Once again, I am sitting here on the floor in the balcony surrounded by toys. There are trucks, buses, cabs, dolls, board games, models, and a plethora of play things all around me. There is tin, cast iron, spelter, wood, cardboard, and even plastic. I’m searching for my inspiration for this week’s pick. An owl turns its head intently watching to see if I have any coins to donate. A Spirit of St. Louis airplane banks hard to the left to avoid the zeppelin as it swoops in for a better look. A tribe of Native American Indians sends smoke signals to the other side of the room to let others know of my activity. Three tin racers zoom past, not even braking to navigate around Noah’s animals lined up two by two. A passenger train pulls up next to the station, the weary travelers leaning out the window trying to get a better view. A fire truck pulls up the lights flashing, the siren blaring as a fireman scurries up the ladder. All wanting to know who or what is going to be the lucky chosen one. This week I went for a cast iron car. Not just any car, but a cast iron Hubley Studebaker coupe. A sleek streamlined version which epitomizes the 1930’s. Its nickel-plated grill with protruding headlights ready to streak around winding back country roads. While Hubley sent millions of toys to children all over the world, this is one that you do not see come across the auction block very often. So, check out lot 1496 in the August 15th toy auction at Pook and Pook Auction in Downingtown and see if you can find something to add to your collection.
by: Jamie Shearer
A Beginners Guide: Collecting Antique Toys with Specialist Noel Barrett
Aug 07,2018 | 09:39 EDT By Jessica Helen Weinberg with Noel Barrett
Click here to read more!
This week I head back into the toy box. As I dig around I found a great selection of pressed steel including Tonka, Chein and Structo toys, a lot of which were not left outside in the dirt pile like mine were. They even saved the original boxes! I see a lot of fire related toys, friction cars, many of which are copies of the real thing just like mom and dad had. I move the dolls aside, Lil Abner’s band is in there making a ruckus, a frog leaps out of the way and a beetle scurries off. As I get closer to the bottom I find my pick of the week! Lot #1223, a Marx pressed steel sedan pulling a Lonesome Pine travel trailer. Its bright red color draws me in and reminds me of one of my passions which is camping with family and friends, making memories sitting by a campfire telling stories, some true and some not quite, that smell of burning wood, which will forever trigger me thinking of these wonderful times. Obviously people collect things that they can relate to and what better way to stand aback looking at shelves filled with things that make you smile. I imagine there are some great toy collections centered around travel trailers. I can imagine the collector standing back and just smiling as no words need to be said. I look at my job like that every day with a smile in my heart…although maybe not today! I am going camping!
by: Jamie Shearer
As our country prepares to celebrate another birthday this month, this week’s pick is an object steeped in American history and achievement, spotlighting a few famous Philadelphians and featuring two Philadelphia landmarks. My pick is lot 401 from our October 2015 Americana sale, an embossed copper bust of Benjamin Franklin made by Franklin Peale in 1840.
The story of the artist, Franklin Peale, is an impressive tale. He was born into good fortune as the son of famed Philadelphian painter, scientist, inventor and naturalist, Charles Wilson Peale. His father was known for founding the first “natural history” museum in an era where Americans were becoming increasingly more interested in the sciences and fostering intellectual exploration. The Philadelphia Museum, Peale said, served “to instruct the mind and sow the seeds of Virtue” in the new American republic. Remaining open to the public for nearly fifty years, the Peale family’s museum was home to hundreds of portraits, thousands of natural history specimens, archaeological objects, life-size wax figures, fossils, and curiosities.
Franklin Peale was quite literally born into the family business; his mother gave birth to him in the family quarters of the museum. Peale’s museum was once housed in the headquarters of the American Philosophical Society, an organization founded in 1743 by none other than Benjamin Franklin himself. It is said that the young Peale was given his name at four months old by members of the Society as he sat upon a chair once owned by his namesake.
As an adult, Franklin Peale cultivated an interest in mechanical engineering, becoming a founding member of the Franklin Institute and later working for the Philadelphia Mint where he earned the title of Chief Coiner. Peale developed many new technologies – some successful and some failures – to assist in the coining process. During this time, he nourished his artistic proclivities and created medallions with the help of machinery housed at the Mint. One such item produced by Peale in his offices at the Philadelphia Mint is our pick of the week, a copper bust cast in 1840 to celebrate his namesake, America’s most famous Franklin.
This piece of 19th century American material culture embodies the products of American ingenuity thanks to Franklin Peale’s coining inventions and it honors the past achievements of one of America’s greatest intellectuals, Benjamin Franklin. In the mid 19th century, less than a century after the country’s founding, Americans were proud to reflect on the progress their country had made. It is a pleasure that my job at Pook & Pook allows me to celebrate American culture every day while I learn from these objects and uncover fascinating stories of our ancestors. Happy birthday 242nd birthday, America!
