Asian treasures abound in Jasper52 auction Oct. 2

Seventy-one lots of outstanding Asian antiques are presented in an online auction to be conducted by Jasper52 on Wednesday, Oct. 2. Among this diverse offering are hand-painted Chinese ceramics, Ming Dynasty tomb figures, carved netsuke, Japanese weaponry and more, creating a comprehensive representation of the Asian tradition.

A lifesize Sino-Tibetan bronze or copper model of a skull, later 19th-20th century, about 9½in long x about 7½in high. Estimate: $3,500-$4,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Heads up for gold coins in numismatic auction Oct. 1

U.S. gold coins stand out in a Jasper52 online numismatic auction that will be conducted on Tuesday, Oct. 1. The highlight of the 87-lot sale is a brilliant uncirculated 1878 Liberty Head $20 double eagle. The auction catalog also contains proof sets, silver certificates and commemoratives.

1878 U.S. Liberty Head $20 double eagle gold, BU++. Estimate: $3,000-$3,500. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Salesman’s samples: small scale, big demand

NEW YORK – Sometimes confused with toys, salesman’s samples are small-scale versions of products, such as farm equipment, machinery, furniture and drugstore goods. They once were a salesman’s best marketing tool.

In the late 1800s–early 1900s, when traveling salesmen would go town to town to take orders for products, these samples became a critical part of their sales pitch to show a buyer what he would get before placing an order. Some companies still make salesman’s samples today but with the advent of digital marketing, salesman’s samples are not as common as they once were.

A sample of a 19th century horse-drawn walking plow with steel blade and iron wheel turned up $6,500+ buyer’s premium in December 2018 at Pook & Pook Inc. with Noel Barrett. Photo courtesy of Pook & Pook Inc. with Noel Barrett and LiveAuctioneers

Salesman’s samples were scaled-down replicas of the original item, say a plow, with nearly all the features of the full-sized versions. Most were working models. Ranging from a few inches to about 2 feet tall (sometimes larger as with a canoe), they often featured complex mechanisms that the salesman would demonstrate to explain to a potential customer how the item worked. Customers could also inspect the sample to be assured of its manufacturing quality. A sample’s small size allowed salesman to carry them in a case as he peddled his wares, traveling by horse and buggy or train.

This 48-inch-long sample of an Old Town canoe, circa 1930, in original green paint, realized $16,500+ buyer’s premium in November 2015 at Saco River Auction. Photo courtesy of Saco River Auction and LiveAuctioneers

“Salesman’s samples were a key part of persuasive demonstrations and getting the order in 19th century and early 20th century America,” noted Rodney Ross, curator of the DFW Elite Toy Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, in a press release for an exhibition on salesman’s samples the museum presented from its collection. Seeing how a working scale model functioned would have instilled buyer confidence from municipal agents to order such equipment as road graders, tillers and tractors when these items were brand new and unfamiliar to most potential buyers.

This sample of a horse-drawn Adriance Buckeye sickle mower sold for $4,000+ buyer’s premium in June 2019 at Pook & Pook Inc. with Noel Barrett. Photo courtesy of Pook & Pook Inc. with Noel Barrett and LiveAuctioneers

In general, the most collectible samples are those with mechanical moving parts. The more authentically made they were in resembling their full-size counterparts, the more money they bring from collectors. “These types of samples were often intricate and difficult to assemble. Farm equipment samples are one of the most collectible because they had the most mechanical parts,” says Dan Morphy, CEO and owner of Dan Morphy Auctions in Denver, Pennsylvania.

Besides tractors and farm equipment, all sorts of products were made as salesman’s samples, including typewriters, folding attic ladders, stoves, sleds, windmills, well pumps, furnaces, barber chairs, books, household furniture, bank safes, humidors, Coca-Cola coolers, garage doors, pocketknives and even burial caskets.

