David Jerome Collection rings available in Jasper52 auction Nov. 7

Jewelry designer David Jerome has spent much of his life, traveling the world, amassing a breathtaking collection of the rarest and purest rubies, aquamarine, tanzanites, emeralds and sapphires. The David Jerome Collection is formed of hundreds of prized gems. Ethically sourced directly from precious gemstone mines all around the world, only the finest stones have been selected for the collection, which have been transformed into stunningly beautiful rings. Thirty-nine of these rings will be offered in a Jasper52 online auction Nov. 7.

Unheated 2.16 carat round brilliant cut sapphire and diamond ring, set in 18K white gold and mounted with 0.88 carats of diamonds. Estimate $10,000-$15,000. Jasper52 image

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Vote Yes on Campaign Buttons

With the midterms looming and politics on everyone’s mind, no wonder collectors of political campaign buttons and pinbacks are in their glory, chasing up and adding new selections to what they already have. A report appearing two years ago in LiveAuctioneers’ digital newspaper Auction Central News identified campaign buttons as the most popular type of political memorabilia, followed by textiles, flags and posters. But why pinbacks and buttons? After all, they’re smaller and visually less impactful.

“Their size accounts for much of their appeal,” explained Ted Hake, owner of Hake’s Auctions and a lifelong collector of political pins. He is also the author of several books on the subject. “To me, they’re like miniature posters, and they don’t take up a mansionful of space. They’re wonderful artifacts from their time, and getting into the game is both cheap and easy.”

Indeed, nice examples from the 1896 presidential campaigns of William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan (spoiler alert: McKinley won) can be bought for as little as ten or fifteen dollars – and in nice condition! There’s a reason for that: 1896 was the first year that pinback buttons, patented only three years earlier, were mass-produced by the millions, at little cost. Prior to that, the buttons were mostly just that – buttons, which had to be sewn onto a person’s garment.

This McKinley & Hobart “Our Choice” mechanical jugate stud example, over 100 years old, sold for a very reasonable $112.50 at Heritage Auctions on Aug. 26, 2018.

To be clear, a pinback button is one that can be temporarily fastened to the surface of a garment using its attached safety pin. The fastening mechanism is anchored to the back side of the button-shaped metal disc, either flat or concave, leaving an area on the front of the button to carry an image or printed message. Such was the invention patented by Benjamin S. Whitehead in 1893.

Political campaign buttons have been around in this country literally since the election of President George Washington. At his inauguration, metal pins bearing the phrase, “Long Live the President” were worn by supporters. The phrase was probably chosen as a riff on “God Save the King!,” which the newly independent Americans had been accustomed to cheering back home in Mother England. That pin today, by the way, easily fetches in the thousands of dollars.

Think about it – what other type of collectible, outside of maybe rocks and bottles, can be picked up for free? That’s a trick question. Yes, you can gather pins and buttons at rallies, speeches and a campaign headquarters for free, but there will be a cost when buying at auction, on eBay or at an antiques shop or flea market. The spread is a wide one, as certain “Holy Grail” buttons fetch tens of thousands of dollars, while a group lot of 50 common pins might bring $20.

“Just a couple of weeks ago, we sold a Cox-Roosevelt pinback from the 1920 presidential election for $47,278,” Hake said. “Images of the two men were on the pin, as was the slogan ‘Americanize America.’ It was a record for that particular pin, but is by no means a record for a political pinback. I’ve seen Washington buttons and other rarities top the $100,000 mark. But that’s what makes the hobby so great. There’s attractive product at both ends of the market, and prices are on the rise.”

This 1920 campaign button for the Democratic ticket of James Cox-Franklin D. Roosevelt sold for $47,278 at Hake Auctions #222, held November 2017. It was a record for the pinback.

