HAMPDEN, MASS. — It was in the wee hours of a sale that began at 5 pm on July 1 — a school or work night, for most folks — that Stanton Auctions offered the lot that auctioneer Peter Imler confidently predicted would be a top seller. Though only a handful of would-be buyers remained inside Stanton’s hall, a cozy red barn outfitted with cushion-strewn theater seats and a new air-conditioning system, Imler had no trouble reaching prime bidders, many of whom were going about their morning routines on the far side of the planet.
The lot, a pale gray Japanese Meiji era cloisonné tray decorated with flying ducks and marked with the seal of the Namikawa Sosuke (1847–1910) workshop, sailed past even its high estimate, selling to an Internet bidder for $13,200.
Such is life in these modern times, said Imler, owner of the auction house founded by his father in 1980. Typical attendance at the barn, which used to be standing-room-only, has declined even as the number of virtual bidders has soared.
“We average about 400 registered bidders from all over the world. Even local people feel more comfortable bidding at home with their feet up,” Imler said.
The July 1 sale also pointed to the limitations of Internet bidding, with good buys going to buyers who showed up, stayed the course and walked away with the items. Prices for mid-level American furniture, the predominant offering this round, left room for dealers looking to make a profit and enticements for young couples looking to furnish a house affordably.
Much of the Americana on offer was from one New City, N.Y., collection.
“If she had one example, she had ten. The house was loaded. You don’t see that much anymore,” the auctioneer said of the consignor who delighted in Windsor chairs, sawbuck tables, stepback cupboards and simple country pieces with scrubbed tops.
Imler was particularly pleased with a Connecticut River Valley bonnet top highboy, $13,225, and block-front chest of drawers, $8,050, both of which sold to a private buyer from Marietta, Ga.
Another highlight was a Queen Anne dressing table, $6,325, possibly from the Rappahannock River Valley of Virginia. It went to a New England dealer.
The consignor parted reluctantly with a European secretary desk, $8,050, Biedermeier or possibly an earlier Dutch example, with fine inlays and elaborate fittings.
“She had it in her bedroom. It was the last thing we put on the truck,” Imler said.
A set of ten Philadelphia Chippendale side chairs crossed the block at $8,050. In a stronger market, they might have made $12,000, said the auctioneer. An assembled set of six hoop-back Windsor side chairs were at steal at $546.
“I’ve adjusted my thinking. You have to deal with the reality of the age,” noted the auctioneer.
Pilgrim Century pieces included a chest, sold to the phone for $1,495; a ball-foot blanket chest with geometric molding and original red paint, $1,265; and a spice chest with six drawers and tear-drop pulls, $1,035.
A Boston Chippendale one-drawer card table crossed the block at $5,750; a Charleston tilt-top table made $5,750; a Portsmouth Sheraton figured maple and cherry writing stand went off at $2,070; and a Salem mahogany and satinwood demilune card table coaxed a bid of $2,070.
There were temptations among the small selection of paintings, as well. Stanton Auctions speculated that an oil on canvas initialed “T.C.,” which sold to a phone bidder for $4,200, might be a rare portrait by the Nineteenth Century American artist Thomas Cole of his wife.
Stanton featured several seascapes by the contemporary Anglo-American marine artist Brian Coole (b 1939), one of which, a depiction of the America’s Cup race off Cowes, Isle of Wight, made $4,888. Contemporary folk art by Evelyn S. Dubiel also attracted notice, a primitive view of the Lieutenant River near the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Conn., bringing $805.
Imler started the sale with children’s furniture, again from the New City, N.Y., estate. The charming miniatures prompted the auctioneer to suggest, “Maybe if we start our kids young enough with antiques like these they’ll get it one day.”
Not a bad suggestion from an old hand.
Watch this space for details of Stanton’s anniversary auction in August.
“We’ve been collecting for it,” said Imler’s daughter, Roxanne Reuling, office manager and auction director.
Stanton’s is at 106 East Longmeadow Road in Hampden. For more information, www.stantonauctions.com or 413-566-3161.