Schoenhut: From Tiny Pianos To Legendary Toys

German immigrant Albert Schoenhut not only lived the American dream, but he made childhood much more fun for generations of children in his adopted homeland.
Born into a family of toymakers, Schoenhut’s lot in life emerged early on. Even as a child, Albert was already picking up the skills to make toy pianos in the family home located in Göppingen, Germany. As a third-generation toymaker, Schoenhut learned the craft of making wooden dolls, circus figures, complete playsets and games from his father and grandfather. At the age of 17, he had narrowed his focus to toy pianos. His talent resulted in a job offer from America and Schoenhut’s solo immigration to Philadelphia, where he worked for Wanamaker’s department store. His work consisted of repairing German toy pianos imported to the United States, beginning in the 1860s.

Lot featuring all three sizes of jointed-wood Felix the Cat dolls manufactured by Schoenhut, auctioned for $850 in October 2009. LiveAuctioneers and Dan Morphy Auctions image

History Highlight: Composer John Cage put Schoenhut Toy Co.’s toy pianos in the spotlight on the concert stage in 1948 with his Suite for Toy Piano. Enjoy a performance of this special composition:

In 1897, Schoenhut went off on his own, forming A. Schoenhut Company, Manufacturer of Toys and Novelties. He wasn’t alone. It’s reported in the 1900 Census that at least 500 toy manufacturers were operating within the United States. As the 20th century got under way, Albert Schoenhut’s $100 acquisition of a toy clown patent set the course for what would become one of his company’s most prolific toy lines. Schoenhut’s Humpty Dumpty Circus, with its various jointed animal and clown figures, and other circus accessories, opened the door to playset popularity.

Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus playset from the turn of the 20th century, featuring a circus tent, circus ring, original flags, 12 figures: dancer, clowns, animal trainers; and 18 animal figures, sold for 8,000 Euro ($9,425). Provenance: Rothenburg Doll and Toy Museum, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

History Highlight: The German community where the Schoenhut family of toymakers produced playthings was no stranger to timeless toy production, as toymaking firm Märklin also operated in Göppingen, Germany.

The Humpty Dumpty Circus was a hit with children, parents and teachers alike. The ability to create scenes inspired by the real-life big-top circuses of the day captured the attention of all ages. The retail availability of various figures, which could be purchased individually, created an affordable way for parents to provide their children with toys for creative play.
The Humpty Dumpty Circus toy line was in production from 1903 through 1935. Various museums include or have featured displays/figures of Humpty Dumpty Circus playsets in exhibitions, including:
• The Strong National Museum of Play www.museumofplay.org
• NC Museum of Dolls, Toys & Miniatures www.spencerdollandtoymuseum.com
• New-York Historical Society Museum & Library www.nyhistory.org
• Philadelphia History Museum www.philadelphiahistory.org

Rare, circa 1906 painted-wood toy boat, Schoenhut Co., with cardboard cloth covered canopy and composition figures seated in the bow, keywind mechanism, accompanied by original box, entered in Bertoia’s Nov. 11, 2017 auction. LiveAuctioneers and Bertoia Auctions image

Tip: The Schoenhut Collectors Club is an active organization supporting the practice of collecting, preserving, and researching toys, dolls, and games created by the A. Schoenhut Co., and successor companies. The club hosts an annual fall convention. http://www.schoenhutcollectorsclub.org

Another evolution of the A. Schoenhut Company’s toy production was the “All Wood Perfection Art Doll.” The first model, marketed in 1911, featured steel spring hinges for joints and a basswood head designed by a revered Italian sculptor of the day. The Wood Perfection Art Doll became a top seller during the 1910s, even with the impact of World War I. Before his death in 1912, Albert Schoenhut saw his company progress into various new avenues of toy production and reach its 40th anniversary.
However, the company succumbed to the same fate as many other American businesses impacted by the Great Depression. In 1934, the company entered bankruptcy. Although many of the company’s buildings were sold during liquidating auctions, a few did not sell. In 1935, Albert Schoenhut’s youngest son and one of his grandsons formed the O. Schoenhut Company (after the son, Otto). The company produced Pinn Family Dolls in Philadelphia until the 1970s. In 1984 the company was purchased by Frank Trinca. This iteration of the Schoenhut company was also a family operation, and taking it full circle, brothers Frank and Len Trinca shifted the focus right back to where it began: toy pianos. Now doing business as the Schoenhut Piano Company, the company is revered for the quality of musical instruments it produces.
As they say, everything old is new again.

Roy Lichtenstein: Pop Art with a Comic Book Twist

Oct. 27 marks the 94th anniversary of Roy Fox Lichtenstein’s birth. The pop art trailblazer was born in 1923 and lived to age 73, leaving an immense body of compelling, in-your-face art that appeals to anyone who loves comic-book-style graphics – and isn’t that just about everyone?

Immense, in this instance, means more than 5,000 pieces created over a period of three decades. Often regaled for his prints, Lichtenstein’s creations also included paintings, drawings, murals, and sculptures, among other types of art.

Roy Lichtenstein, Brushstroke Nude, 1993, painted cast aluminum, sold by Phillips in a May 10, 2012 auction for $4.8 million. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Phillips

His appreciation for artistic expression formed early in his childhood in New York. His mother, Beatrice, was a homemaker with training as a pianist, and it is said that she made it a priority to expose her children – Roy and younger sister Rénee – to as much artistic culture as the city could offer. This inspired Lichtenstein during his undergraduate studies at Ohio State University, an education he would complete in two parts: before and after his military service during World War II. Even during his time in Europe, he continued to hone his artistic skills. He had hoped to study at the Sorbonne in Paris but ended up returning to the United States in the mid-1940s upon receiving news of his father’s illness.

After his father’s passing, Lichtenstein remained stateside and resumed his studies at Ohio State. Upon completing his studies, Lichtenstein become a member of the university’s faculty. Academia would become a hallmark of Lichtenstein’s early professional life. In addition to OSU, he taught at the State University of New York at Oswego and Douglass College in New Jersey. Prior to focusing his efforts full time on creating art, his work history included modern interior design, furniture design, and even window dressing.

Roy Lichtenstein, Sweet Dreams, Baby!, silkscreen printed in colors, 1965, 160/200, sold by Bloomsbury auctions on Dec. 6, 2011 for $99,000. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Bloomsbury Auctions

Artist’s Trademark: By including Benday dots, a symbol of mechanical patterns often used in industrial engraving, Lichtenstein incorporated a unique form of texture within his artwork. The dots became synonymous with the artist and a pop-art staple.

The familiarity and popularity of Roy Lichtenstein’s work is due in part to his printmaking. These pieces are considered original art although they are prints of an original surface. Different from commercial prints, fine-art prints are limited in number and often signed by the artist. The printing technique most often used by Lichtenstein during his career was screenprinting (also referred to as silkscreen printing). This technique found a fan in pop-art master Andy Warhol, who used it to develop his own distinctive style. It also influenced the work of Lichtenstein and others active in the early pop-art movement. In the simplest terms, screenprinting involves applying a stencil to a screen through which ink passes, rendering an image on the blank space.

A Lichtenstein print never before offered at auction is among the works featured in Sotheby’s Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale, Nov. 16, 2017. The print Female Head was created by Lichtenstein in 1977 and carries an auction estimate of $10 million to $15 million.

Roy Lichtenstein, Female Head, 1977, estimate $10M-$15M in Sotheby’s Nov. 16, 2017 auction. Copyright Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s

Lichtenstein was very obviously influenced by cartoon and comic art. Like some early comic books, the themes explored and subjects presented in his artwork were not always tranquil. They defined pop art through parody, often in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Roy Lichtenstein, Nurse, oil and magna on canvas painting, circa 1964, signed and dated rf Lichtenstein ‘64 on verso, realized $95,365,000 in 2015, the most ever paid for a Lichtenstein at auction. Christie’s image

As prolific as he was in creating cartoon-influenced pop art during the second and third quarters of the 20th century, Lichtenstein didn’t shy away from exploring other genres and movements, including cubism, surrealism, and expressionism; as well as other media, such as sculptures and murals. In the late 20th century, he created five murals and significant sculptures in six cities around the world.

