Frederick Carder’s masterwork: Steuben Aurene

NEW YORK – When it comes to art glass, the adage “less is more” is perhaps no truer than when describing Steuben Aurene glass. Developed by the pioneering glass chemist Frederick Carder in 1904 in upstate New York, Aurene glass was elegant in its simplicity with no need for ornate embellishment. Its iridescent look immediately captivated buyers then, as it still does now, and distinguished itself from Tiffany’s Favrile glass made during the same period.

The hallmarks of Steuben glass are “classic, color and original,” said Bonnie Salzman, president of the Carder Steuben Club. “Frederick Carder was a classicist. His more than 7,000 designs follow simple and traditional ancient forms that contain clean and graceful lines, symmetry and proportion.”

A rare Steuben blue Aurene vase, having an overall pulled feather design, realized $13,000 + the buyer’s premium in March 2013 at Jaremos. Photo courtesy of Jaremos and LiveAuctioneers

Carder honed his expertise with glass in his native England working for Stevens and Williams when Thomas G. Hawkes, who owned a cut glass firm in New York, offered him the opportunity to manage a glass factory he wanted to open in Corning, N.Y., in Steuben County (hence the new company’s name) as well as to be its leading designer. Carder accepted and almost immediately began experimenting with colored glass.

As a chemist, he excelled at creating luminous glass that beautifully absorbed and reflected light, creating more than 140 distinct colors, Salzman said. “The combination of colors he incorporated into glass objects is unique to Steuben. The colors were pure – like his English country garden, none of them clashed,” she said.

This rare Steuben decorated red on alabaster vase, circa 1908-12, signed “aurene 533,” sold for $22,000 + the buyer’s premium in July 2016 at Early Auction Co. Photo courtesy of Early Auction Company and LiveAuctioneers.

Carder was fascinated by the multicolored iridescence seen on Roman glass of the first–fourth centuries and experimented for years in England before he came to America, where Gold Aurene was first produced in 1904. Blue Aurene followed in 1905. Aurene glass was in continuous production from 1904 until about 1933. “Pieces made come in all manner of vases, bowls, centerpieces, goblets, candlesticks, compotes, baskets, colognes, etc.,” Salzman said. “Aurene is a most beautiful, elegant and rich glass – glowing with shades of blue, green, purple and silver – no two pieces exactly alike. Carder saw his Aurene glass as needing no further decoration – the finish was the decoration. These pieces are modern and luxurious even today, and glass collectors gravitate in their direction.”

Gold Aurene glass on display in the Carder Gallery at the Corning Museum of Glass. Photo by Jack Hartwein-Sanchez, courtesy of Carder Steuben Club

He was a prolific designer but around World War II, public tastes were changing and moving away from colored glass; company management had changed and the war effort greatly restricted availability of materials needed to produce this glass. In 1943, Steuben ceased making colored art glass wares and instead focused on crystal and colorless glass.

Carder’s legacy in glassmaking stands the test of time, however, with his Art Nouveau-inspired Aurene wares, especially in gold and blue hues, remaining a perennial favorite with collectors.

“The most befitting tribute to Frederick Carder’s prolific career in glassmaking is the museum’s visually stunning Carder Gallery,” according to a blog on the website of the Corning Museum of Glass. “The several thousand pieces on view show every type of glass that Carder created from the founding of Steuben in 1903 until 1932. Also on view are examples of works from his entire career in glassmaking from 1880 to the 1950s – from early pieces made at Stevens & Williams to individual pieces he created in his retirement.”

This Steuben red Aurene milifori vase with gold leaf and vine decoration and seven milifori flowers went for $11,000 + the buyer’s premium in December 2018 at Dan Morphy Auctions. Photo courtesy of Dan Morphy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

His glass stands at the pinnacle of beautiful colors, purity of design and the finest quality attainable in handmade artistic glass, said longtime collectors and Carder Steuben Club members Elizabeth and Frank Creech. “Carder was the penultimate glassmaker: for over 80 years he labored with astonishing energy, intellect and experimentation, producing thousands of artistic glass objects in styles rooted in Classicism and including Art Nouveau, Art Deco and even Modernism.”

He was also a stern taskmaster, demanding high quality from his employees. “Carder’s insistence on excellence and, indeed, upon handmade artistic glass rather than machine-produced objects was unrelenting and is an inspiration to contemporary studio glass artists.”

Blue Aurene glass on display in the Carder Gallery at the Corning Museum of Glass. Photo by Jack Hartwein-Sanchez, courtesy of Carder Steuben Club

A prodigious genius, glass artist, glass scientist and glass technologist, according to the Creeches, Carder lived his life to create beautiful works of glass that he hoped would inspire people to seek out beauty.

To quote Carder’s own words inscribed on one of the last pieces he made at age 92, a technically challenging diatreta vase, “Life is short — Art is long,” which perhaps best sums up Carder’s legacy to the world of enduring art.