A Coca-Cola double Glasscock ‘standard’ salesman’s sample cooler, circa 1929, brought $14,000+ buyer’s premium in March 2017 at Dan Morphy Auctions. Photo courtesy of Dan Morphy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

As they were made to scale, usually 1:6 or 1:8, sometimes these salesman’s samples can be mistaken for dollhouse items or children’s toys. “Samples generally have actual working components integrated in the sample and were created true to scale,” Morphy said. One good way to tell the difference is that samples often will have a label announcing the product’s name, and sometimes a patent date; toys usually would not. They are also usually more mechanically complex and detailed than a toy would be but not always. Miniature cookstoves are often referred to as salesman’s samples but most are actually highly detailed toys.

A fine example of a complex salesman’s sample was a Murphy bed, circa 1870, that auctioneer Noel Barrett of Noel Barrett Antiques & Auctions Ltd. in Pipersville, Pennsylvania, appraised in May 2018 for an episode of Antiques Roadshow. “It’s really a complicated little device,” Barrett said on camera, while pointing out the owner how it worked. A longtime aficionado of salesman’s samples, Barrett opened several small doors to reveal areas for blankets, storage, a wash basin and even a shaving area with mirror. When the doors are opened another way, however, one large panel drops down to reveal the Murphy bed complete with a scaled-down mattress. The bed displays a label indicating it was made by William Kelly, Bath, Maine, and patented April 19, 1870.

Complete with its original carrying case, this salesman’s sample of the leaning wheel road grader, with metal maker’s tag reading ‘J.D. Adams & Co., MFR’S Road Building Machinery, Indianapolis, Ind.,’ sold for $31,000+ buyer’s premium at Rich Penn Auctions in May 2014. Photo courtesy of Rich Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Another rare example Barrett came across was a butcher block sample that he sold at auction in June 2019 for $2,600, well over its estimate. The sample set on three legs measuring 3½ inches tall still had its original decal reading “Wolf, Sayer & Heller – Chicago Butcher Supplies – Handsome Market Fixtures.”

Dan Morphy Auctions has also sold quite a few salesman samples over the years, particularly barber chairs and Coca-Cola display items. Highlights include a sample of the Koken barber chair that was sought after because of its attention to detail and authenticity. A 16-inch-tall sample chair has white porcelain, leather upholstery and nickel-plated details, and folds upright. It realized $17,000 in October 2018.

This sample of a Koken barber chair made $17,000+ buyer’s premium in October 2018 at Dan Morphy Auctions. Photo courtesy of Dan Morphy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

The highest price seen on LiveAuctioneers’ price database for a salesman’s sample barber chair was a Victorian-era chair constructed of quartersawn oak that earned $41,000 at Cottone Auctions in June 2012. That 25-inch-tall chair featured elaborate carving with lion’s faces and a nickel-plated cast-iron adjustable framework.

As with most cases, rarity drives demand. “Since they were meant to advertise a product, not many were produced. It was a sales tool that salespeople took with them from business to business,” Morphy said, saying the scarcity of samples spurs their appeal among collectors.

Designer & luxury jewelry showcased in online auction Sept. 25

Jasper52 will host an outstanding selection of luxury jewelry from a variety of designers, eras and mediums on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Highlights of the 174-lot sale include a classic pair of Buccellati diamond earrings, a head-turning Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet and several fancy yellow diamond rings.

Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo ‘Ludo-Hexagonal’ bracelet, yellow gold and platinum set with diamonds, made in France, 1940s. Estimate: $80,000-$85,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Sets of literary classics star in Jasper52 auction Sept. 24

A Jasper52 antiquarian book auction on Tuesday, Sept. 24, includes many sets of literary classics in fine bindings. With treasures in every price range, this sale offers collectors the opportunity to add rare volumes to their collections.

Jane Austen, ‘The Novels,’ published by Chatto and Windus, London, 1917, 10 volumes. Estimate: $2,500-$3,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Dating US flags: it’s in the stars

NEW YORK – It is the only national flag that has officially changed its design more often than any other. The 28 different designs tell the history of a country that began in revolution nearly 250 years ago. Collecting the American flag is more than just counting the stars; the stripes and the fabric are important, too.

Authenticating a flag of other nations is, at times, dependent on its change in design or color. The national flag of Greece, for example, changed its canton and stripes from light blue to dark blue in the 1960s. Cambodia’s flag can be determined by the number of towers of the temple, Angkor Wat, used as a symbol on its flag since Independence in 1948. But these changes are known only with a bit of research.