The artist continued to work into his 70s, until succumbing unexpectedly to complications of pneumonia in 1997. Although he has been gone for two decades, Lichtenstein’s work continues to captivate and attract new fans, often with “Biff!,” “Pow!” or “Wham!”

In Focus: Linda McCartney

Linda McCartney photo, The Beatles, London 1968, gelatin silver print, 40 x 50 cm, stamped on verso, signed by Mary McCartney from the Linda McCartney Estate. Image obtained from LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Westlicht Photographica Auction

If it were not for photographer Linda McCartney (American, 1941-1998), the history of rock music would be missing a vital part of its visual record from the 1960s and ’70s. While she had only minimal formal training – once modestly referring to herself as a “punk photographer” – McCartney had a gift for putting performers at ease, then dissolving into the background to snap what are now considered classic photos of music superstars.

Linda McCartney was born Linda Louise Eastman to an upper-crust family from Westchester County, New York. Although some may have presumed it to be so, she was not related to the Eastman family of Eastman Kodak fame, and never made any suggestion that she was. Her father, Lee (Epstein) Eastman was a prominent entertainment lawyer in New York City. Her mother, Louise Lindner Eastman, was the daughter of Max J. Lindner, founder of the Lindner Company department store in Cleveland, Ohio.

After graduating from Scarsdale High School, Linda enrolled at Vermont College, where she earned an Associate of Arts degree. She then moved to Tucson, where she attended the University of Arizona. She started dabbling in equine and nature photography and became an avid hobbyist. Even as a student, she was known to use a high-quality Leica camera.

After her mother died tragically in a 1962 commercial airline crash, Linda moved back to New York and eventually went to work as a receptionist and editorial assistant for the society magazine Town & Country. During that time, she also went along on photo shoots with her then-boyfriend, photographer David Dalton. She closely observed the techniques he used in composition and lighting. Later, as she pursued her own career, Linda became known for her accomplished use of natural light when shooting her subjects.

Linda’s career path took a fortuitous turn in 1966 when an invitation arrived at Town & Country’s offices, inviting the publication to send a representative to a Rolling Stones record promotion party on a yacht. Linda jumped at the chance and ended up being the only photographer allowed on the yacht.

Linda McCartney photo of Mick Jagger, 1966, taken aboard a yacht in New York Harbor, #38/150, signed by the photographer in pencil at lower right. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers

“I just kept clicking away with the camera,” Linda is quoted as saying in the Howard Sounes biography Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney, “and they enjoyed it and I enjoyed it, and suddenly I found that taking pictures was a great way to live and a great way to work.”

A few months after her Stones shoot, Linda was allowed backstage at Shea Stadium, where the Beatles performed. She also became an unofficial house photographer at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East, where she took pictures of scores of artists, including Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, the Doors, the Who, Grace Slick, and many others. A portrait she took of Eric Clapton became the first by a woman photographer to be chosen for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. She developed a reputation as not only a fine photographer but also a music industry insider whom recording artists could trust.

Linda McCartney photo, John Lennon, circa-1969 gelatin silver print, printed circa 1974, photographer’s stamps and negative number in red crayon on verso. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com and Bloomsbury Auctions

Linda McCartney signed lithograph of Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship). Edition of 150. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com and Simon Parr’s Auctions

In 1967, while on assignment in London, Linda Eastman met Paul McCartney at the Bag O’ Nails, a club frequented by musicians. They met again four days later at the launch party for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at Beatles manager Brian Epstein’s house. In May of 1968, they reconnected at the US launch of Apple Records in Manhattan. Less than a year later, the couple married in a small civil ceremony in London. They would go on to live a normal, non-celebrity-oriented type of life on a farm, far from the insanity of Beatlemania. Throughout their 29 years of marriage, their primary consideration was always their four children: Heather, Mary, Stella and James.

Signed candid photo of Paul and Linda McCartney taken at a sports venue. Their marriage was one of rock music’s most solid, lasting 29 years until Linda’s death in 1998, at age 56. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com and Heritage Auctions

While she also became a musician, playing keyboards and singing with McCartney’s post-Beatles group Wings, Linda had many other interests. She was a vegetarian and animal activist. She developed a successful line of vegetarian frozen foods that made her independently wealthy, and she both wrote and photographed the images for two bestselling vegetarian cookbooks.

Linda never lost her passion for photographing interesting people, including her own family. Her photographs have appeared on album covers and been exhibited in more than 50 galleries worldwide, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Her experiments with making sun prints – a 19th-century photo-developing process that dates to the early days of photography – earned Linda McCartney an invitation to have her work exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society in Bath, England.

In 1992, a book of Linda’s photos from the earliest decade of her career – titled Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait of an Era – was published by Bulfinch. The photos have been praised for their warmth and ability to capture the essence of each subject at a precise moment in time. A testament to Linda’s talent behind the lens and the respect she garnered from those she photographed, the book remains one of the definitive photo records of rock music legends from that period in time.

Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait of an Era, deluxe signed limited edition book in slipcase, #312/500, Bulfinch, 1992. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Heritage Auctions

The Origin of Money: From Cowrie Shells to Bitcoin

Before there were organized monetary systems, there was barter and trade. Some sources report evidence of compensation exchange in cultures dating back as far as 10,000 years ago. People with the ability to fish would connect with those who cultivated and harvested crops to exchange commodities. While this form of trade was useful for many societies, it wasn’t without challenges. One of those challenges was finding a consistent party with whom to barter and trade the materials a person was capable of bringing to the table. Another challenge was the amount of time it could take to complete an exchange of goods – especially if one side of the exchange was dependent on crops that required many months to reach the point of harvest. Also, there was the question of how to value the commodities on both sides so there could be a fair exchange.

Long strand of chain link probably used as a form of currency, Roman Empire, circa 2nd-4th century AD. Measures 36 inches long x 1 inch wide. Sold by Artemis Gallery for $450 in September 2017. LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Artemis Gallery image

People living near the sea – the Pacific and Indian Oceans, primarily – took a different approach, implementing cowrie shells from sea snails as an accepted form of currency. It’s believed that the brightly patterned cowrie shell is one of the longest-tenured forms of currency anywhere. The first indication of its use dates to 1,200 BC. Even after the introduction of gold coins as a form of currency, some civilizations opted to continue using cowrie shells.

Restrung Viking necklace of assorted green glass beads with two cowrie-shell pendants and three silver coins on loops, circa 9th-12th century AD, sold for $237 at TimeLine Auctions’ September 2016 sale. TimeLine Auctions, Ltd. image

The leap from cowrie shells to metal monies first took place in China. Archeological discoveries have uncovered various specimens of primitive coins. This evolution within early Chinese culture is said to have been inspired by people initially exchanging tools and weapons. This led to the inventive idea of creating small replicas of these items for a safer and easier method of exchange. Ultimately, the small replicas, some with sharp edges, were cast aside in favor of circular discs, often made of copper and bronze. Sometimes a hole was bored into the coins, to allow them to be placed together on a chain. This was the earliest identifiable example of what is considered early coinage. However, it was in Lydia (modern-day Turkey) that the gold-and-silver allow electrum, along with a process of stamping, turned out the first batch of precious metal coins.

Ancient copper sestertius (Roman coin) of Emperor Antoninus Pius, scarce and occasionally issued during the Roman Empire. Offered with $200-$350 estimate in Jasper52 Sept. 30 Ancient Roman Coins Auction. LiveAuctioneers.com and Jasper52 image

Although it was at King Alyattes of Lydia’s direction that such coins were produced in the late 7th century, it was Greece that capitalized on the innovation. As Wayne G. Sayles states in the book Ancient Coin Collecting, “… the rise of Greek culture and the development of coinage as a form of artistic and political expression go hand in hand. The study of numismatics, from the 7th to the 3rd centuries BC, is really an exploration of Greek civilization.”

Two plaques containing examples of shell wampum and trade beads; part of a 5-piece lot of Native American beadwork objects that was sold by Cordier Auctions for $100 in February 2016. Cordier Auctions & Appraisals image

While the Greeks, followed by the Romans, were focusing their attention on producing coins made of silver, bronze, and gold, 7th-century China was changing things by developing paper money. Early on, these notes would be exchanged for coins. A trusted source would issue the person transferring the coins a note indication the amount of coins that were deposited, and at a later date, the holder of the note could redeem their currency. While paper banknotes were used within the Chinese culture for more than 500 years, the excess production of notes prompted a decline in value and a rise in inflation. This led to the beginning of the end of paper-money use in China, in 1455. It would be another three centuries before paper currency would return to the Chinese market. As is often the case, everything old becomes new again if you wait long enough. Such was the case with shell currency. Wampum – strings of beads made from clamshells and used as both a form of adornment and a form of currency – was used by Native American peoples. There is evidence of wampum’s use in the mid-16th century, and perhaps earlier.