Cartier among top names in online auction Oct. 13

Exquisite jewelry and high-quality decorative arts are offered in an online auction to be conducted by Jasper52 on Sunday, Oct. 13. Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels rings, brooches and bracelets; Patek Philippe and Cartier watches; Hermes handbags, English sterling silver and superb European porcelain fill out the 322-lot catalog.

Cartier 18K yellow gold, diamond, sapphire, emerald and ruby ring, size US 5 ¼, with original Cartier box. Estimate: $8,000-$10,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

’41 Harley Knucklehead revs up Jasper52 auction Oct. 10

Americana comes in many forms, from unique homemade objects to mass-produced commercial items from cultural icons. The Jasper52 Americana and Folk Art auction on Thursday, Oct. 10, will have a generous mix of both. The auction opens with an early 20th century cast-iron doorstop in the form of a monkey and quickly accelerates to an “iron hog” – a scarce 1941 Harley Davidson FL motorcycle.

1941 Harley Davidson FL, 74-cubic-inch Knucklehead OHV engine, in running order. Estimate: $70,000-$100,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

How to protect and preserve comic books

In the early days of comic-book production, publishers probably never imagined their products would become valuable collectibles. Comic books were considered ephemeral – something to be discarded after they were read. Little thought was given to making them last beyond their intended usefulness. They were printed on cheap, acidic newsprint that quickly turned yellow and brittle.

A few wise collectors were successful in preserving their old comic books. We know this because of the small number of pristine, early copies that only infrequently come to market.

Action Comics #1, June 1938, CGC-certified 9.0 featuring first appearance of Superman, sold by Pristine Comics on Aug. 24, 2014 for $3.2 million. Image courtesy of Pristine Comics

Who thought to carefully preserve a copy of Action Comics #1 (Superman’s debut) when it published in June 1938? Those who did take pains to store their copies with future value in mind were visionaries, considering what this title is worth today. A CGC-certified 9.0 example of Action Comics #1 was sold by Pristine Comics via eBay for a record-setting $3,207,852 in 2014 – the highest price ever paid publicly for an American comic book. More than one copy of Action Comics #1 has sold for seven figures, and it’s the only title with multiple specimens confirmed to have sold at or above $1 million.

Want more mindboggling reasons to take care of your old comics? A CGC-certified 8.0 copy of Detective Comics #27 (May 1939), which features the first appearance of Batman, was sold by Heritage Auctions in 2010 for $1,075,500. It was the first comic to break the million-dollar mark in the open marketplace.

Cover of Detective Comics 27 (May 1939 DC Comics), art by Bob Kane. Copyright DC Comics. Fair use of low-resolution image to illustrate the issue in which the copyrighted Batman character first appeared

Even The Amazing Spider-Man #1, published in March 1963, has risen rapidly in value. A condition-9.6 example of this title sold for $262,900 at a 2016 Heritage auction. However, Amazing Fantasy #15, which introduced the enduring character Spider-Man before he was given his own dedicated comic book title, is worth far more. A CGC-certified 9.6 copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 sold for $1.1 million on in 2011.

Twenty years younger than Action Comics #1 or Detective Comics #27, Amazing Fantasy #15 is by far the most recent comic book production to top $1 million – a testament to Spidey’s enduring popularity. From a standpoint of market observation only, it’s interesting to note that five years later, in 2016, Heritage auctioned a CGC-certified 9.4 copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 for $454,100. This might suggest that the market thought the previous $1.1 million price came a little too soon for the title, but it nonetheless supports the long-established pattern of six-figure prices for this issue.

Marvel Comics’ Amazing Fantasy #15 marking the debut of Spider-Man, CGC-certified 9.4 condition, sold by Heritage Auctions on Feb. 18, 2016 for $454,100.

So now you know what some of the most coveted comic books can sell for. Here are steps recommended by the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide to help preserve your paper collectibles:

Store comic books in a cool, dark place, while maintaining a low and stable relative humidity – around 50 percent. Fungus and mold thrive in hot, humid conditions. Never store comic books in a basement or anywhere where they might be exposed to flooding. And never store them in an attic, where hot, dry conditions will damage the paper.

Direct light will quickly damage comic books. Store them away from direct light, especially sunlight and fluorescent light, which contains high levels of ultraviolet radiation. Limit their exposure to other types of light sources as well.

It is important to protect comic books from atmospheric pollution. As extreme as this may sound, avoid exposing comic books to air. Sulfuric dioxide, emitted by automobile exhausts, will cause paper to turn yellow. For that reason, storing comic books in or close to a garage is not recommended. To minimize exposure to atmospheric pollution, comic books should be stored in Mylar sleeves. Polypropylene and polyethylene bags, while safe for temporary storage, should not be used long-term.

Comic books should be stored vertically in acid-free boxes to preserve flatness and spine tightness. Only acid-free backing boards should be used inside the Mylar sleeves.

Following these simple steps will ensure a comic book collection will last for at least the owner’s lifetime.

Our thanks to the experts at Hake’s Auctions for providing the record prices and other statistical information included in this article.