By: Kaitlyn Julian
I know I have been delinquent in my pick of the week and I apologize. I have been very busy gathering, sorting, and cataloging future material that very well could be an upcoming pick of the week. I am silently wondering if I should have named it “pick of every other month or so”. Sometimes what transpires behind the scenes to put together a cataloged auction gets lost. I can personally attest that there are a lot of moving parts with a heck of a lot of talented moving hands making those parts move. That peek behind the scenes will have to be another time.
Today I am digging around in the “way back machine”. As I root around old catalogs, type in random words on our item search from our website and test my memory (only to realize that it isn’t what it used to be), I find something that works for my pick. We are very discerning with the use of adjectives when describing antiques so I knew typing in the word “exceptional” in our past results would yield just that – things that truly are exceptional. With a quick scan, I zero in on lot 402 from the January 7th, 2006 Americana sale: the Exceptional Wrought Iron Door Escutcheon.
Although the beginning of my employment at Pook & Pook was still almost a year away, I was well-aware of the legendary James and Sally Sorber collection of iron. This particular lot happened to be the one of the first purchases by Mr. Sorber for his tremendous collection. Figural wrought iron door escutcheons are very hard to come by and to have one in the form of a Native American Indian would be considered the pinnacle of the wrought iron field. The blacksmiths’ skilled execution in making this piece shows years of mastering his craft. The stern facial features with a flowing, feathered headdress simply could not have been accomplished by the hand of a novice. At just over 8” high, this piece has a commanding presence and certainly explains the final sale price. After the blacksmith’s sparks had landed and the final hammer fell, this exceptional escutcheon had earned an incredible $42,120. Now that truly is an exceptional piece.
By: Jamie Shearer
6/9/18 – As the summer approaches, things are slowing down at Pook & Pook. However, our office continues to swell with antiques as we prepare for our June 13th and 14th Online Only Auction. Over the two day sale, 1421 items will cross the auction block. We’re up to our eyeballs in Windsor chairs, wooden decoys, oil paintings, and splint baskets!
With such a vast and varied selection of items, it has been a fun challenge to pick just a few favorites for the pick of the week. My choice this week is not a canning cupboard, a Chippendale style mirror, or a tea table – I surprised myself and chose lot 2228, a 16” Victorian-era Greiner doll. She has a cheerful smile set on petal pink lips, a lively pair of single-stroke eyebrows, and teeny black lashes framing deep blue eyes. Her conservative hairstyle is worn tucked behind her ears and she has a bloom of pink blush brushed across her cheeks. She is charming in a handmade floral-patterned dress, complimented by a lacy petticoat and fanciful leather shoes. Dark brown hair, blue eyes, and fair complexion… she looks like me!
It is my opinion that any worthwhile antique should connect with you on an emotional level. It is exciting to find yourself drawn to an object that you wouldn’t expect because it is an opportunity to learn something new about yourself. As I held this dolly in my arms, I visualized my own childhood, growing up in the early 90’s and holding my own cherished toy – Samantha, the American Girl doll. Over centuries and across the world, dolls have been an instrument for children to develop their imagination and learn real life skills like compassion and empathy. Carefully holding this doll in my arms, I am cognizant of the generations of children who have nurtured her and enjoyed her companionship.
It is my hope that other young collectors are able to see the emotional value in an object like this little doll. With such a modest auction estimate at $80-100, maybe she can be the keystone on which you build a larger collection. Indulge your inner child; there’s something so soothing about the weight of a doll in the crook of your arms, isn’t there?
By: Kaitlyn Julian
Some collectors cherish antiques for the stories they can tell us. We get joy out of imagining the past life of a simple object, dreaming of all the events it has “witnessed”. Such is the case with this week’s pick of the week, a Boardwalk National Bank of Atlantic City series 1929 five dollar note. While this bill is not particularly rare, only carrying an $80-$120 estimate, one might say the value of this item really comes from where it takes our imagination and its ability to transport our minds to a specific time and place in American history.
In 1929, our beloved New Jersey beach town was quite a different scene from what we are familiar with today. The town would not legalize casino gambling until 1976, and from 1920-1933 the country was subject to the rules of Prohibition. The residents of Atlantic City had a way of getting around these restrictions, and in 1929 a conference was even hosted in the city for organized crime figures across America to attend. The National Crime Syndicate was formed, a confederation of mainly Italian and Jewish organized crime members. . In Atlantic City in the 1920s and 1930s, the mob’s presence was unavoidable. Even today, mobsters and their legacy have had a lasting effect on America’s cultural identity, as popular movies and TV shows make the lifestyle of a Mafioso look intriguing. Living in America in 1929 also meant you were witness to the October 1929 stock market crash, an event that would change the trajectory of many American’s lives. These historic events seem to intersect around one idea: money. Which brings us to our $5 bill – did this $5 note pass through the hands of some unsavory characters? Was it once part of the earnings of a winning poker game played amongst mobsters? Or was it used to purchase alcohol from a bootlegger? Perhaps it was the precious little earnings for a struggling family feeling the initial effects of the Great Depression. Maybe it was the entrance fee to the Museum of Modern Art, just a two and a half hour drive north, having just opened for the first time in November that year. Antique objects are lucky to live many lifetimes. On May 23rd this bill will change hands again and Pook & Pook will be just another stop on its journey.