Another unique example of currency could be found in late 17th-century French colonies in Canada. French soldiers were presented with playing cards bearing various denominations and the signature of a governor to be used as currency in lieu of coins.

1815 $20 TN-12 Remainder note, PCGS New 62PPQ, rarer than similar $5 and $10 notes, sold for $18,800 in a Heritage auction held in April 2015. Heritage Auctions image

Money continues its evolution today, with governments around the world minting and printing coins and currency daily. In addition, the 21st century has also seen increasing use of electronic transactions and digital currency. And at the same time, the cycle seems to have come full circle, as there are examples of a new generation utilizing the ancient principles of barter and trade.

Andy Warhol: Godfather of Pop Art

Artist, sculptor, filmmaker, magazine publisher, photographer, dance club owner, author, graphic designer. For a person to excel in any one of these endeavors during a lifetime would be quite enough for most people, but in his relatively short 58 years of life, Andy Warhol excelled at all of them. In so doing, he left an indelible imprint on American popular culture.

Born in 1928, Andy Warhola grew up in a work-class neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA. He was the youngest of three children born to Slovakian immigrants Ondrei (Andrej) Warhola and Julia Zavackys. Early in his life he suffered from a neurological disorder. During his years of illness, Warhol became enamored by celebrity and also developed a fascination for the creative design of comic books. Because his illness limited his physical activity, young Andy spent much of his time perusing magazines about celebrities and immersing himself in the adventures of comic book characters. This influence would later evidence itself both in his art and his own lifestyle. Over time he would emerge as a central figure among New York’s headline-makers and party people.

One of Warhol’s best-known series of celebrity artworks is his “Early Colored Liz” series. At the time Warhol created the series in 1963, Elizabeth Taylor was one of, if not the, most talked-about stars of the day. Her love life and high-profile roles in major motion pictures put her front and center of the magazines Warhol read with regularity. According to the book Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, the artist’s “Liz” series was based on an MGM publicity photo of Taylor issued in the late 1950s. The method he used in producing the Liz series – silk-screening – was repeated later on with his Marilyn Monroe artworks and continued to be used through the early 1980s.

Liz #5 (Early Colored Liz), 1963, silkscreen ink and acrylic on linen, 40 x 40 inches, sold for $24 million during a May 2011 auction. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Phillips

Early in his life, Warhol’s educational aspirations took him to study at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (later renamed to Carnegie Mellon University), where he earned a degree in Pictorial Design in 1949. In short order, he began working on projects for the likes of Glamour magazine, NBC, Tiffany & Co., Columbia Records, Harper’s Bazaar, and others. During this time, his eye for design and his creative chops were viewed by thousands of people daily, although they likely never knew it. Warhol was creating window displays of Bonwit Teller and I. Miller department stores.

Of his professional years, the period from the 1960s through early 1970s was perhaps the most productive and high profile for Warhol. Among the works created and unveiled during this time were his “Campbell Soup Cans” series, and his celebrity portrait series (Taylor, Monroe, Elvis Presley, Liza Minelli, Debbie Harry, Michael Jackson, et al.), and the “Death and Disasters” series showcasing images of tragic events and accidents as depicted in newspapers. Warhol silk-screened the images onto canvas using a repetitive process that incorporated reflective silver paint.

Campbell’s Soup I, complete set of 10 screenprints on paper, #179 of 250, 
published by Factory Additions, New York; printed by Salvatore Silkscreen Co., Inc., New York, 1968. Sold for $385,000 at a May 2015 auction. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Los Angeles Modern Auctions

The decade of the 1960s also saw the emergence of Warhol’s filmmaking and sculpting ambitions. It’s reported that Warhol produced around 600 films, with the majority being shorts; with the exception of **** (also known as Four Stars), which was a 25-hour long film. Through sculpture, Warhol transformed everyday items into three-dimensional pop art. In 1964, he presented hundreds of pieces replicating product boxes of familiar brands, including Heinz, Del Monte, Kellogg’s and Brillo. This series also pays homage to the early 20th-century artistry of Marcel Duchamp.

Brillo Soap Pads Box, silkscreen ink and house paint on plywood, 1964, 17 x 17 x 14 inches. Sold for $530,000 during a May 2010 auction. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Phillips.

Warhol continued to evolve, adding performance art and album-cover illustration (the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground) to his pop-art arsenal. The end of the 1960s also saw Warhol suffer personal tragedy when a woman who acted in his 1967 film I, a Man shot Warhol in the chest. He survived the near-fatal attack and remained an influential, groundbreaking artist for another 20 years. He became friends with countless celebrities and, ironically, became even more famous than many of the A-listers who were regulars in his crowd. He was a regular at New York’s fabled Studio 54 disco and once created a distinctive sculpture decorated with cutout dollar signs as a birthday gift to the nightclub’s co-owner Steve Rubell.

Free-standing sculpture “$” of bronze interlocking panels featuring cutouts of the US dollar symbol, signed and dated in felt pen along the bottom edge of one panel, 1981, measuring 20 inches in diameter. Provenance: Estate of Steve Rubell. Sold by Palm Beach Modern Auctions in 2013 for $44,000. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

 

During the final decade of his life, Warhol began to collaborate with and assist up-and-coming artists, dabbled in television programming and modeling; and selectively accepted requests for commissioned artwork. One of his later commissions was a group of 10 screenprints titled “Endagered Species,” which he produced in 1983 following discussions with art dealers/environmental activists Ronald and Frayda Feldman. Warhol, who was also an animal lover, wanted to honor various species by placing them at a level of superstardom on par with the subjects of his celebrity series. His vibrantly hued Endangered Species portfolio was created to draw attention to the plight of animals facing extinction due to poaching and loss of habitat. Warhol chose a style of presentation and palette of colors similar to those used in his celebrity profiles in creating his incomprable set of animal screenprints.

Examples of the “Endangered Species” series of 10 screenprints in colors on Lenox Museum Board, number 103 from the edition of 150 plus 30 artist’s proofs, 1983, each signed and numbered in pencil with the publisher’s stamp on verso. A set of 10 was sold by Heritage Auctions for $600,000 in October 2015. Image courtesy LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Heritage Auctions.

It has been 20 years since the world bid adieu to pop-art icon Andy Warhol, who died of heart failure following gall bladder surgery. It is a testament to Warhol’s extraordinary vision that his art remains fresh and exciting, and that it continues to influence new generations of artists who are hoping for their own “15 minutes.”

Birthstones: What Does Yours Mean?

When shopping for a birthday gift, it’s hard to go wrong when you choose jewelry that includes a birthstone. For centuries, various gemstones were associated with months of the year. Then, in 1912, a standardized list was developed by the American Association of Jewelers. It is the most widely accepted guide to months and their birthstones option for the month of December, according to the American Gem Society.

Let’s examine birthstones, their history and symbolism, month by month.

 

January: Garnet

This gemstone is not just one mineral, but a combination of several similar minerals. Although the most common version of garnet is a dark red specimen, garnet also appears in yellow, orange, brown, gray, purple and green. Archeological exploration has unearthed portions of garnet jewelry daring back to 3100 B.C., and the popularity of garnet jewelry among the elite of the Middle Ages is well documented. The garnet represents peace, health and wellness; weal, and great happiness, while also providing an additional measure of safety for the wearer during their travels.

Tip: The rarest of all garnets are green and blue, so expect to pay a premium for either.