The flag of the United States, on the other hand, has the most noticeable changes of any national flag. With the addition of a star for each new state since its official adoption in 1777, the national flag has changed a total of 28 times. The number the stars on the flag is the key to learning when it was adopted.

Thirteen-star flags usually date to late 19th or early 20th century like this unusual star pattern that sold for $2,500. It has hand-sewn stars (before 1890), but machine-sewn stripes with metal grommets (after 1850). Image courtesy: Cowan’s Auction and

The Stars

From Independence in July 1776 until June 1777, the U.S. flew an unofficial flag called the Grand Union Flag, which consisted of the UK flag (before 1801) in the canton with 13 alternating red and white stripes. When asked for a naval flag to fly aboard ships when entering foreign harbors, Congress adopted the first Flag Resolution on June 14, 1777 that simply stated, “Resolved, That the flag of the 13 United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” That’s it. There was no standard for how many points in the star, the star pattern, whether the stripes were horizontal or vertical and certainly gave no special meaning for the colors.

And so, until 1912 (when the 48-star flag was officially standardized as six rows of eight), stars were arranged however the manufacturer saw fit while the stripes became consistently horizontal by tradition.

To collectors, it is the number of stars and the star pattern that determines its auction value. Most stars were five-pointed (the first country to use this device on a national flag), but some were six-pointed. All stars were cut and sewn by hand until the zigzag sewing machine was invented about 1890 (stripes were hand sewn before 1850 and machine sewn after that).

Virtually all military and official government flags were made of wool bunting from the 18th through World War II. Shown are a close-up view of a 36-star handmade linen U.S. flag dated 1876 (left) and a later 50-star cotton flag (right). Image courtesy: William J. Jenack Auctioneers and Forsythes’ Auctions LLC

Some star patterns were in a circle, others in a row and even a few in patterns. As long as the flag had the right number of stars, all were official and still are. The stars were originally made mostly of linen and hand stitched. Cotton wasn’t made commercially available in the U.S. until after 1810.

If you have a 13-star national flag, just know that one has never been found that survived the 18th century. Any flag with 13 stars is generally a commemorative-type flag, perhaps from the Centennial era of 1876, or is more likely a U.S. Navy “boat flag” that was officially used as a naval standard from 1860 to about 1920.


Curiously, all of the wool bunting used to manufacture the military flags throughout the Revolution was imported from Great Britain. That’s right. Our enemy supplied the material for the symbols of U.S. resistance.

All national flags of the United States were made of a one-ply worsted woolen bunting up through 1940 or so. This allowed for a higher quality, lighter weight construction, was virtually moisture resistant and allowed flags to unfurl more easily in the wind. Wool was reserved mainly for military uniforms during World War II and so manufacturers turned to cotton for government and civilian flags. Smaller flags were made from other materials such as silk and muslin, particularly the small parade flags that were fastened to a stick.


To fly a large flag, a several-ply hemp rope called a halyard was stitched through a plain weave, coarse linen sleeve on the flag known as a heading. Later, heavy metal clips held the flag to the halyard through hand-sewn eye holes on the hoist end of the flag before 1850, then through metal grommets thereafter.

Pictured are three types of flag attachments; first is a woven rope attached in a sleeve of the heading (left), the second is a hand-sewn eyelet (center) in use until about 1850 when a metal grommet (right) became the norm. Images courtesy\ William J. Jenack Auctioneers and personal collection


When it comes to collecting flags, size matters. Any flag measuring more than 3 feet by 5 feet is more difficult for collectors to display and is therefore not as desirable. Smaller handheld flags sometimes have the same value as larger ones, especially if the material, the star pattern and condition are all extraordinary.

Any flag before and during the Civil War-era (up to 33 stars) are more desirable simply because relatively few survive in any condition, yet the flags of the Civil War-era are the most reproduced, especially military unit flags. Flags from the Centennial era of 1876 up through 1896 (34 to 44 stars) have secondary collector interest; 45- and 46-star flags still do well as a third collectible category.