Ted Hake was first introduced to pinbacks at age five, when a friend of his mother’s – an antiques enthusiast – gave him a pin that promoted World War I Liberty Bonds. He was instantly enchanted and began collecting more pins, in varying types, not just political. Then, in 1951, his father suggested he start collecting coins, and for a time the pins got put aside. But an encounter at a local coin shop brought Ted right back to collecting buttons and pins.

“A friend of the fellow who ran the coin store was a collector of William Jennings Bryan buttons, and he had some on display for sale there,” he recalled. “It cost hardly anything to buy one, so I did and collected political buttons from then on.” Today, Ted is a member in good standing with the American Political Items Collectors (www.apic.us) and was even given the group’s coveted Lifetime Achievement Award.

The first political button to show a photographic image was from Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 presidential campaign. Lincoln, as well as his opponents, used the tintype (or ferrotype) process, a photograph made of tin and dark enamel or lacquer. Lincoln’s pins featured Honest Abe’s image on the front and a locking pin on the back – a precursor to the 1896 pinback.

This Abraham Lincoln 1864 ferrotype badge (with running mate Andrew Johnson on the reverse) sold for $1,947 at Hake’s #222, held Nov. 2017.

Since around 1916, campaign buttons have been produced by lithographing the image directly onto the metal disc. One of the more famous uses of campaign buttons occurred during the 1940 U.S. presidential election, when Wendell Willkie’s campaign mass-produced millions of lithographed slogan buttons in fast response to news items about his opponent President Franklin Roosevelt.

It wasn’t until after World War II that collectors found each other and organized the hobby. In the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower unknowingly fed into Americans’ appetite for the pins when it became a trend to wear an “I Like Ike” button on one’s lapel. Notice no political party is mentioned. That’s because the slogan was coined initially, to encourage Eisenhower (who was still serving as Armed Forces Chief of Staff) to commit to either the Republican or Democratic party, something he had not yet done. It worked, as the slogan helped nudge the war-hero general into the race, on the Republican side.

In the 1960s, “grassroots buttons” began popping up. These were produced not by the presidential campaigns themselves, but by regular, everyday people who wanted to either show support for a candidate or bash an opponent. An example was a 1968 pin opposing the Democrat contender Eugene McCarthy. The pin – somewhat inexplicably – said, “McCarthy for Fuhrer.”

Today, sadly, increasing advertising expenses, plus legal limits on expenditures, have led many American political campaigns to abandon buttons altogether in favor of disposable lapel stickers – which are far less expensive to produce – or even virtual campaign buttons, or “web buttons.” Internet users simply place them on their personal websites. Wide distribution is nearly cost free.

A Roosevelt/Fairbanks 1904 “Souvenir of Pretzel Town – Reading, PA” jugate button sold at Hake’s on May 14, 2018 for $9,675. Image courtesy of Hake’s and LiveAuctioneers.

But for Ted Hake and many others like him, nothing will ever replace the hold-in-your-hands little buttons and pinbacks that have been part of the nation’s election culture since the very birth of our nation. “Everyday I can look online or attend a show and see a pin I’ve never seen before,” Hake said. “It really is a wonderful little hobby, and great for every taste and budget.”

Menagerie of Japanese netsuke parade in online auction Oct. 31

Netsuke are Japanese miniature sculptures originally used as toggles on the end of a cord that held a money pouch or inro. Evolving over time from their utilitarian purpose, netsuke have become an expressive art form in itself and a coveted collectible in the Asian community. Jasper52 will present an auction of premium netsuke on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

Boxwood netsuke of a leaping wild boar, signed ‘Shuzan,’ 19th century, 2 1/8 inches long. Estimate: $5,500-$7,000. Jasper52 image

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Jasper52 to host ‘Spooktacular’ auction on Halloween, Oct. 31

A macabre collection that will scare bidders silly with the frightful delights is offered in an online auction being conducted by Jasper52. Items range from Gothic horror to Universal Pictures movie monsters. A Spooktacular Auction: Horrors & Nightmares will be conducted on Halloween, Wednesday, Oct. 31, starting at 9 p.m. Eastern time.