 

February: Amethyst

Amethyst, diamond, platinum and gold brooch designed by Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co., features cushion-shape amethyst weighing approx. 56.00cts. Sold for $25,000, Heritage Auctions, Dec. 5, 2016. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Heritage Auctions

The name of this striking quartz mineral hails from Ancient Greece and the word methustos, which means “intoxicated.” This gave way to the storied belief that if one were to wear an amethyst, they could avoid drunkenness. Although that may be up for debate, what isn’t is the amethyst’s durability, which is a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale. They’re found in North America, regions of South America, and Zambia in southern Africa. The availability of amethyst gemstones has increased since the late 19th century, when significant deposits were discovered. As supply increased, the gems became more affordable. Perhaps owing to the legend of amethysts warding off drunkenness, it is said that the gemstone helps the person wearing it to be clear-headed, courageous, humble and loyal. Leonardo da Vinci wrote that the amethyst was useful for sharpening the mind and ridding oneself of evil thoughts.

Tip: Amethyst stones often appear to contain layers of color, which develop naturally as the stone is formed. However, the manner in which a gemologist or jeweler cuts the stone can even out the layers of color.

 

March: Aquamarine

Aquamarine is a variation of the mineral beryl, and gets its name from the Latin word aqua, or water, for its calming color reminiscent of the sea. Aquamarine gemstones vary in intensity – the larger the stone the more intense the color – but are consistently green-blue to blue-green in color. Most aquamarine gemstones are mined and exported from Brazil, however some specimens have reportedly been mined in Nigeria and Mozambique, as well as other parts of Africa. Legend and lore affiliated with aquamarine is extensive. Early adventurers and sailors were said to wear the gemstones to gain protection during a voyage and to bring about calm and clarity. It’s not hard to imagine how a clear head might be helpful when navigating uncharted oceans. History reveals armies of ancient societies had soldiers who believed wearing aquamarine would bring them victory. In addition to these benefits, there are also reports of the aquamarine being used as a cure for a variety of infections. The gemstone in powder for is said to help heal eye infections.

Memo: The bloodstone is regarded as an optional birthstone for the month of March.

 

April: Diamond

Edwardian-style sapphire and diamond 18K white gold jewelry suite with a bib necklace and pair of matching ear pendants. Sold for $32,500, I.M. Chait, March 2016. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and I.M. Chait Gallery/Auctioneers

The formation of diamonds from carbon atoms, in a high-pressure and high-temperature environment about 100 miles below the surface of the Earth, is a fascinating scientific process. It results in one of, if not the most, sought after of all gemstones. The formation process involves diamonds breaking the surface following a course of volcanic eruptions that occurred centuries ago. The diamond lays claim to being the hardest entity in nature – 58 times harder than any other substance. Its durable quality makes it the ideal choice for engagement rings, and it has been the subject of many songs and motion picture themes. While the colorless diamond is perennially desirable, diamonds also come in other colors, including yellow, pink, blue, and others. The recent upsurge of interest in colored diamonds has prompted the development of color-treated diamonds in laboratories.

Tip: Recent diamond-buying trends reveal a preference for Art Deco designs that incorporate scrollwork or flower shapes with diamond elements.

 

May: Emerald

Highly important platinum, emerald and diamond ring with fine 9.00ct green emerald flanked by two pear-shape diamonds totaling approx. 1.20cts. Sold for $9,250,000, Bruce Kodner Galleries, Dec. 19, 2010. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Bruce Kodner Galleries

This deeply hued gemstone shares a history like that of the aquamarine, as it, too, is a variation of the mineral beryl. The intensity of an emerald’s color is one factor in determining its value, with the rarest emerald being dark green-blue. Emeralds are mined in regions around the world, with the majority coming from Colombia, Brazil, Afghanistan and Zambia. Some of the earliest emeralds are estimated to be nearly 3 billion years old. Emeralds were sought out after by various ancient societies as fashionable adornments in life, as well as in death (burials). One of history’s greatest fans of emeralds was Cleopatra. They were among the gemstones harvested from mines near the coast of the Red Sea during Cleopatra’s reign. Ironically, or not, Elizabeth Taylor, who famously portrayed the fabled vamp in the 1963 Academy-Award film, was known for her sensational collection of jewelry. In 2011, an emerald and diamond brooch designed and created for Taylor by Bvlgari sold for $6.58M at Christie’s auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry collection. The brooch was one of 14 lots of the movie legend’s jewelry that included emeralds. The gemstone is a symbol of new beginnings, peace, security and loyalty.

Tip: A quality emerald should have an even distribution of color and a deep, but not too dark, green-blue hue.

 

 

June: Pearl, Alexandrite, and Moonstone

18K yellow gold necklace with 245 round, brilliant-cut diamonds and 34 pearls; and a pair of earrings containing 40 round, brilliant-cut diamonds and six pearls. Stamped 18K HAMMERMAN. Sold for $15,000, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, April 18, 2010. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Leslie Hindman Auctioneers

People born in June have the good fortune of being able to select from three birthstones. The pearl is unique in that it is made by a living creature that relies on an irritant to form the creamy gemstone. Clams deposit layers of calcium carbonate around the irritants to create the pearl, which is among the softest of all gemstones, posting a minimum of 2.5 and maximum of 4.5 on the Mohs hardness scale. In addition to natural development of pearls, the process of freshwater culturing of pearls is a growing market operation. Natural harvesting of pearls is confined to an area of the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. The most common characteristics associated with pearls are purity and innocence.

Did You Know: One of the rarest types of pearl is the Black Pearl. However, its color is more often dark green, purple, or even blue.

Another June birthstone, the alexandrite is a “youngster” among birthstones, said to have first been discovered in the mid-19th century in Russian mines in the Ural Mountains. The gemstone’s most fascinating quality is its changing color. Due to a rare chemical composition, alexandrite appears green in daylight and with a purple-red hue when placed under incandescent light. After the Russian supply of alexandrites dwindled, so did interest in the stone – until the discovery of alexandrite in Brazil in 1987. Despite this current source, alexandrites are scarce.

Moonstone is said to have been named by a natural historian who thought the gem looked like the shifting of the moon’s phases. Tiny layers of the feldspar create the effect in moonstone. It is found in India, Australia, Madagascar and the United States. It’s said to aid in balancing energies and rendering tranquility, thus making it useful in the treatment of insomnia. It is also fondly referred to as the “traveler’s stone” due to the belief that its properties help keep adventurers’ safe during the evening.

 

July: Ruby

Platinum and 18K gold Art Nouveau-style cocktail earrings with 4.75ctw old, European-cut diamonds and 1.50ctw near-flawless Burma rubies. Sold for $13,500, GWS Auctions Inc., July 29, 2017. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and GWS Auctions Inc.

The power of this gemstone, as believed by ancient civilizations, is to keep evil at bay. The luxurious red color of the ruby comes from the element chromium. The same element provides this gemstone with the appearance of an inner glow, but it also leaves it more susceptible to cracks. The most common regions where rubies exist include Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, India and East Africa. It is also second only to the diamond in terms of hardness, according to the Mohs scale, which ranks it as a 9. The ruby is said to heighten awareness, increase energy, and encourage love and strength. Throughout history, leaders of various cultures believed in the power of rubies, including Chinese noblemen. Ancient Hindus seeking status as emperors in rebirth would offer rubies to the god Krishna.

 

August: Peridot and Sardonyx

The peridot was described by early Egyptians as the “gem of the sun.” They also believed it could protect people from nighttime dangers. A deposit containing peridot was discovered in Pakistan in the 1990s, but more than 80% of the global supply of peridot is located in a deposit in Arizona on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. Peridot is a variation of the mineral Olivine, and the amount of iron within the gemstone determines the depth of green color.

Sardonyx is a combination of sard and onyx minerals. Depending on the level of oxide within the composition, the color of the sard can be yellowish red or reddish brown, while onyx presents as white. India has produced the finest examples of this gemstone, which is said to render courage, clear communication skills, and genuine happiness.

Tip: A popular type of cut is cabochon, and in addition to its use with large, individual gemstones, it is also carved into cameos and brooches.

 

September: Sapphire

Harry Winston 18K gold necklace featuring an approximately 24ct rectangular-cut sapphire surrounded by diamonds on a multi-strand of cultured pearls. Sold for $110,000, John Moran Auctioneers, May 21, 2013. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and John Moran Auctioneers, Inc.

Most commonly seen in blue, sapphires can actually come in a variety of colors, depending on the elements that are present in their composition. In the gemological world, sapphires that are not blue are referred to as “fancies.” Like the ruby, it measures 9 on the Mohs hardness scale, which opens the door for sapphires to also be incorporated into the production of watches and electronic instruments. In ancient times, it was believed that sapphires could help avoid poisoning.

