Auction Action In Gardiner, Maine Fresh Picks = Strong Prices: A Barnburner At Gould’s

GARDINER, MAINE — Chocked full of freshly picked country antiques ranging from a wonderful primitive Eighteenth Century apothecary cupboard to a miniature firkin in original paint, Timothy Gould Auctions’ June 14 sale can only be quantified as a barnburner. Auctioneer Tim Gould does not accept dealer consignments and there is no shop-worn merch in his sale. All of the items are fresh, either picked from homes throughout northern Maine and upper New England, or consigned from those same homes or private collections.

“When I first started as an auctioneer, I wanted to be the guy that I couldn’t find,” said Gould. “We now have plenty of pickers that entrust us with the things they find.” By all counts, Gould has fulfilled that desire not only for himself, but also for the pickers he represents in his vast network.

“I’m very excited,” commented Gould after yet another highly successful auction. “We had a great crowd, a full house of eager buyers,” said Gould, who added that there was a tremendous amount of phone bidding — at times, up to 11 lines competing for individual objects.

“There was an enthusiasm that we haven’t seen in a couple of years,” said Gould of the sale. “It is an enthusiasm created by the merchandise — it is all about the stuff, and the prices were high for the very best of materials.”

Many of the items that brought premium prices at the sale have been on Gould’s radar for decades, such as the set of four George Boyd yellowlegs shorebirds in original paint. “I have been after these Boyd shorebirds, literally for 20 years. I first spotted these in a home in Westport Point, Mass.,” stated he auctioneer. The rare set belonged to an 85-year-old lady who is now downsizing and they had descended in the same family since purchased from Boyd. When asked how Gould discovered the set, his answer was straight forward and simple — “I knocked on the door.”

Gould commented that he developed a generational relationship with the folks at “Cozy Cottage” in Westport Point and that his initial “knock” continues to provide great items more than 20 years later. The shorebirds were but a small portion of key items that the family consigned to the auction. “The two Prior paintings came from the house, the ‘Puffy Sleeve Artist’ silhouette, just a great grouping of things.” 

Gould related that the Boyd shorebirds had been purchased from Boyd by the consignor’s great-uncle and he had hunted them on the river near the cottage. “The original owner was born in 1854 and  gunned them on the south branch of Westport River near Horseneck Beach. They are in lovely original paint, dry, dry original paint, and I feel these represent some of his finer work,” stated the auctioneer as the first of the four shorebirds crossed the block. Each of the decoys opened for bidding at $2,000 with the first hammering down quickly to a phone bidder for $4,600. The next one also went to the phone at $3,737 and the same phone bidder claimed the last one at $4,887. The other yellowlegs went to yet another phone bidder for $3,450.

From the same home came two portraits, the first an “alluring” young lady from the Prior-Hamblin School that went out at $6,900. The signed William Prior portrait of Dr Silas Tompkins, a chemist that developed and sold “Dr S. Tompkins Vegetable Bitters,” also did well, bringing $5,175.

Another highlight from the home was a rare “Puffy Sleeve Artist” silhouette in an usual small size. “It was oh so right,” commented the auctioneer. The crowd concurred, as it attracted a good deal of attention, selling at $5,750.

As the rare Eighteenth Century country apothecary cupboard was brought to the block, Gould related that it was “found in Newfield, Maine, in 1968 by a pioneering country furniture buyer who loved original surfaces. And although this is in second paint, it is a very unusual example with 24 drawers, wonderfully shaped sides and a very, very unusual Maine feature of a bucket bench on the bottom. Aside from the yellow paint, it is pretty much in original untouched condition. There is a wonderful story about how the gentleman bought it.

“It was missing this drawer,” related the auctioneer as he pointed to the only drawer in the original blue paint, “and he got permission from the fellow who owned the barn to go back in and look for it — well it took him four trips. He started at one corner of barn and ended up in the other corner of the barn and I’ll be darned if he didn’t find it on his fourth try.”

Opening for bidding at $5,000, the lot bounced back and forth around the room, finishing at $11,500. The same price was paid for a stepback apothecary cupboard in grain paint.

“This lot has drawn as much interest as any other one in the sale,” stated Gould as a black hand painted sign with gold lettering crossed the block. Proclaiming “Meals – At All Hours,” the sign had been picked from a home in Skowhegan, Maine. Intense bidding from 11 telephone bidders and several in the room saw a final price of $5,750 paid. The lot was one of several underbid by Maine dealers Butch Berdan and Tom Jewett.

The other item in the sale that had attracted national attention was a miniature firkin in great original blue paint. Standing a mere 5 inches tall, it was a sweetheart. “It was picked many years ago from a New Hampshire farm sale, along with a wooden-framed candle mold in original red paint. I have been trying to tease that firkin and candle mold out of the picker’s house for many years, and she finally decided that she needed a second floor bathroom.”

Everyone took the time to look the firkin over and as it crossed the block there was noticeable excitement in the air. Bidding opened at $2,500 and progressed rapidly, with several phone bidders battling several bidders in the gallery. A buyer in the room eventually won out, claiming the lot at $9,775. The candle mold also did well at $4,887.

The top lot of the sale came as a surprise to many in the room as a Continental oil on canvas of a young girl with her pup was offered. Attributed to French artist Jean Baptiste Greuze, the small painting sold for $12,650.

Prices include the buyer’s premium.

Gould will be ramping up for a November auction and commented that freshly picked items of good quality are welcome as consignments. For further information, www.gouldauctions.com or 207-362-6045.

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