An antique child-size casket that features a folk art acrylic painting in an American nautical theme signed by Edwin Nagel (b. 1925) and dated 1993. Estimate: $6,500-$8,000. Jasper52 image

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Illustrator Ellen Clapsaddle: queen of Halloween postcards

Halloween is one of the oldest holidays celebrated in the Western world. It came about in ancient times when harvesttime marked the end of the year on the Celtic calendar. A festival honoring Samhain, the Celtic lord of death, began the evening of October 31.

The change of seasons ushered in pagan rituals. To the ancients, it was a time when the boundary of our world and the spirit world was more open. They believed the spirits could more easily revisit our world during this brief period.

During the festival of Samhain, neighbors provided food and drink for “wandering spirits,” represented by those wearing a variety of costumes (guises). Bonfires provided warmth and cleansed the soul, while candles in carved-out gourds or in lanterns issued light to help keep the otherworld at bay.

International Art Publishing Co. Series 1393 Halloween greeting postcards illustrated by Ellen Clapsaddle, circa 1908, that sold for $275 in 2015. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archives and Jeffrey S. Evans and Associates

After the Romans conquered the Celts, an early Christian observance that incorporated the festivities of Samhein into a remembrance of their departed saints – known as Hallows – became the more modern version of the celebration. Thus, All Hallows Eve, shortened to Hallowe’en, marks the day before All Saints Day, which takes place on November 1.

All of these rituals were amalgamated over time with the immigration of the Irish and Scots to America in the late 19th and early 20th century. The observance of Halloween itself was reserved mostly for adult parties, although children still dressed in costumes such as ghosts (bogeys) and more scary creatures such as witches. In the early 1900s, family and friends would commemorate the holiday by sending best wishes through a picture postcard.

Although the plain postal card was first printed and mailed before or during the 1870s in the United States, the heyday of colorfully illustrated postcards lasted from about 1900 to 1920. By the time greeting postcards became popular, Halloween was already firmly established in the American culture.

The most prolific and most recognized postcard illustrator of this period was Ellen H. Clapsaddle (1865-1934). Artistically inclined since childhood, Clapsaddle left her upstate New York home in 1884 to attend the renowned Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. After graduation, she returned to her hometown, where she created landscapes and painted family portraits. She also created commercial advertising items such as calendars and greeting cards.

Ellen Clapsaddle signed embossed Halloween postcard printed in Germany and mailed in 1913. It sold for $60 in August 2017. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and Matthew Bullock Auctioneers

It was through the postcard, though, that Clapsaddle’s commercial illustrations became best sellers, particularly those surrounding holidays such as Halloween. Far from showing the dark aspects of the holiday, Clapsaddle’s postcard illustrations focused more on the innocence of folklore as seen through the eyes of children and young adults.

It is estimated that Clapsaddle produced more than 3,000 different illustrations for the International Art Publishing Co., in New York City, starting in 1895. Funded by her employer, she spent several years in Germany, the center of the high-end publishing world, where she worked with engravers and printers in the world’s best printing plants. Clapsaddle is said to have established Wolf Publishing, backed by the Wolf Brothers—a full subsidiary of the International Art Publishing Co. 

Two Ellen Clapsaddle Halloween postcards produced by Wolf Publishing. Estimated at $75-$125, the pair sold for $225. Image courtesy of Live Auctioneers and Jackson’s Auction

The postcard-publishing boom ended about 1914 when World War I interrupted production in Germany. Many German factories were destroyed, and an untold number of Clapsaddle’s original artworks may have been lost along with her investments in those firms.

Today, more than 100 years after their creation, postcard illustrations by Ellen Clapsaddle are still popular and very collectible, but it is her charming portrayals of children as Halloween ghosts, witches and jack-o’-lanterns that resonate the most with collectors. The survival rate of these ephemeral artworks is a testament to her talent and broad appeal. Most of her postcards are available within the $10 to $50 range.