Tip: Clarity among sapphires is usually greater than that of rubies, often due to the presence of rutile (a form of titanium dioxide). While this might lower the value of other gemstones, in some form of sapphires it increases value.

 

October: Opal and Tourmaline

Necklace composed of 25 oval, bluish-green tumble polished indicolite tourmaline beads, 418.0ctw, interspaced with diamond and 18K gold rondelles. Sold for $5,000, Clars Auction Gallery, Nov. 15, 2015. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Clars Auction Gallery

Both of October’s gemstones are revered for the way they transform in varying degrees of light, and symbolize faithfulness and courage. In fact, the word opal has its origins in the Greek term opallios, which means “to see a change in color.” It wasn’t until the 1960s that the scientific community was able to explain the reason for the change, which is due to intricate silica spheres diffracting light. The climate and geography in Australia are said to be the most conducive to the creation of opal.

Tourmaline also presents in a variety of colors, and according to legend, this is due to its passing through a rainbow during its journey from creation below the Earth’s surface to the top.

Tip: One of the most sought-after types of tourmaline is the rubellite, which appears in varying degrees of red and pink. Dark-toned tourmaline often appears black in color, and they typically sell for less than more brightly colored variations.

 

November: Topaz and Citrine

Once believed to be only yellow in color, topaz is colorless, and depending on impurities, can take on various colors, including the most popular variation – imperial topaz – which is orange with hints of pink hues. Another storied variation of this gemstone is the blue topaz, which is said to rarely appear naturally. Citrine also ranges in color from yellow to brownish orange and is a variety of quartz. The yellow hues are the result of the iron within the gemstone’s quartz crystals. Most of citrine today is mined in Brazil, but Bolivia and Russia also mine citrine, as do the U.S. states of Colorado, North Carolina, and California. Citrine has also been called a “healing quartz,” with reports that the gemstone fosters optimism and helps cultivate prosperity.

 

December: Tanzanite, Zircon, and Turquoise

David Webb earrings with pear and oval-shape turquoise cabochons enhanced by full-cut, baguette-cut and marquise-cut diamonds. Sold for $36,000, Heritage Auctions, April 3, 2017. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Heritage Auctions

As the name suggests, tanzanite hails from Tanzania. It is a variation of the mineral zoisite first discovered in 1967, making it another of the more modern birthstones. While shades of blue ranging from pale to ultramarine are the most common color of tanzanite, depending on the cut of the stone, additional colors may evidence themselves. Zircon is sometimes erroneously confused with the synthetic but unrelated cubic zirconia, simply because of the similarity in names. Since the Middle Ages zircon’s qualities have been linked to peaceful sleep and prosperity.

Turquoise varies in color from powder blue to robin’s egg blue with a hint of green. The name turquoise originated in 13th-century France and the phrase pierre turquois, which means “Turkish stone.” Most prevalent in arid regions, five U.S. states are the sources for most of the turquoise on the market today. It is said that the turquoise was used to adorn ceremonial masks and equipment used in battle because of its ability to bring power and protection to those wearing it.

 

5 Masters of the Whodunit

In today’s world of entertainment, where it seems “pushing the envelope” is an ingredient to success, innovative mysteries of the past penned by literary pioneers remain timeless in their appeal.

In the simplest terms, mystery fiction literature often involves a telling of the circumstances involving individuals, duos, or a team examining the who, what, and why, to solve a perplexing crime – often a murder. The word “mystery” comes from the Latin word mysterium defined as “a secret thing,” and stories within mystery literature are often described as “whodunits.”

Mystery fiction has captured the imaginations of generations of readers. Let’s review the biographies of five writers whose work transcends time.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was born in Boston to a pair of traveling actors, but orphaned by the age of three. He and his siblings were separated, with Poe going to live with an influential tobacco merchant and his wife. His time studying at the University of Virginia was challenging, and Poe reportedly took to gambling in an effort to pay his tuition and expenses. Ultimately, he dropped out of school. however, it didn’t dissuade Poe from following his dreams of becoming a writer, and at the age of 18, he published his first book Tamerlane. After winning a writing contest and establishing connections within the industry, he began work at the “Southern Literary Messenger” in an editorial capacity. He saw a bit of success with the Messenger, especially for his short stories and reviews, but he continued to struggle financially.

It was during this time in his late 20s that Poe married his 13-year-old cousin. It was one of several scandals that marked his four decades of life. It was also during this time that he crafted what would become the work considered by many to be the first example of the mystery and detective genre, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

“The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” was a short story published in 1841 in the pages of Graham’s Magazine. The primary character of this fictional work is C. Auguste Dupin, who was an amateur detective.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Tudor Publishing, 1939. Early reprint edition with the Clarke illustrations. Illustrated with eight tipped in color plates and twenty-four black & white plates $100-$150. Jasper52 image

In 1845, just four years before his death, Poe achieved national fame with the publication of The Raven. A year later, his wife died of tuberculosis, reportedly leaving Poe in no state to write for many months. While he ultimately returned to giving lectures, and sought to find support for a magazine he wanted to create, Poe lived just two years following the death of his wife and died at the age of 40. The cause of his death is unconfirmed and remains a mystery.

 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) was born Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle in Scotland to an artist father and a mother who reportedly excelled at storytelling. She was a consistent source of encouragement in Doyle’s early years. These sentiments are representative throughout Doyle’s autobiography. Among the author’s observations about his mother, he writes, “In my early childhood, as far as I can remember anything at all, the vivid stories she would tell me stand out so clearly that they obscure real facts of my life.”

With his father’s reported alcoholism regularly disrupting the family structure, other family members made it possible for Doyle to attend a boarding school in England. Following completion of his general studies, Doyle went on to study medicine, while also enjoying his other live: writing. For decades he pursued dual careers as both a physician and author.

Beeton’s Christmas Annual, London: Ward, Lock and Co., 1887, contains “A Study in Scarlet,” with other works, sold for $156,000 through Sotheby’s in 2007. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

In 1887, he introduced the character for which he would become best known: Sherlock Holmes. His novel A Study in Scarlet, featuring the first appearance of the legendary crime-solving duo of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. During his career, Doyle reportedly wrote hundreds of works, including short stories, novels, plays, and commentaries. Although his mystery writing attracted the greatest attention, he also wrote about war and military history, political mindsets and spiritualism (another of his interests). He was married twice, father to five children, volunteered for military service during the Boer War, and ran for a political post in Central Edinburgh, albeit unsuccessfully.

 

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in southwest England. Her upbringing mirrored that of Doyle’s in that Christie’s mother was also reportedly an excellent storyteller, and the two enjoyed a close relationship. Her father oversaw the academic instruction for Christie, teaching her at home. It is said that Christie taught herself to read at the age of five. At age 11, Christie suffered a great loss with the unexpected loss of her father.

Late in her teens, Christie began writing short stories. At age 22, she met Archie Christie, an aviator with the Royal Flying Corps, whom she would marry in 1914. During World War I, Agatha worked with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in a Red Cross hospital in her hometown of Torquay. Her work at the hospital would lend itself nicely to her cultivation of classic mysteries. In her debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, she called on knowledge she acquired while working in the hospital’s dispensary to describe the poison used by the murderer in the story. Her description of the poison and its use in her novel earned her accolades from the Pharmaceutical Journal – a unique honor for a writer.

First edition short story collection Poirot Investigates, 1924, with dust jacket featuring drawing of main character detective Hercule Poirot, sold for $48,430 during a 2012 auction presented by the U.K’s Dominic Winter auction house. Image courtesy Dominic Winter

Her debut novel also introduced one of the characters from which Christie’s success would bloom: Detective Hercule Poirot. It was during this period of mid-to-late 1920s that Christie gave birth to a daughter, saw the collapse of her marriage, and suffered mental health challenges, but she continued writing. This resulted in the creation of another of her famous fictional sleuths: Miss Jane Marple. In the 1930s, Christie traveled aboard the Orient Express, and while in the Middle East she met the man who would become her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan.

Christie is credited with writing 66 mystery novels, including The Mystery of the Blue TrainMurder on the Orient Express, and Appointment with Death, and 150 short stories and plays. Many of these works were adapted into films and television programs. She was affectionately and commonly referred to as the Queen of Crime.

