August 27 & 28, 2011 Highlights [back to top]
Ken Farmer’s August 27 and 28 auction produced some notable highlights and underscored the new antiques mantra: “There’s no shortage of demand or dollars for the great stuff. Conversely, the low demand for middle market and lesser quality persists.”
Farmer said that their company is increasingly finding that the internet is the main key to success. “The first thing you need is an auction company with credibility, then accurate cataloging, great photography and internet placement and finally a responsive staff for condition reports.” In discussing their auction results, the internet viewings and bids were constantly mentioned so we have included some of that information in addition to prices. (Quoted prices include a 15% buyer’s premium.)
This particular auction showed tremendous activity for rare items, guns, coins and silver. Saturday’s sale star was Lot 69, a rare series 1934 $5000 Federal Reserve Note. An East Coast phone bidder won the item for $62,100, with a $40,000/$60,000 estimate. Farmer’s coin and currency specialist, Robert Wall, spotted this prize at one of the company’s monthly free appraisal days. The bill was viewed on the internet 105 times.|
Saturday’s sale also included a small gun collection, art glass salt and pepper shakers and a group of Fiestaware. Lot 13, a Model 1849 .31 caliber Colt pocket pistol sold for $1,610 (84 online views). High lot for the shakers was 224, a pair of Stanley’s Bluerina which brought $2,530 from a phone bidder. Topping the Fiesta was lot 272, a chartreuse coffee pot, $143.75.|
By the 1:00 p.m. sale time at Sunday’s General Catalogue sale the house was full. Literally all the silver lots surpassed their low estimates and many were much higher. Lot 558, a large service of Tiffany Shell and Thread brought $13,800, more than double the high estimate. Lot 638, an early 19th century hallmarked English punch bowl sold for $6,900.|
The most watched lot on Farmer’s website was 626. An ivory Chinese reclining female figure. After 166 views and 25 online bids, the internet took the lot for $3,162.50, underbid by a collector in the room. Lot 444, a circa 1900 Chinese bronze and cloisonné table sold for $3,450 with a $300/$500 estimate. Low estimates on Chinese items continue to drive up the price.|
Lot 575, a room size Serapi carpet, brought $4,887.50, with nice color palette offsetting some patched, repaired areas. Lot 747, an early 20th century Harley Davidson poster, sold for $2,070. Lot 594, an American Regency bed sold for $3,450. The bed was attributed to the New Orleans maker Millard but was marked “C. Lee” which indicated Massachusetts origin. It had also been reduced from a half tester.
Two objects of note and great discussion were a grandfather clock attributed to Thomas Day, a black North Carolina cabinetmaker, and a painted slide lid box similar to one sold recently at Freeman’s for six figures.|
The clock, lot 690, came from a Wilkesboro, North Carolina estate and included a note saying it was bought from the Lynch (silversmith) estate in Hillsboro, North Carolina in the late 1970’s. The price was listed as $5,000 and Day was specifically identified as the maker. Bob Miller, one of Farmer’s specialists, contacted several Thomas Day scholars but none could cite a precedent form to confirm the attribution. The upper half of the case was constructed similar to a newel post and clock’s overall form was very simple. Day was known to make staircase elements and other architectural elements for houses. Farmer said the clock was likely made by Day: “No one can prove it was or was not made by Day. The monetary reward for misrepresenting Day as the maker in the 1970’s would have been minimal. So why do it?” A descendent purchased the clock for $3,450, a sum that could turn out to be the wisest investment of the day. The estimate was $2,500/$7,500.
The slide lid box, lot 585, was bought by a California collector for $3,450. The exuberant paint decoration included tulips, people, polka dots, rainbows—it was loaded with the requisite whistles and bells. Farmer said the box was consigned by a collector who said they traded for it about 2 years ago. As mentioned earlier, a similarly decorated box was sold in Philadelphia for six figures. Word on the street was that another similar box was run through a small Pennsylvania auction house and that piece was considered to be a fake. In any event, the wood in the box at Farmer’s tested to be spruce with crystals—likely English or European in origin. Most people thought the paint had lots of age. When an object has that many questions the price usually reflects the controversy. No matter what, it was a great decorative, probably German, box and a lot of bang for the bucks.|
Farmer’s next catalogue sale will be October 29 and 30, 2011. The firm conducts bi-monthly Treasure auctions, quarterly catalogue auctions and special collections as offered. For more information go to www.kfauctions.com or call 540-639-0939.
Appalachian Splint Baskets [back to top]
Most of us see baskets everyday and never question their use, origin or
value. Think about it the next time a gift arrives from the florist in
a wicker or reed basket or when you gather the laundry or a bushel of
the dawn of time man has been weaving baskets to store necessary items
such as grain, oil and even water. The basic form was usually dictated
by the intended use and the materials used were available locally.
