper box, lot 393, June, 2009

It was a rare version with strong glass in pristine condition, fresh from an estate. It brought $81k, a record for the form. In the same sale we had a Tiffany enamel on copper box, almost as clean as the lamp, also fresh to the market, with a fairly strong estimate of $45–55k. Even though we had six “players”, I mean real bidders, on the phone, no one hit it once. We ended up selling it after the sale for under the low estimate. My contention was that, if the estimate were $30–40k, we’d have gotten the $50k for it.

Q. What areas show strength? Weakness?
A. Good things, in good condition, at reasonable prices, seem quite strong. Middle range things with condition issues, offered at regular prices, seem to languish. We just sold the estate of an old school New Hope dealer. The material had been off the market for 25 years and the family put no price restrictions on estimates and reserves. The sale was 100% sold and hammered near the high estimate plus the buyer’s premium of 20%. There was almost no glass in the collection, so this is relevant only in how it informs the marketplace. But we had a room full of active bidders, plus 100 people on the phone, plus 500 people on the Internet, for two solid days. It was like nothing had changed. But one thing HAD changed seriously, and that was the expectation of the seller.

Q. What do you foresee for the coming year?
A. The coming year is at the mercy of the economy, which is at the mercy of I don’t know what. Right now people (at least the ones buying art) mostly have more money than they did five years ago but they feel like they have less because they aren’t as rich as they were a year or two ago. Whether you own stock or real estate or middle range art, you in fact have less. Until people begin to feel comfortable with both their level of wealth AND the state of the economy, I don’t see great changes in the marketplace.

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 or 516-922-2090. And please visit my website.