Apart from the colorful and embossed postcards, there are postcards known as mechanicals, examples that have a moving part within the illustration. They are highly sought after by collectors.

A complete set of Ellen Clapsaddle illustrated postcard Series 1236, circa 1913. These are examples of mechanical postcards in that the child’s hand moves the pumpkin to cover the face. The set sold for $2,400 in 2007. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Lyn Knight Auction

Most postcards illustrated by Clapsaddle are signed beneath the illustration. There are some designs that are unsigned, but even so, Clapsaddle’s distinctive depictions of the joy, innocence and fun of Halloween are unmistakable.

63 Rolex models offered in luxury watch auction Oct. 24

Watch collectors and anyone desiring a luxury timepiece should peruse the Jasper52 auction catalog of premium designer wristwatches that will be sold Wednesday, Oct. 24. The online auction features the most sought-after names in watchmaking such as Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, LeCoultre and Rolex, many in 18K gold.

Rare Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date in Florentine finish, 18K yellow gold with 18k tellow gold bracelet, ref.1502, made 1953-1963. Estimate: $18,000-$22,000. Jasper52 image

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Taste-tempting vintage posters the toast of Jasper52 sale Oct. 24

Before the invention of the radio and television, businesses advertised their goods and services in print media. The most attractive means was posters—the bigger and brighter, all the better. Dozens of original 19th- and 20th-century posters are offered in a Jasper52 online auction that will be conducted Wednesday, Oct. 24.

Jose Belon original poster advertising St. Raphael quinquina, 78½ x 50¾ inches. Estimate: $2,500-$2,600. Jasper52 image

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What is folk art?

Artists of museum masterpieces created for the ages. Whether it is Michaelangelo’s marble David, paintings by da Vinci, Jeff Koon’s Balloon Dog, or intricate Faberge eggs for a tsar, the beauty and power behind these works were part and parcel of creating objects that would last for the ages.

In the world of folk art, however, individuals painted, whittled or carved, drew, quilted, framed or otherwise created distinctive artistic expressions on a whim. It was simply an inspiration and it was immediate. At times, folk art made a cultural statement about what it meant to be within a community, to hold certain beliefs, to be genuine. It was only recognized as art later on.

Folk art is definitely the most inclusive of the visual arts. Unlike the trained artists behind museum masterpieces, who followed guidelines of proportion, light, space, continuity and perspective, folk artists required no particular knowledge or training. Whittling a doll for your daughter from a tree branch, for example, was a personal expression to satisfy the child’s wish – a convenient alternative if a person couldn’t afford a store-bought one. Yet, the doll was just as loved and became, by accident, just as artistically and aesthetically pleasing as any museum-worthy creation.

Embroidered flowers and animals including a lion, chickens and dogs, each block-stitched with initials of the maker, wool embroidery on wool and printed cotton; winner at the Rockingham County Fair [Virginia]. Circa 1900. Sold for $400. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and Brunk Auctions

There are two distinct categories of folk art: antique and contemporary. Both are comprised of materials such as wood, clay, metal, stone, paper, cloth and whatever else might be available. Many folk art items are utilitarian in nature, such as doorstops, picture frames, business signage, or even weathervanes. They were everyday items not generally considered to be “art” at the time of their creation. The differences one may note among folk art items in general are usually connected to the time periods during which they were created.

Antique Folk Art

Early American folk art came about as the result of the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century. As urban and industrial areas grew, people developed an interest in the more rural and agrarian traditions, including primitive or “naïve” artifacts.

A circa-1860s hand-carved walnut mirror with eagle and patriotic motif throughout is an example of folk art that sold for $2,800. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archives and New Orleans Auction Galleries

These artifacts were made by itinerant craftsman, which “…led to a consideration of ‘folk art’ as anything non-elitist, primitive or homemade – art that preserved some kind of cultural heritage,” says an entry in the Art Encyclopedia. They were also made in relatively small batches, not in large commercialized lots. For example, a circa-1860s walnut mirror frame featuring a patriotic motif, hand-carved around the Civil War period, was probably a response to the war in general. It sold at auction for $2,800.