Accounts of early cultures such as the Egyptians or Native Americans
make reference to the production and use of baskets. In the Orient and
in coastal areas river cane or grasses might have been used. In
America, baskets were made in the Piedmont, Mountain or Plains regions
using materials such as wooden splints, animal hides and grasses.
this article, I’ve decided to focus on a few of the baskets found in
the Mid Atlantic and Appalachian regions. My first experience with
basket making occurred when I met “Miss Mary”, a Southwest Virginia
lady in her 80’s. “Miss Mary” was an artisan who made baskets for a
local crafts co-op in the 1970’s and early 80’s. I remember her
astonishment at learning that people would buy her baskets for “show”
rather than using them to bring in produce from the garden.
visiting Miss Mary I got a close-up education in all the work and
skills required to turn an oak tree into a basket. Miss Mary and her
nephew would go out into the forest around her home and search for
white oak saplings 4” to 6” in diameter. After carefully selecting the
tree the nephew would fell it and cut off the bottom 8’ or so and
remove the bark. Then he would take a chisel and draw knife and pull
strips off the tree about ½” to 1” wide, which would then be worked
down into thin splints. These splints were then soaked in a creek to
make them pliable so Miss Mary could weave her magic.
those of us who collect antique baskets the biggest challenge comes
when we have to decide how much “magic” is woven into our baskets or
potential purchases. The simplest system I can think of involves
thinking of the basket first as an object of art. This means we need to
look at the eye appeal, form, finish, patina and age.
1 shows a classic gizzard or buttocks basket in a dry surface with nice
old patina. Baskets like this were made in all sizes from one or more
bushels down to miniatures that will fit in the palm of your hand. The
one pictured is about 2” high and 3” wide. It’s so finely woven that
the photo could deceive you into thinking it was much larger. The price
for this basket could be $3,000 or more.
2 is a basket similar to Figure 1 but this form is called a melon shape
because it’s flat on the bottom. The size on Figure 2 is 6” high x 7”
wide and it has nice patina. Figure 2A gives us another nice clue – the
handle and the rim are secured by a cut nail. This means this
particular basket is from the 1870’s or earlier. It’s my opinion that
over 90% of the baskets we see in today’s market and collections were
made after 1900.
3 shows another desirable form – a hanging basket. These were made for
key storage or papers and I’ve even heard some people in the country
got their mail in them. Figure 5 shows a round basket with some unusual
characteristics. The handle is signed and dated from New Market,
Virginia, April 14, 1935. When compared to the other examples this
basket is not very finely woven but its patina, date, and location make
it very desirable.
||Figure 11 |
advanced Americana and country furniture collectors always seek baskets
with great form, patina and particularly old painted surfaces. The most
unusual basket related item I’ve ever seen is the splint bed mat shown
in Figure 11. These mats were woven to put over the ropes in 19th and
19th Century beds so the feather tick (mattress) wouldn’t sink down
between the ropes. As the photo shows, this item makes a great
background for a wall display. Sometimes the biggest challenge to a
basket collector comes in trying to display baskets in an attractive
of us set our prized baskets on tables, cupboards, and even the floor.
The good news is that most baskets were made to be used and are
actually very sturdy. As long as you don’t clean them with harsh
detergents they should be good for future generations. However, I
strongly advise putting miniatures and fragile baskets in cupboards
behind glass. The basket shown in Figure 1 is worth a lot more in its
perfect state than it would be with even one broken splint.
very encouraging that a lot of nice oak splint baskets can be bought
for $250 or less. I would estimate that the vast majority of baskets we
well in our uncatalogued auctions sell in this price range. As you
increase your knowledge and look for great miniatures, rare regional
forms or painted baskets the price can get in four figures very
quickly. Good Hunting!
This excerpt was written by Ken Farmer 2003
Ken Farmer Winter Estate Auction [back to top]
sudden winter snowstorm in the South could not blanket the enthusiasm
for a standing room only crowd at Ken Farmer’s on Saturday, February 8,
2003. Preceded by a Friday night champagne and cocktail preview, Farmer
welcomed gallery regulars and out-of-town visitors to his newly
expanded and renovated facility, where new sales records were
established for high end merchandise along with Southern art.
from a Southern museum of art and an historical society meant fresh and
exciting goods for dealers and collectors in the showroom, on the
telephone, and from cyberspace. Among the featured items was a Southern
walnut with yellow pine Queen Anne dressing table ($55,000), a
Goldsmith Chandlee (Virginia) engraved surveyor’s compass ($11,212), a
Wythe County, Virginia pie safe with tulip punched tins ($3,902), and
an Arts and Crafts period oak sideboard, signed “L & JG Stickley
($3,624). (All prices reflect a 15% buyer’s premium).
