“I’m not an economist, but I can tell when things are getting better, and things are definitely getting better,” said Ed Nadeau, owner of Nadeau’s Auction Gallery. “It's still not anywhere near the highs of several years ago, but that only means now is a great time to buy. If someone wanted to decorate their home with antiques today, they could do so for a lot less than before. Also, pieces that are 200-250 years old not only have historical significance, and can be great investments, they are cheaper to buy than new items in a store, with better workmanship.”
Solid categories include anything made from silver and gold -- from tea services to coins – as investors flock to precious metals in the face of a sagging dollar; decorative accessories, which buyers have been pursuing and don’t mind paying top prices for; and quality furniture pieces, which are cheaper to buy than brand-new, but are still easily convertible to quick cash.
The news isn’t all rosy, however. “Some categories are off and have been for awhile,” Mr. Nadeau remarked. Chief among these, he said, are Victorian-era furniture, which has simply fallen out of favor (and fashion) among dealers and interior decorators; paintings and other fine art (except pieces at the very high end, which historically hold their value); and other genres.
For the most part, though, the news has been all positive. At Nadeau’s Dec. 4 auction, a burlwood table fetched over $1,000, while a bedroom set realized a little less than that. Both sold early and set the tone for the rest of the sale. “The auction was heavily attended, with more left bids, phone bids and Internet activity than usual,” Mr. Nadeau said, “and it only got better.”
Once the portion of the sale dedicated to furniture pieces from the 1950s and ‘60s attributed to Tommi Parzinger hit the block, things really took off. A pair of club chairs from the era went for $1,955; a bleached oak credenza estimated to bring $100-$200 soared to $5,460; and a nice set of six upholstered chairs thought to reach no more than $200 commanded $6,210.
The New Year’s Day auction was no less impressive. A record number of lots offered (690) resulted in new records posted for left bids, phone bids and Internet bids. A Monte Blanc 18kt gold pen (est. $300-$500) breezed to $2,070; a Chanel black quilted leather purse (est. $400-$600) brought $2,185; and a painting by Winslow Homer sold after the sale for $25,875.
In other results: an oil painting of Napoli by Attilio Pratella (It., 1856-1949), estimated to hit $8,000-$10,000, went for $18,400; a bronze by Mathurin Monroe (1822-1912), titled Psyche (est. $1,500-$2,500)
Also from the New Year’s Day auction: a sterling silver wine cooler with wine and grape motif (est. $1,500-$4,000)
Rounding out the day’s top lots: a Philip and Kevin Laverne (1908-1988) dining table (est. $6,000-$9,000)
Some top lots of the 400 that changed hands on Jan. 15: a set of eight wall sconces (est. 500-$800) fetched $4,025; six silver-plated double candelabras (est. $300-$500) hammered down for $6,612; a lot of eleven violin bows (est. $200-$300) went to a determined bidder for $3,335; and a silk Oriental throw rug (est. $200-$400) wowed the crowd by realizing $3,450.
At Nadeau’s most recent sale, held Feb. 5, the upward pricing trend continued. This was helped by some great consignments that included over 100 pieces of Waterford crystal and several paintings sold to benefit the New Britain Museum of American Art. The tone of the auction was set with the third lot, a Heriz Oriental rug (est. $200-$400) that brought $4,715.
In other highlights: a Hummel nativity set crossed the block at $1,955; a Roche Bobois four-piece leather sofa set demanded $2,530; a Howard Rackliffe oil-on-canvas (est. $500-$800) finished at $1,035; four Herman Miller fiberglass chairs (est. $100-$200) went for $690; and a gorgeous mirror attributed to Tommi Parzinger (est. $250-$450) changed hands for $1,955.
# # #
Ken Hall writes pre-sale and post-sale press releases for auction houses, for a fee. He writes, submits and tracks stories for clients. Submissions are published in trade magazines, posted on industry websites and appear in local newspapers.