 

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) was born Raymond Thornton Chandler in Chicago, Illinois. Like Doyle and Christie, Chandler’s early life involved a lot of time spent with his mother. Following his parent’s divorce, seven-year-old Raymond and his mother relocated to England, where he attended school. Later, he studied international law and business before diving into a career as a journalist. By the time he was 24, his short story The Rose-Leaf Romance and 27 poems had been published. In 1912, he returned to the United States.

Resettled in his home country, he worked several jobs including stringing tennis rackets and keeping the books for a creamery business. This changed in 1917 when Chandler took up arms on the front lines during World War I. Following the war, he wed a woman 18 years his senior, and for a time, life went well. With the onset of the Great Depression, his wife’s health began to suffer, and Chandler reportedly turned to alcohol. In 1932, after losing his job as a bookkeeper for an oil syndicate, he returned to writing, and a year later, his first short story appeared in the popular pulp magazine Black Mask.

First edition, presentation copy of “The Long Goodbye,” inscribed by author Raymond Chandler on the front free endpaper, dated June 22, 1954. It is one of nine lots of novels written by Chandler featured in Heritage Auctions’ Sept. 14 auction. Image courtesy Heritage Auctions

As the 1930s ended, his first novel The Big Sleep was published, quickly followed by Farewell, My Lovely and The High Window. These books gave rise to his prolific fictional character, detective Philip Marlowe.

Like his fellow iconic mystery writers Doyle and Christie, some of the seven novels he wrote became films. He took his connection with Hollywood one step further, using his writing chops to create screenplays. His script “Double Indemnity,” co-written with Billy Wilder, and his solo screenplay for “The Blue Dahlia” earned him Academy Award nominations.

 

Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) was born in Massachusetts and grew up in California, where he graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1909. He enrolled in law school in Indiana, but was suspended after one month, reportedly for organizing illegal boxing matches. However, he did continue to learn about the legal system while working as a typist at a law firm. With no formal college or law school education, he sat for and passed the bar exam in 1911 and began practicing law. To supplement his income, he turned to writing and created a following for himself in pulp magazines. Like his contemporary, Raymond Chandler, his work appeared in the pages of Black Mask.

First edition, first printing, signed and inscribed by Gardner, 1933, sold for $1,875 during a 2012 auction through Heritage Auctions. Image courtesy Heritage Auctions

After his successful run in the pulp magazine world, he introduced his best-known character, attorney Perry Mason. Gardner’s 1933 novel The Case of the Velvet Claws was the setting for the first appearance of the subtle but razor-sharp Mason. However, many readers who never read any of Gardner’s novels became aware of Perry Mason in the pages of the Saturday Evening Post. Beginning in the 1950s, many of Gardner’s novels appeared in the magazine before being published as bound books.

During his lifetime, Gardner penned more than 110 short stories, more than 100 novels, and about 15 collections. Several films and radio programs, and a couple comic books are attributed to him.

 

A glimpse into the lives of these early visionaries of the mystery genre reveals some humbling similarities. Yet, the unique approach taken by each of the authors undoubtedly helped blaze the trail for a genre of literature that continues to captivate readers and book collectors alike.

5 Midwestern Companies That Changed the Art Pottery Game

American art pottery’s “golden era” started in the late 1880s and ran through the late 1920s. Today, decorative pottery from that period is highly sought after by collectors.

The movement began in Ohio and quickly spread across the country, spurred by a burgeoning middle class. In a matter of two decades, what had started as a “handmade” industry grew into a mechanized one and ultimately a big industry of national importance.

Ohio boasts the “big three” of american art potteries, which we profile below along with two additional Midwest potteries of importance. Remarkably, two of these potteries are still in operation, more than century after they were founded.

The best of what was produced during the golden era is now priced beyond reach of casual collectors, but production of less-expensive lines was substantial, so there’s plenty of choice for the budget-minded collector, too.

Let’s take a look at five Midwestern pottery companies whose wares are collector favorites.

Rookwood Pottery

Native Americans were often depicted on Rookwood Standard glaze vases. This 13-inch vase dated 1900 was decorated by Grace Young, who also taught portraiture at the Cincinnati Art Academy. This rare vase sold for $29,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2013. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Humler & Nolan

Rookwood Pottery Co., is considered by many to be the Cadillac of American art pottery. Maria Longworth Nichols Storer, a daughter of a prominent Cincinnati family, founded the company in 1879. She hired skilled ceramic workers and top decorators who developed many lines of superior art pottery.

Standard, one of Rookwood’s early lines, was often imitated by competitors. It was a brown ware decorated with underglaze slip-painted nature studies, animals and portraits.

Rookwood also produced pottery in the Japonism trend, after Storer invited Japanese artist Kitaro Shirayamadani to come to Cincinnati in 1887 to work for the company.

In 1894, Rookwood introduced three glazes, Iris, a clear colorless glaze; Sea Green, clear with a green tint; and Aerial Blue, clear with a blue tint. The latter glaze was produced for just one year, but Vellum and Sea Green glazes were used for more than a decade.

Vellum, introduced in 1904, presented a matte surface but through which could be seen the slightly frosted-appearing decoration beneath. It was widely used on scenic plaques, which were framed.

Many of the early artware lines were signed by the artist.

Soon after the turn of the 20th century, Rookwood began manufacturing production pieces that relied mainly on molded designs and forms rather than freehand decoration.

In 1902, Rookwood expanded into architectural pottery. Under the direction of William Watts Taylor, this division rapidly gained national and international acclaim. Rookwood tiles were used to create fireplace surrounds in many homes, and on a grander scale, were used in mansions, hotels and public places.

Following a prosperous decade in the 1920s, the company was hit hard by the Great Depression. Art pottery became a low priority for consumers, and architects could no longer afford Rookwood tiles. Rookwood filed for bankruptcy in 1941 and struggled through ownership changes. Herschede Clock Co., purchased Rookwood n 1959 and moved production to Starkville, Mississippi. Production ceased there in 1967.

A physician and Rookwood collector in Michigan owned the company’s assets for many years. In 2006, new ownership revived the company in Cincinnati. Since then it has been producing ceramic pieces, including architectural tile, using Rookwood’s original designs. Some of the pieces are identical, using molds and formulas from the company’s archives; others are new works. Like old Rookwood pottery, all pieces are marked and dated.

 

Weller Pottery

Frenchman Jacques Sicard developed a metallic glaze at Weller Pottery, which led to the short-lived Sicard line. This 32-inch-tall sand jar, possibly from the Weller Theater in Zanesville, Ohio, sold for $14,000 plus buyer’s premium in October 2011. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Rago Arts and Auction Center.

Weller Pottery had a humble beginning, starting out in 1872 in a small cabin with a single beehive kiln in Fultonham, Ohio. In 1882, founder Samuel Augustus Weller (1851-1925) moved the operation to Zanesville, where he recruited many of the foremost names in the business.

Having seen William Long’s Lonhuda ware at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Weller hired Lonhuda to produce faience-glazed pottery. When Long left after less than a year, Weller renamed the tin-glazed pottery line Louwelsa after his young daughter Louisa. It was made in at least 500 different shapes until 1924.

Weller expanded the company’s art pottery offerings around the turn of the century. From 1895-1904, Charles Babcock Upjohn was Weller’s head designer. He developed many fine artware lines, including Dickens Ware, Eocean and Aurelian.

One of the most famous lines was Dickens Ware II, introduced in 1900. The pieces were sgraffito-decorated with animals, golfers, monks, Indians and scenes from Charles Dickens novels on backgrounds that had characteristically caramel shading to turquoise matte.

In 1903 and 1904, Frederick H. Rhead worked at Weller pottery, developing a Japanese-influenced line whose pieces were decorated with Geisha girls, landscapes and birds. Rhead employed a unique look by applying heavy “slip” through the tiny nozzle of a squeeze bag.

From 1902-1907, Jacques Sicard joined Weller pottery and developed a metallic glaze. Teh Sicardo line went into production in the fall of 1903, but the process was difficult, and only about 30% of the finished pots were marketable. The pottery had a metallic luster in tones of rose, blue, green, or purple, with flowing Art Nouveau patterns developed within the glaze.