the art was a J. G. Brown oil “The Dilettante”, showing an urchin
fishing a broken vase from the trash ($16,100); a large bright
neo-Expressionist oil on canvas by Israeli painter Menashe Kadishman
($4,600). A colorful “Negro Dance” by Warre LeBron, cofounder of the
Dixie Art Colony, sold to New York dealer Debra Force bidding for a
extra grade Wooton patent desk in walnut, and dated from 1884 ($21,850)
and a 1985 Rolls-Royce Camargue Coupe ($37,353) rounded out the
Southern walnut dressing table, turned up by Farmer and one of his
associates during an appraisal day in the Virginia mountains, proved to
be an enigma to collectors and dealers of Southern furniture, and it is
hoped will open new avenues of scholarship for the maker.
Queen Anne one over three drawer dressing table has an engaging pierced
Rococo apron, Quaker drawer locks, and foliate carved knees with a
suppressed claw and ball foot. Likely a back country interpretation of
cabinetmakers’ work from Williamsburg, Norfolk, or the Chowan basin,
the piece has an innate charm that only a vernacular interpretation of
high style furniture can offer.
solicited assistance from the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts
(MESDA), Colonial Williamsburg, and prominent dealers, none of whom
could seem to agree on the origin of the piece. One knowledgeable
collector stated emphatically that the piece was a product of Norfolk,
while a dealer strongly attributed it to the Perquimans County, NC
area, and another placed the attribution to a journeyman cabinetmaker
from the Hay or Scott shops in Williamsburg, and perhaps produced in
the Valley of Virginia. The only known/published origin relates it to
one of the founding families of Virginia.
controversy arose as to the originality of the top, but Farmer and
dealer Sumpter Priddy, III were one hundred per cent certain of the
top’s authenticity. When the piece came onto the block, an anticipated
phone bidder dropped out, leaving the auctioneer to pass the lot, only
to be resurrected and sold where another call produced the successful
bidder, a prominent Eastern Virginia collector . .
This excerpt was written by Robert K. Miller
A buzz underneath the tent [back to top]
a block from the Doe River and the famous covered “kissing” bridge of
Elizabethton , Tennessee , was the site of the latest Ken Farmer
auction on April 20th. Conducted on the premises of the former home of
Samuel Powhatan Carter, a direct descendent of Landon Carter the
founder of Carter County, Tennessee, the sale was the first quarter
million dollar personal property sale for the Farmer group of 2002.
Held under his trademark red and white striped tents, the auction and
the preview collected the largest crowd in recent county memory.
Jodi Webb , she registered 150 bidders during the preview on the day
before. By auction day, over 500 spectators crowded under the two tents
of merchandise to watch the show. With the large crowd, local
politicians running for office could be seen threading their way
through outstretched hands. Even Lamar Alexander, who once attempted a
run for the Presidential nomination and is now running for a Senate
seat in the state, was in attendance.
Because of the
historical significance of the items to the surrounding county, prices
were expected to be strong and the crowd was wowed by some of the final
bids. Ken Farmer , taking it all in stride, calmly called the bids and
interspersed a crowd-pleasing joke or story, amid a flurry of bidding.
After initial announcements, Farmer started promptly at 10 with a 24”
marble bust of a woman wearing a scarf. The final price of $715 (all
prices include the 10% buyers’ premium) immediately started a buzz
among those seated under the tent, while those outside jostled in
closer. Next, a hand painted, electrified Gone With the Wind style lamp
brought $165, an unusual Heisey, tri-level hors d’oeuvres stand brought
$330, and an English ironstone plateau ended at $770. With the crowd’s
appetite whetted, the first advertised star of the auction, a Tennessee
urn-pattern punched tin Jackson Press (c. 1820-1840), cherry with
poplar secondaries, crossed the block. With turned feet and paneled
sides, molded cornice over two doors with 24 lights, the two-piece
cupboard sold for $16,500 sold to Asheville dealer Charlton Bradsher
bidding for a client.
Interspersed with small items—a
brass-covered English wood fireplace screen for $302, a small wicker
baby carriage with a Sun rubber baby dollar (left too long in the heat
of the attic) for $82, and an English blue and white transferware
tureen with an old staple repair over a side crack for $385—came the
other advertised stars of the show. A rare Aesthetic Revival two-piece
bow front corner cupboard, c. 1870, with burl veneers intact, Heraldic
faces on cornice and finial, with a single arched lighted door over two
doors with applied cornucopia carving sold to a local dealer for
$11,000. A more subtle two-piece Empire stepback cherry cupboard with
burl veneers and 16 lights over 2 drawers over 2 doors brought $5,500.
