Collecting Trends Highlighted for Glenmeadow Learners

Collecting Trends Highlighted for Glenmeadow Learners

November 3, 2016

A packed audience in Cotz Hall at Glenmeadow listened intently on Oct. 25 as Auctioneer George Thomas Lewis talked about collecting trends and discussed today’s antiques market as well as the selling prices of a handful of specific 2015 auction items.

Likely, many attendees were pondering the value of some of their own antiques as George presented his slides, showing photographs and real-life examples; after the presentation, 36 participants got a chance to find out by meeting with George—and his colleague Kerry Shrives—to have items they were invited to bring with them viewed and appraised.

Items George discussed in his slide show ranged from furniture to jewelry to pottery. Items he and Kerry evaluated for participants included a rocking chair, a miniature Danish hutch, many paintings and other wall-hangings, miniature book collections and some jewelry.

Most folks heard the news that their item might bring $20 or $100 at auction; several learned their items—the miniature hutch and a piece of pottery from this region from 1840—could bring $800 to $1,200.

As they waited to be seen by either George or Kerry, people took a tour of Glenmeadow or had a sandwich in the café. It was all part of “Auction Review: A Look at What’s Hot—and What’s Not,” the second program in the fall Glenmeadow Learning series.

Participants were very pleased with the program, which was so popular that George returned on Oct. 31 to offer a second talk and series of appraisals.

George is the western Massachusetts representative with Skinner Inc., an auction house that draws international interest from buyers and consigners, with material regularly achieving record prices. He joined Skinner in 2014 to appraise and handle consignment services after running his own business, George Thomas Lewis & Co., for over 35 years in Northampton. His expertise is in estate liquidations and antiques.

Kerry is the senior vice president and director of information and technology at Skinner as well as the Director of Fine Judaica. She has more than 20 years of experience as an appraiser and auctioneer of fine arts and antiques. She is a regular commentator and contributor to a variety of publications and broadcast media outlets, including The Boston Globe, Yankee Magazine and National Public Radio. She is also a regular participant in the Public Television series, Antiques Roadshow.

“I love doing what I’m doing,” George told the audience. “It’s a treasure hunt every day.”

In his hour-long PowerPoint presentation, George offered several examples of items on the block in 2015, comparing what might seem like collectibles that would fetch similar bids, only to surprise the audience with disparities.

For instance, George showed a photo of a framed wool needlework wall-hanging that had no provenance, no date and featured a very cluttered design. It sold for $246.

In comparison, a 17th century American needlework featuring sheep and shepherds was bought by a private collector for $903,000 and now hangs in an art museum in Cooperstown, New York.

Another example George offered was that of a pair of 19th century parlor chairs, once part of a larger ensemble of grand furniture; they sold for $1,067, likely because they were only a part of a set.

In contrast, a 1950s Danish chair and ottoman, in vogue in its time, sold for $20,910. “Tastes have changed,” George said. “Every once in a while, we’ll find something like this in an unused bedroom of a home because nobody thought much of it, but these things have become quite collectible.”

George also told a story of a bidding war at auction on a piece of Chinese art that sold for $24.723 million. One bidder was at the auction live, while the other was on the phone. The price rose in increments of $1 million until it was sold.

“It is absolutely extraordinary,” George said. “The Chinese are buying back their art. There are people with the kinds of money that can do wonderful things. I suspect a vase like this will end up as a national treasure in China.”

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