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’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.

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 LiveAuctioneers.com

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.

Material 

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.

Construction

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

Collectibility

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.

Finally

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.

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.

Vintage U.S. flags waving in Americana auction July 10

NEW YORK – Wave the flag for a patriotic salute to American ephemera, items that were intended to have a relatively short life span but remarkably have survived the ages. Jasper52 will conduct a Historical Americana Auction on Wednesday, July 10, that will reflect the historic events of the nation through these colorful objects.

U.S. Flag, 36 stars, 6in. x 5 in., muslin, circa 1865. Estimate: $1,000-$1,200. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

4th of July: a sizzling collectibles category

NEW YORK – American Independence “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more,” according to John Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. While the future U.S. president was right about the celebrations, he was wrong about the day.

As it happens, the vote for independence from Great Britain was unanimous on Tuesday, July 2nd. That’s the day that John Adams envisioned for his “pomp and parade.” When the Declaration of Independence was officially ratified on Thursday, July 4, that became the de facto day that we now celebrate with “bonfires … illuminations” and collectibles.

Declaration of Independence

Naturally there are gift shop copies of the full Declaration of Independence complete with signatures of all 56 signers. Yet, a full text of the Declaration is available in many 19th century printings. Some hand-printed editions published as early as 1824 may start at $15,000, but later highly decorated 19th century versions sell for $300 or so.

A wonderfully decorated mid-19th century facsimile of the Declaration of Independence by printer Rufus Blanchard with a border of the seals of the 13 original colonies. It recently sold for $250. Images courtesy Austin Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

If you’re able to find the original historical yearbooks like the Annual Register series that began under the editorship of the Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke in 1758, you’ll find a first early printing of the full Declaration of Independence along with notes and comments from Philadelphia.

Flags

Nothing says July Fourth like Old Glory, the flag of the United States. There are any number of flags and flag styles to collect from the very small to the rather large and any number of star patterns. When Independence was proclaimed in July 1776, though, a flag wasn’t even thought about until about a year later. Even then, the flag design that was approved was intended as a naval standard, not a national flag, which was a relatively new concept.

The entire resolution authorizing a flag is just 31 words: “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Nothing about how the stars were to be arranged, how many points they should have or whether the stripes were to be horizontal or vertical.

Because the resolution was vague, manufacturers designed unusual patterns using stars with different number of points. Before the Centennial of 1876, a complete flag is relatively hard to find. Most were handmade for display at home while others were government or military standards. After 1876, the presence of the U.S. flag became more ubiquitous.

No original 13-star flags are known to have survived the 18th century. This fanciful hand- stitched version shows an unusual star pattern in silk and dated July 4th, 1865, the first Independence Day after the end of the Civil War, which sold for $20,000 in 2012. Image courtesy: Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

What makes a U.S. flag fun to collect is the star pattern. Since 1795 a star was added for each new state every July Fourth after the admittance of the state. This means that the flag has changed 28 times, the most of any national flag. There was no set star pattern until 1912, with the most unusual star patterns becoming the most collectible.

Most flags before World War II were made of wool bunting, but there are some of silk, cotton, muslin and even a combination of fabrics. Flags are handsewn, silkscreened, machine sewn (stripes after 1850s; stars after 1890), and even block printed.

Most small, late 19th century hand-held flags are easily available for $30 or less and can be removed from the stick for easier display. Flags need to fit in an acid free frame, so collectors prefer smaller flags. Very large flags, no matter how old are difficult to display, but are great as a school show-and-tell, and as a patriotic addition to a neighborhood or civic program. Banners, or “pull downs” as they are known, are also quite decorative and collectible in any condition, especially with unusual star patterns.

This is the more iconic image of Uncle Sam, a recruiting poster for World War I created by artist Montgomery Flagg in 1917. An original recently sold for $9,000 by Heritage Auctions. Image courtesy of: Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Uncle Sam

Another great symbol of the United States is Uncle Sam, the gentlemanly figure usually decked out in red, white and blue coattails and top hat. Although mentioned in a line of Yankee Doodle, the satirical song sung by the English to harass the Colonials during the Revolutionary War, popular tradition suggests it was a nickname given to Samuel Wilson, a meatpacker for the troops during the War of 1812 in northern New York state. His meat barrels bore the markings ‘U.S.’ and because of his patriotic dedication was nicknamed Uncle Sam.

Tintype of Samuel Wilson, who supplied meat to the U.S. Army during the War of 1812, was affectionately known as ‘Uncle Sam.’ The image sold for $4,250 in 2016. Image courtesy of Forsythe Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Today, the Uncle Sam character is mostly associated with a red, white and blue cast-iron mechanical bank and an image created by artist Montgomery Flagg for his World War I recruiting poster “I Want You.” Uncle Sam can also be found in so many other variables such as an Andy Warhol painting, advertising tins, World War II morale posters and pamphlets, Red Cross benefits and even as an ad to help fight forest fires.

Eagles

The American bald eagle has been the most recognizable symbol of the country since its adoption on June 20, 1782 as the Great Seal of the United States. In full display, the eagle holds 13 arrows in the right talon to dramatize the commitment to fighting for freedom and democracy while finding peaceful solutions first symbolized by the olive branch and its 13 branches and berries.