A desirable later line was named Hudson, first made in the early 1920s. A semi-matte-glaze ware line, it was beautifully decorated on shaded backgrounds with florals, animals, birds and scenics. Hudson pieces are often signed by the decorators.

Weller discontinued costly artware lines in the 1920s in favor of mass-produced commercial wares. The Great Depression brought a steady decline in sales and by 1948 the pottery was closed.

 

Roseville Pottery

Roseville Della Robbia vase, circa 1905, with Rozane Ware seal and artist’s initials ‘AB,’ 8 1/4 in. x 7 1/4 in. There is no typical Della Robbia pattern, only variations on Frederick H. Rhead’s basic concept. This vase sold for $16,000 plus the buyer’s premium in March 2014. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Rago Arts and Auction Center.

The Roseville Pottery Co. was incorporated in Roseville, Ohio in 1892 with George F. Young as general manager. Buoyed by the success of early utilitarian wares, the company expanded to a new plant in nearby Zanesville. By 1900, Young had controlling interest in the company and had his sights set on entering the highly competitive art pottery market. He hired an artistic designer, Ross C Purdy, who created Rozane, the company’s first art pottery line. It featured dark blended backgrounds with slip-painted underglaze artwork, similar to Rookwood’s Standard glaze.

Roseville’s Rozane Mongol, a high-gloss oxblood red line, won first prize at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

Frederick H. Rhead left Weller Pottery to become art director of Roseville Pottery from 1904 to 1909. He created Roseville’s Della Robbia and Olympic lines and designed or oversaw the Juvenile, Mostique and Pauleo lines. His brother, Harry Rhead, took over as artistic director in 1908 and, in 1915, introduced the popular Donatello line.

Handcrafting had virtually ceased at Roseville by 1908, replaced by mass-production methods.

Frank Ferrell, who was a leading decorator at Weller in the early 1900s, was Roseville’s artistic director from 1917 until 1954. He created many of the company’s most popular lines including Pine Cone, Futura, Falline and Sunflower.

Company sales declined in the postwar era as inexpensive Japanese imports flooded the American market. Also, consumer tastes had changed, and Roseville’s mainstay floral designs started to look old-fashioned as a more modern aesthetic emerged. The company went out of business in 1954, selling the facilities to the Mosaic Tile Co.

 

Pewabic Pottery

Pewabic Pottery molten-glaze vase, 15 in. x 9 in., with impressed Pewabic Detrioit mark. The congregation of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in inner-city Detroit was surprised when their unpretentious piece sold for $15,000 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2016. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and DuMouchelles

Pewabic Pottery may be one of the best-kept secrets in the pottery industry – and the studio is still in operation in Detroit. Mary Chase Perry Stratton (1867-1961) and her neighbor and business parter Horace James Caulkins (1850-1932) formally opened the pottery in a Tudor revival-style building on East Jefferson Avenue in 1907.

Perry named the pottery “Poewabic,” said to be derivative of the Ojibwa, or Chippewa, word wabic, which means metal, or bewabic, which means iron or steel. It specifically refers to the Pewabic copper mine in her hometown of Hancock in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Some of the early artware was glazed a simple matte green. Occasionally other colors were added, sometimes in combination to render a drip effect. Later, Perry developed a lustrous crystalline glaze. The body of the ware was highly fired and extremely hard. Shapes were basic, and decorative modeling was in low relief.

While never a big operation, Pewabic Pottery became a major name in the Arts and Crafts movement. Under Mary Stratton’s artistic leadership, Pewabic Pottery employees created lamps, vessels and architectural tiles.

The Griswold Hotel in Detroit ordered one of the first tile commissions, and orders from around the country followed. Pewabic tiles grace notable buildings such as the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

After years of experimenting, in 1909 Stratton discovered an iridescent glaze that established Pewabic as one of the most innovative potteries of its time.

Mary Stratton remained active at Pewabic until her death at age 94. The company continued to operate for five years after her death under the direction of Caulkins’ widow, a former assistant and silent partner.

The private, nonprofit Pewabic Society Inc. was established in 1979. The building and its contents were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991. Today, Pewabic is Michigan’s only historic pottery.

 

Teco

Matte-green glaze, the color of money, is a favorite shade among Arts and Crafts collectors. Couple it with the organically modeled design by Harold Hals and this 13 1/4-inch Teco brand vase becomes a classic. It sold at auction for $25,000 plus buyer’s premium in February 2013. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Clars Auction Gallery

The American Terra Cotta Tile and Ceramic Co., is famous for Teco artware, another favorite among Arts and Crafts Moment devotees. Founded by William Day Gates in 1881 as Spring Valley Tile Works, it became the country’s first manufacturer of architectural terra cotta. Production at the plant in McHenry County plant outside Chicago consisted of drain tile, brick, chimney tops, finials, urns and other fireproof building materials.

Gates used the facilities to experiment with clays and glazes in an effort to design a line of art pottery which led to the introduction of Teco Pottery (TErra COtta) in 1899.

The smooth, micro-crystalline, matte “Teco green” glaze of Teco Art Pottery was developed independently and was not an attempt to copy the famous Grueby green of the Grueby Pottery Co., in Boston.

Teco pottery emphasized line and color rather than elaborate decoration. While most of the 500 shapes created by 1911 were the product of Gates’ efforts, many of the remaining Teco designs were the work of several Chicago architects who were involved in the Prairie School style as expressed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Teco pottery became closely linked with this style, which emphasized simplicity of design and discipline in the use of ornament.

A victim of the Great Depression, Teco production ceased a short time after the stock market crash of 1929.

 

 

Many Avenues to Travel Via Vintage Posters

Posters are all about visual appeal. Just ask any American male who, as a teenager, hung a Farrah Fawcett poster in his room in the 1970s. But collectible posters go far beyond the popular pinups of the day. Travel, movies, patriotism, even everyday products are among the themes that end up in best-selling posters.

Advances in printing, namely color lithography, lifted the plain placard to the visually striking color poster that quickly became an art form in the late 19th century. Posters were an effective and economical means of mass communication, especially before World War II.

The great revolution in posters came about as the result of the development of printing techniques that allowed for cheap mass production. Chromolithography made possible the printing of large editions of posters illustrated in vibrant colors.

Europeans pioneered posters with high artistic content. While artists Jules Chéret and Alphonse Mucha applied their talents to French posters that advertised cabarets, theatrical performances and consumer products, American illustrators created colorful posters for alcoholic beverages, tobacco, firearms, farm machinery and traveling shows. Posters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries represent the best in American lithography.

Posters were purely ephemeral and were not meant to be saved. They were usually discarded once they had served their purpose. Those posted outdoors were usually destroyed by the elements.

Despite competition from newer modes of promotion, the popularity of poster art continued well into the 20th century.

“The good thing about posters is that they are affordable and you do not have to outlay a particularly large sum to put together an interesting collection,” notes Patrick Bogue of Onslow Auctions. “Whilst some of the more sought-after designs sell for over £5,000 ($6,500), you can buy worthwhile examples for around £1,000 ($1,300) or much less in some cases.

Collectors of this art form soon find a need to tighten the focus of their efforts, for example by style, artist or theme. Where to start? It’s the summer travel season. Why not begin with a favorite destination with vintage travel posters, or sample any of the following five recommendations:

Travel

‘Summer at Miho Peninsula’ was issued by Japan’s Nagoya Rail Agency during the 1930s. These posters were created for domestic use only to promote travel within Japan. It measures 23 1/2 x 34 1/2 inches. Price realized: $4,182. Heritage Auctions image

Railroads and passenger ship lines relied heavily on travel posters. Such posters typically depict their particular mode of transportation, from sleek ocean liners cutting across calm seas to locomotives steaming through picturesque landscapes. Later posters depicted passenger airplanes soaring over mountains, however, early airline posters from the 1930s are probably the most difficult to find of all travel posters, according to Bogue. Travel posters can also picture exotic and exciting destinations, intended to beckon would-be vacationers to get away on a memorable holiday.