Handmade stars were prevalent throughout the late 18th and most of the 19th century up to the Civil War-era. On the left is a hand-cut linen star which was sewn by hand until the invention of the zigzag sewing machine about 1890; the last is a machine-sewn star. Image courtesy: William J. Jenack Auctioneers and personal collection

The 48-star flag of 1912 served the second longest at 47 years (the 50-star flag has served for nearly 60 years to date). It was the first U.S. flag to have its stars officially arranged by statute. Its wool bunting construction prevailed from 1912 until 1940 or so with a mostly cotton construction thereafter. Depending on condition, a wool 48-star flag usually has a somewhat higher value than a cotton version.

The 49-star flag served for only one year, from 1959 to 1960, and is considered desirable in any size or condition (as long as the stars are intact) with a slightly higher value at auction from the 48-star flag.

A 50-star flag in any size is common and not usually collectible unless it has a historic context, has flown over the White House or Capitol (with original box and certificate), flown to the moon, or autographed by a president or someone of significance. Otherwise, the value is about $30 to $40 or so, depending on size.

Unlike other collectibles, the condition of a flag is not usually the deciding factor. Instead, the stars play more of a central role in its auction value. If some of the stars are missing, but the stripes are intact, the value would be compromised. It is more desirable to have all the stars intact even if some of the stripes are missing.


The material that was prevalent  throughout, the way the stars are arranged and stitched (whether sewn by hand or machine), the type of material in the sleeve, what ply and type of thread was used to sew the parts together, and how it was attached to a pole (whether by a rope, hand-sewn eyelets or metal grommet) are the key factors to determine when a flag was created.

These specifications are what separates an authentic flag from a reproduction. No matter how skillfully a flag was made, the details in its construction will always tell the real story. It is therefore important to have an expert in textiles verify any historic flag before it is auctioned or restored.

Warhol, Lichtenstein well represented in prints auction Sept. 18

Pop art’s biggest names are found in a Jasper52 prints auction that will be held online on Wednesday, Sept. 18. Nearly 100 limited edition silkscreens and lithographs from the pop art greats including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein are offered.

Andy Warhol, ‘John Lennon,’ 1986, silkscreen, not signed and numbered, paper size 36 x 36in., images size 36in x 36in. Estimate: $1,500-$2,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Legions of superheroes star in comic book auction Sept. 17

DC Comics, Marvel and more are offered in an online, no-reserve auction of classic comic books that will be held Tuesday, Sept. 17, by Jasper52. Titles range from the Silver Age of superheroes to contemporary comics, some of which are signed by the artists and writers.

‘Amazing Spider-Man #101,’ October 1971, first appearance of Morbius, CGC graded 5.0. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Nantucket lightship basket makers moved to the island

NEW YORK – In the late 1800s, Nantucket lightship baskets were handcrafted by sailors aboard the lightships that were moored off the coast of Nantucket. These storied baskets are still being made today, though not on ships, and have kept their original name.

Weaving these rattan baskets was initially a pastime aboard New England whaling ships starting in the 1850s.

This Clinton Mitchell ‘Mitchy’ Ray basket is in the permanent collection of the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum. Photo courtesy of Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum

Later, lightship sailors had free time during the day as their work was at night, lighting hazardous waterways around the island to allow safe passage for merchant ships. They started making baskets, first for sweethearts and family members. This hobby soon turned profitable until the early 1900s when officials called a halt to lightships’ crews daytime moonlighting. Basketmaking then moved onto the island of Nantucket and transformed what was once a utilitarian object into a work of art.

Taking inspiration from the splint baskets made by local Native Americans, Nantucket lightship baskets were first made freeform without benefit of a mold but today molds are commonly used. The Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum has an impressive collection of baskets from the 1800s to contemporary examples. Its website notes that a Nantucket lightship basket today has several critical components, including weaving the basket with rattan (aka cane) on a mold and being made with a solid wooden bottom plate. Having a hinged top lid with a turned knob and a carved or scrimshaw decorative element (usually a whale, bird, seashell or other nautically themed object) adds to the value of these iconic baskets.