Carved eagle display attributed to John Bellamy, a folk artist of the late 19th century known for heavily stylized eagle carvings. This gilded 19th century example sold for $35,000 in 2018. Image courtesy John McInnis Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

Folk artist John Bellamy carved patriotic eagles for ships and home decoration from about the 1850s to 1900 that are especially prized by collectors and is one of many artists utilizing the majestic bald eagle in patriotic works. The detail apparent in the fierce eyes and almost three- dimensional carving of the feathers and talons holding flags, arrows and ribbons attest to the majestic bird’s powerful image.

Patriotic-themed fireworks labels are great collectibles such as this Marine Brand fireworks label from the Liberty Display Fireworks Co. in China that sold for $425 in 2012 and The Voioe (sic) of Freedom fireworks label that sold for $175 in 2012. Images courtesy Dan Morphy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Fireworks, Postcards and Noisemakers

The use of fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July began at the first anniversary in 1777. One such celebration was described by the Evening Post in Philadelphia as having “ … a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with 13 rockets) on the Commons … ” China, then and now, is the preeminent fireworks manufacturer and their patriotic-themed fireworks labels are highly collectible because as paper labels, they weren’t expected to survive the event.

Patriotic postcards were a brisk business for publishers in the early 20th century such as this lot by well-known illustrator Ellen Clapsaddle, which sold for $30 in 2017 or about $7.50 each. Image courtesy: Matthew Bullock Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

When graphic design took a decidedly industrial leap in the late 19th century in Germany, the ability to produce more colorful illustrations with raised letters and embossed images helped make the penny postcard an immediate sensation from about 1900 to 1920. The one major postcard artist of the era was American Ellen Clapsaddle, who produced many of the dazzling holiday and patriotic postcard illustrations that are highly collected today. Look for ones with her added signature below the illustration to make them even more valuable.

Family gatherings deserve noise on the Fourth of July, too. Cardboard noisemakers, fanciful pinwheels and loud horns weren’t expected to survive the holiday. Any early items that did survive are highly collectible and sought after, especially if they are in very good condition.

This colorful button is a souvenir of a Fourth of July celebration in Keene, New Hampshire, in 1916. This patriotic-themed collectible sold for $322 in July 2018. Image courtesy of Hake’s Auction

There are also many vintage patriotic-themed items such as posters, civic holiday programs, parade items, buttons, tin items, flag-themed fans, decorations and so much more that can be collected and displayed all year long.

With this many vintage collectibles to display and admire, it’s no wonder that even John Adams believed that patriotic fervor should be “ … from this time forever more.”

GCADA auction May 23 features star-spangled Americana

Successful antique dealers have a knack for scouring the American landscape for interesting if not unique items that appeal to collectors. An attractive selection of Americana and folk art has been hand-picked by members of the Genesee Country Antique Dealers Association to be sold in an online auction through Jasper52 on Thursday, May 23. The 127-lot auction has a patriotic theme, from a folk art Great Seal of the United States to a bicycle flag holder with original 48-star U.S. flags.

Set of bicycle flags and mount, about 11in. tall, circa 1940s-1950s, 48-star flags. Estimate: $110-$150. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

NHADA picks symbols of America for online auction April 30

An Americana and folk art auction orchestrated by the prestigious New Hampshire Antique Dealers Association features many iconic and colorful items that symbolize the nation. This online auction will be conducted by Jasper52 on Tuesday, April 30, beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

Pair of American shields, zinc, 1880, 23in. x 16 in. x 1½in., about 20 lbs. each. Estimate: $2,800-$3,200. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

NHADA presents Americana, folk art auction March 28

More than 300 lots of outstanding Americana, vintage objects made and used in America, are offered in a Jasper52 online auction on Thursday, March 28. This exciting auction will feature items exclusively from the prestigious New Hampshire Antique Dealers Association. Rounding out the catalog are many lots of folk art, artistic works created by untrained artists in cultural isolation.

Carved wood heart in hand finial, 1930, 12in. high x 5in. wide, Maine origin, Estimate: $3,000-$3,200. Jasper52 image

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Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Washington portrait first of many highlights in NHADA auction Feb. 28

Nearly 200 authentic Swiss-made luxury watches are being offered in a Jasper52 online auction that will take place Wednesday, July 11. More than half of the auction catalog is devoted to Rolex watches, from vintage to contemporary models that are like new and in their original boxes.

Portrait of George Washington by an unknown artist, oil on board, circa 1840, 13¾ x 12in. Estimate: $4,500-$5,500. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

NHADA sponsors Americana, folk art auction Jan. 24 through Jasper52

The New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association (NHADA), one of the largest organizations of its kind, consists of nearly 300 knowledgeable members dedicated to integrity and fairness in all business dealings. The NHADA has teamed up with Jasper52 to present a January 24 auction featuring items consigned solely by members of the prestigious trade organization. Jasper52 helps select auction houses, dealers, galleries and now associations to conduct themed auctions whose goods are vetted by auctioneers and appraisers.

Dentzel carved goat carousel figure in original paint, 1910, Philadelphia. Estimate: $30,000-$35,000. NHADA and Jasper52 image

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Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.