By: Kaitlyn Julian
5/7/18 – There is a change of pace this week as we finished up another successful Americana sale. Hopefully everyone who wanted to buy something was successful and for our sake I hope you paid too much! As we move along in the calendar year it appears that summer may actually get here. There is a terrific jewelry sale on Friday May 11th, but, as a typical guy, I couldn’t find anything to write about in that sale so I picked the following day. Saturday May 12th, is our Firearm & Militaria Auction. I found many things in that sale that I like, but the one thing that stuck out to me was lot #92. This lot came to us from the Civil War and is dated April 10th, 1865. For you history buffs April 10th, 1865 was the day after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant and he made his final speech to his troops. Confederate soldiers upon surrendering were issued these paroles allowing them to return home without fear of arrest as long as they did not take up arms against the United States. General Lee asked for and received from General Grant permission to produce 30,000 partially printed parole forms. Hand crank field presses were set up inside Clover Hill Tavern. These documents were produced at a feverish pace and held four on each sheet of paper. This one was filled out for Frank P. Whitehead, Sergeant of Company A, First Regiment of the Virginia Cavalry. It is signed by Edward A. Flint, Captain, Provost Guard. The condition is excellent with light creases. With an estimate of $800-1200 I hope that it exceeds the upper end and finds a new home.
by: Jamie Shearer
4/30/18 – Before cataloging this ring, I knew I had to try it on. For me, trying on new jewelry is akin to slipping into a new identity, if only for a moment. Just my luck – the 5 ¾ fit of this ring is my Cinderella’s slipper, a perfect match for my finger! This is the ring of a fearless, self-assured and sophisticated woman. It can’t be worn with your ordinary 9 to 5 look. Instead it demands an elegant ensemble and a special occasion where it can really shine. Picture yourself with shoulders straight and eyes narrowed, perhaps clutching a champagne flute, with this glittering rock on your finger. You will definitely make an impression at your next cocktail party.
Now consider the 4.60 carat oval-shaped tension-set tanzanite; the boldness of the platinum mounting and the hefty glittering gemstone working in active opposition to the perilous balancing act of the tension setting. The stone is a sensation. Tanzanite is known for its pleochroic effect, meaning its color will appear to change when viewed at different angles. Shifting from royal blue to bluish-violet to vibrant purple, this chameleon stone craves attention and drama. Not to mention the thirty-four diamonds which frame the tanzanite from all angles.
Like everything that passes though Pook & Pook, this item isn’t brand-new. Minor imperfections here and there along the platinum band tell us that this ring has been a cherished and faithful companion to a number of dignified affairs. With second-hand jewelry, these small blemishes underscore the wisdom that comes with experience and are part of what makes my job at Pook & Pook exciting every day. A number of different women may have worn this ring and there is something bewitching about being part of a shared experience that spans many years. I am gratified for sharing in this ring’s story as it passes through our hands and onto the finger of its next owner. Perhaps I’ll be able to recognize her by the twinkle in her eye.
by Kaitlyn Julian
4/23/18 – Our April 28th, 2018 auction is filled with great objects. There is great American History with the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson signed documents and letters, but which for me are not eye catching enough for my pick of the week. There is the historic blue Staffordshire Arms of Pennsylvania platter, holder of the world record for a piece of Historical blue Staffordshire. Despite being my favorite color and its overwhelming importance, I did not choose that either. There is a Western Pennsylvania piece of stoneware by Eberhart and Williams, which, being so rare I can find no other with that very marking. Again, rare and the right color but I did not pick that. So, what could possibly eclipse all of these wonderful things? Well my pick this week is the Berks County, Pennsylvania dower chest, lot 1138. Did you see the drawer fronts with the soldiers who are arm armed and wielding tulips? How about looking at that blue background with every inch filled with vibrant tulips and trailing vines? Looking closer you can find a number of birds perched on flowering branches overlooking the gardens below. The rearing unicorns under a tree take center stage in the middle panel. How could anyone not love the rampant lions with their whimsical faces? This chest just seems to have it all. What is it going to bring and who is taking it home? We will find out soon enough!
by: Jamie Shearer