This Jose Reyes friendship basket from 1961 having a carved seagull is on display at the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum. Photo courtesy of Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum

Collectors have long been interested in Nantucket baskets and they are highly collectible. Rare forms are especially desirable such as the “lollipop” baskets. They are open form baskets with staves having round lollipop-shaped endings or heart-shaped endings such as this one and this one seen on the website of Nantucket’s Four Winds Craft Guild.

Early examples are particularly valuable as many have not stood the test of time. “Any 19th century Nantucket lightship basket that has its original paper label and is in somewhat good condition is highly prized,” says John Sylvia of Sylvia Antiques in Nantucket, which specializes in nautical antiques.

This Nantucket lightship basket with carved ebony whale finial by Reyes sold for $4,750 in May 2019 at Grogan & Company. Photo courtesy of Grogan & Company and LiveAuctioneers.

Among highly sought-after Nantucket basket makers are Jose Formoso Reyes (1902-1980), who learned his craft from third-generation basket maker Clinton Mitchell “Mitchy” Ray (1877-1956) and went on to himself teach many others. “Reyes’ most popular basket was the Nantucket friendship basket (akin to a pocketbook/purse),” Sylvia said. “Contemporaries of his in the 1950-1960s were Stephen Gibbs, Sherwin Boyer and Stanely Roop. They have always been collected but they made a lot less of them, so their names are not as popular as Reyes.”

A Jose Reyes Nantucket purse having a carved bone lighthouse on its lid with seagulls brought $3,900 in August 2018 at Americana Auctions. Photo courtesy of Americana Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Any 19th century basket makers who worked on the lightships are very collected, he said. Some examples include Davis Hall, Andrew Sandsbury, Thomas James, Charles Sylvia, Oliver Coffin and Joseph Fisher. “Then, there is another group that learned from the crewman who made baskets on land and primarily for the tourists … Mitch Ray, A.D. Williams, Ferdinand Sylvaroma and Frederick Chadwick.” Ray learned (basketmaking) from his grandfather, Captain Charles B. Ray, a renowned basket maker. Ray had a prolific studio and signed his baskets with a paper label that read, “I was made in Nantucket, I’m strong and stout. Don’t lose me or burn me and I’ll never wear out. Made by Mitchell Ray.”

Ray would affix this paper label on the bottom of his baskets. Photo courtesy of Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum.

By the mid-1900s, makers were signing their baskets and the basket-making tradition continues today, with a new generation of makers learning and making baskets in workshops as a hobby or as a way to earn a living. While the look of a Nantucket lightship basket is immediately recognizable, forms and styles can vary slightly from lidded to open forms. Most are round or oval though a few makers create square baskets. Nesting sets of baskets are popular and baskets can range in size from 4 to 20 inches. Carrying handles are usually crafted from ash, oak or hickory.

The basket-making tradition is alive and well on Nantucket. This pocketbook-style basket by Michael Kane in 1983, who made baskets there for over 40 years, sold in 2010 for $2,500 at Louis J. Dianni LLC. Photo courtesy of Louis J. Dianni LLC and LiveAuctioneers.

“We have seen many changes in adornments, materials used and detail that goes into weaving a Nantucket basket,” according to Rafael Osona Auctions in Nantucket. The auctioneers have sold several rare baskets, including a heart-form open basket made in the last quarter of the 19th century, which sold for over $100,000.

Nantucket baskets have become inextricably linked with the island as a symbol of friendship. At one time, girls graduating from high school on Nantucket would receive a friendship basket, a form created by Reyes. “Reyes broke from tradition and called these friendship baskets because the basket symbolized a bond with Nantucket and was instantly recognized as a reminder of this special place,” according to the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum. Over the years, these baskets have been recognized as an art form and many visitors have taken their own remembrance of the island home in the form of a Nantucket basket.

Luxury fashions & accessories on Jasper52 runway Sept. 16

Jasper52 will present 100 lots of luxury fashions and accessories by such esteemed houses as Christian Dior, Manolo Blahnik and Hermes in an online auction on Monday, Sept. 16. Most of these coveted designer finds – handbags, clothing and shoes – are in never-worn or like-new condition.

Hermes Birkin 35 in chartreuse, Togo leather lush with gold hardware, clean with light wear noted, 14in. long x 11in. high x 7in. deep with 5in. handles. Estimate: $14,000-$17,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.