All manner of “…weathervanes, old store signs and carved figures, itinerant portraits, carousel horses, fire buckets, painted game boards, cast-iron doorstops and many other similar lines of highly collectible ‘whimsical’ antiques…” are the general categories of folk art, says Wikipedia.

Antique dealers will tell you, however, that what collectors of vintage folk art look for is the subject matter – upbeat themes such as a barber shop or fruit vendor are more desirable than funerals or sawmills, for example). Color, condition, and size are all factors as well. However, buying folk art is quite subjective. What appeals to you is the only real criterion.

An example of a simple folk art painting with hand-carved frame that sold for $50. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archives and Roland New York.

Contemporary Folk Art

After the introduction of Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century, mechanization and assembly lines became the business model that persisted through most of the 20th century. Folk art itself became less about the creation of individualized utilitarian artifacts and more focused on handmade but more consistent products intended for resale as opposed to items created for personal expression.

Whether for resale or not, contemporary folk art still follows the basic principle of what folk art is, mainly that it be something that appeals to the collector, not necessarily a discipline of the fine arts. Certainly local customs, heritage and values still play a part in its creation, but the final product is intended more for display or resale than its earlier utilitarian use.

Contemporary folk art includes some handmade and hand-painted artworks, such as duck decoys, hand-stitched quilts, beadwork, jewelry, baskets, cutlery, picture frames, paintings, game boards, bird cages, tribal masks, totem poles, and smaller wooden crafts. They are distinguished by their strikingly bold colors, unique designs and personal style of craftsmanship.

Chip-carved tramp art cigar box with round decorations. Sold for $950. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and Slotin Folk Art

Tramp art:

Just a word about tramp art and its meaning… At one time, homeless or itinerant people once were described as “hobos” or “tramps,” especially during the period of the Great Depression. They were of all ages, sometimes family men who wandered the country looking for any kind of work. Along the way, they were known to take pocketknives to pieces of available wood – even cigar boxes – and fashion picture frames, canes, furniture, fanciful sculpture and other objects. Many even filed down general coinage and carved elaborate images in them as well.

Curiously, tramp art is a more modern term for any type of hand-carved item that seems within the genre of “tramp art,” even if made by artisans at home. The period of “tramps” lasted only from about 1870 to 1940 or so, yet this subset is still considered within the folk art tradition even in the contemporary era.

In summary:

Folk art is an all-inclusive term that identifies visual arts that are created outside the traditions of fine art. When you hear of tramp art, naïve art and even outsider art, you are essentially within the folk art community.

So, folk art is local. It is expressive, quite colorful, without pretense and yet still reflects how we feel about the world around us. We might say that folk art is us.

Classic horror movie posters star in online auction Oct. 17

Original posters for classic horror movies are the main attractions of a Jasper52 online auction on Wednesday, Oct. 17. Items span the silent era through the 1980s. The Jasper52 auction also offers original scripts for Beetlejuice (1988), The Fly (1985) and An American Werewolf in London (1981).

‘Return of the Ape Man,’ original half sheet poster, starring Bela Lugosi and John Carradine, 1944, 22 x 28 inches, paper-backed, near fine condition. Estimate: $8,000-$1,000. Jasper52 image

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Jasper52 toasts Mid-Century Modern designs Oct. 16

Mid-Century Modern is celebrated in stylish and innovative designs offered in a Jasper52 online auction on Tuesday, Oct. 16. Clean lines, organic contours and stylish functionality are all present in this specially curated sale. Furniture, lighting, glassware and other home furnishings fill the 151-lot auction catalog dubbed Sleek Designs: The Mid-Century Modern Sale.

Pair of armchairs by Kurt Ostervig for Jason Møbler, model 301 in teak, 1956, excellent condition. Estimate: $13,000-$16,000. Jasper52 image

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