 

Movie

The only known surviving Italian-issue movie poster for the film ‘Casablanca’ sold July 29, 2017 for a record $478,000 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. Measuring a massive 55 1/2 by 78 1/4 inches, the 1946 poster matched the then-existing world record for the most valuable movie poster ever sold at public auction. Heritage Auctions image

Movie posters are Heritage Auctions’ most popular specialty within the overall category of collectible posters, says Grey Smith, director of Vintage Poster Auctions at the Dallas-based company. “The price levels for the more rare classic material are rising, as it has become harder to find and the demand for those titles has not decreased,” he said. Posters from classic horror movies are especially desirable.

An option for the younger, novice collector is buying posters of more recent movies. “The top-selling posters from the last 40 years are without a doubt Star Wars. Though the posters aren’t necessarily rare in many instances, the demand is great,” said Smith. “But bear in mind that the more recent posters – from the last 50 years – will, relatively speaking, be more common, as that’s when the hobby of collecting posters began. Since that advent, more posters are printed and more kept.”

 

World Wars

At the peak of his career, James Montgomery Flagg was the highest-paid magazine illustrator in America, and this iconic WWI recruitment poster for the U.S. Army was perhaps his crowning achievement. Printed by the Leslie-Judge Co. in 1917, the poster measures 30 x 40 1/2 inches. Heritage Auctions sold one for $10,157. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

American illustrator James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) created his famous poster of Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer with the caption “I Want YOU for U.S. Army” in 1917 as the United States entered World War I. It was inspired by a 1914 British recruitment poster showing Lord Herbert Kitchner in a similar pose. In 2014, Onslows sold the 1914 “Britons (Lord Kitchener) Wants You” poster for £27,000 ($34,715), a record for a WWII poster.

Numerous recruiting posters followed. Also, various appeals were made through posters during the war years, from solicitations to buy war bonds to warnings issued against careless, unguarded talk, e.g., “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” Over four million copies of Flagg’s Uncle Sam poster were printed during World War I. It was revived for World War II. In 2014, Onslows sold a poster with the now-ubiquitous slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On” for £18,240 ($23,450), a record for a WWII poster.

Smith from Heritage Auctions observes, however, that “material from WWII on has become more common as more comes onto the market, and the demand has diminished.”

 

Products

A ‘Guinness for Strength (Felling Tree)’ original poster by John Gilroy (1898-1995) and printed by John Waddington circa 1955, 30.4 x 20.4 inches, sold for $475 in July 2016. Onslows Auctioneers image

Long-established global brands such as Guinness, Evian and Heinz are favored titles among vintage poster collectors, especially when the posters are early, stylized designs. Popular early 20th-century posters for French chocolates, liqueurs, even bicycles, included images of lovely young women, while posters of the Art Deco period increasingly depicted the subject against a plain, uncluttered background.

 

Events

‘Monaco Grand Prix, April 17, 1932’ by Robert Falcucci (1900-1989), 29 7/8 x 46 inches sold for more than $20,000 in May 2011. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Poster Auctions International

Arguably the broadest poster category is that which advertises an event. Titles range from Wild West shows in America to Grand Prix races in Europe. World’s Fairs and Olympic Games are other subcategories that appeal to collectors, as are psychedelic rock concert posters of the 1960s.

No matter the category, Grey Smith of Heritage Auctions offers this advice: “Start by buying items you like and that seem to have a good demand, as those will usually retain their value. Buy widely by studying the track record of poster auctions. You do not need to spend a lot of money in your initial purchases to make good buys as there is a lot of material in the market now and good prices can be had.”

Seiko Watches: Always One Step Ahead

There are many “firsts” in the history of the Seiko Watch Corp. As impressive as that may sound, what is even more remarkable is that those firsts contribute to the current innovation of a company now in its 136th year of operation.

An example of an early Laurel model wristwatch from Seiko, the first of its kind in Japan. One reason for its popularity was its design, suitable for wear by men and women. The Seiko Museum image

One can’t help but wonder what founder Kintaro Hattori might think about the company and creations manufactured by the business he started as a simple clock repair shop in 1881 in Tokyo. Given that a Hattori (Shinji Hattori – a great grandson) remains at the helm of the global company, it’s a good possibility Kintaro would be pleased with how his little watch business has evolved. As of April 2017, Shinji Hattori became chairman of Seiko Watch Corp., while also retaining his role as CEO. Shuji Takahashi moved into the role of president of Seiko, while also serving as president, chief operating officer and chief marketing officer.

Seiko Fact: The company built its first pocket watch in 1895, and in 1913 Seiko brought forth the first Japanese wristwatch, named The Laurel.

Seiko is a business that produces timepieces found on the wrists of explorers journeying to staggering heights atop moutain peaks, to the depths of the world’s oceans, and to both poles. Modern-day adventurers such as Mitsuro Ohba, who is known for his solo treks on foot crossing the Arctic Circle and Antarctica, have worn Seiko watches. Explorers of land and sea aren’t the only ones who have opted to go with a Seiko.

Vintage quartz Seiko pocket watch, a three-register chronograph, 14K gold chain, sold for $1,037 during a July 2017 auction. Hampton Estates Auction image

Seiko watches have made their way into outer space as well. One of the most talked about space adventures involving a Seiko watch was Richard Garriott’s 2008 trip to the International Space Station. It wasn’t just any seiko watch that accompanied Garriott, it was the Seiko Spring Drive Spacewatch, made especially for the mission. It also wasn’t the first time a Garriott wore a Seiko watch in space. Richard Garriott says his decision to venture into space was also about following in his father’s footsteps. In 1973, Owen Garriott traveled aboard Skylab as a NASA astronaut, and again in 1983. During these flights, he too wore Seiko watches.

Stainless steel automatic men’s Seiko wristwatch, circa 1970s, mineral glass on the face, with generic steel bracelet, sold for $605 during an auction in March of 2017. Jasper52 image

Adventurers are not the only history-makers to turn to Seiko watches for timekeeping. The late U.S. Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf was also a Seiko wearer. In his New York Times death announcement, the military leader is pictured wearing a Seiko watch on one wrist and a Rolex on the other.

The general explained his practice of wearing two watches in a December 1998 letter to Antiquorum auction house, which accompanied the Seiko Quartz Divers 150 Watch he donated for a charity auction. His note read: “To Whom It May Concern: This letter certifies that the Seiko Quartz Divers 150 Watch, Serial #469576, was owned and worn by me while I was the Commander in Chief of Allied Forces during the Persian Gulf War. I always wore two watches during the war. The one on my left arm was set on Saudi Arabian time and the Seiko on my right arm was set on Eastern Standard Time. That way I could quickly glance at my watches and instantly know the time in both Saudi Arabia and Washington, D.C. Sincerely, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, General, U.S. Army, Retired.” The watch sold for $11,000 at auction in 1999.

Seiko’s ‘First’ First: In 1969 Seiko unveiled the Seiko Astron (Seiko Quartz-Astron 353SQ), which was the world’s first quartz watch. This was a game-changing innovation. It offered an alternative to the mechanical movement used to keep time for nearly a thousand years.

In addition to having a commanding presence in explorations and military movements, the Seiko watch brand has long been associated with sporting events including several past Olympics and World Cup soccer competitions. Seiko watches also make their appearance on the red carpet from time to time, having been on the wrist of actresses including Kristen Stewart and technological icons such as the late Steve Jobs.

Seiko Quartz wristwatch with a white face, black metal bezel, Arabic numeral dials, black leather band, circa 1980s, consigned by Steve Jobs’ longtime house manager, sold for $42,500 at Heritage Auctions in February 2016. Heritage Auctions image

That was a Seiko timepiece on Jobs’ wrist as he held the original Macintosh computer in his lap, in the photo that graced the cover of the October 17, 2011 issue of Time magazine following his death. The photo was take in 1984, and Jobs wore that same watch for decades to come as he and his team at Apple helped define technology in the 21st century.

Global Firsts from Seiko: Having generated great success with its quart watch, Seiko unveiled the first LCD quartz watch with a digital display in 1973, followed by the first multifunctional digital watch in 1975. The 1980s saw more innovation in Seiko’s TV watch, the first analog quartz watch with chronograph, and the first watch to feature computer functions.

For a company whose name is said to mean “success, exquisite, force and truth” in Japanese, it seems Seiko Watch Corp. lives up to its name. However, remaining a relevant and innovative company has meant paving paths into the unseen while staying committed to providing durable and accessible watches and remaining a step ahead in quality and invention.