pair of centennial style chairs, made of mahogany, with ribbon carving
came in the high side of $1000 and an Empire secretary/bookcase,
cherry, burl veneers, and poplar, with cathedral windowpanes ended
finally at $10,725 after one determined bidder outbid four others who
were still in as the piece went beyond $9,000. The Tennessee cherry
corner cupboard, c. 1800, with rope, tassel, and string inlay, and
stars and corners inlaid in the panels, went for $16,500. The price of
the corner cupboard was held down by it’s replaced cornice, and like
most of the collection, it was refinished. To the surprise of several
in the crowd, it wasn’t the corner cupboard or the Jackson Press that
was the high price item of the day. A Regency Revival Tester Bed, of
mahogany and veneers, standing over 8 feet tall, brought serious
interest from three very determined bidders. These three, a local
collector, a family member, and a collector just outside the region who
wanted it for her personal collection, took the bed to a final price of
$20,900, and it stayed in the family. After the sale this reported
spoke with this relative who identified himself as Mr. William Ivy
Long. Mr. Long said he was a distant relation and has come down from
New York City to attend the auction.
this time, slightly over an hour into the sale, the crowd was used to
the high numbers and seemed unabashed at spending fewer dollars for
smalls and collectibles. A green glass demi john stopped at $192; an
authentic betty lamp, though covered with grime from years in an
outside shed brought $38; a small bisque doll and a pair of larger baby
leather shoes, with the soles in nearly unwalked on condition, reached
$77; boxes of pressed glass ranged from $16 to $150; WWI and Korean War
era naval uniforms went for $70 to $130; and several pieces of
Victorian clothing with black beading, ranged from $10 to $130 a piece.
A four-piece celluloid dresser set ended at $66. A 92-piece set of Moss
Rose china went for $330. Pressed glass oil lamps averaged $22 to $38;
and an unusual small round metal mousetrap was snatched up for $11. The
Farmer auction crew did an amazing job of spotting bids, since every
lot seemed to have at least some popularity among several bidders
throughout the tent and outside, some even bidding while putting
mustard on their hot dog at the food tent. As a local older gentleman,
dressed nattily in a gray suit, remarked to me, “I’ve been to auctions
all my life and this may be the best run outfit I’ve ever seen.”
Victorian Rococo Revival over the mantle mirror finished at $1430, and
other mirrors, most in pine, walnut, or cherry frames, brought $55 to
$330. A cherry drop leaf table, with boldly turned legs, reached $2200;
a walnut country wardrobe from the mid-nineteenth century ended up at
$930; an American Empire mahogany sewing stand, with three nicely
defined paw feet, went home for $1210; and a country Sheraton
one-drawer stand, walnut with a four-board top, was hammered down for
$605. Some seemed surprised that a walnut grandfather clock with a
Litchfield face and works sold for $6,600. According to Farmer, it was
quite common for East Tennessee clock makers to construct their cases
locally and order the works and faces from New England or Germany . The
clock purchaser stated that he paid more than he expected, but that
this purchase ended his 20 year search for an East Tennessee tall
clock. A country walnut candlestand, with legs mortised in the post and
in need of refinishing went for $220. A walnut pump organ, many were
careful not to scratch their nose during this piece, still went for
$660 to a least one person happy to get it.
too, was popular among bidders and several oil paintings, done just
before the turn of the century, some signed by local artists, went to
new homes, including one where a woman was frantically coaxing
permission to bid out of a cell phone. An oil on canvas of sheep
parading in line down a stormy sea coast brought $220. An OOC of girl
in a boat, from the 1890s, also went for $220. A small OOB of a dark
seascape stopped at $66. An oil of violets, not quite a yard, brought
$385, and an OOC of descendent Elizabeth Carter went for $1100. A
charcoal study of a lady, approx. 2 x 3 feet brought $88, and a large
Victorian engraving of mother and child in a plain oak frame reached
books of historical value were in the estate and brought market prices
during the auction. A volume of Summers’ 1903 “History of Southwest
Virginia, Washington County ,” stopped just short of $100. The 1872
12-volume set of the “Ku Klux Conspiracy—Testimony on Condition of
Affairs of Late Insurrectionary States,” brought $385. Bancroft’s six
volumes of the “History of the United States ” from 1891 reached $66,
and 10 volumes of Nicholson’s Encyclopedia (1818) changed hands $165.
195 early 1800s books, leather bound and written in Greek and Latin,
brought $1,210. Tennessee and regional historical books were also
popular, ranging in price from $66 to $385 per volume, the highest
price for Wheeler’s “History of North Carolina” published in 1851. The
end of the day seemed to be that the Tennessee collectors and distant
relatives were dead set on keeping their heritage in the state. Also,
in this day when there are so many anonymous objects this sale offered
buyers a chance to buy good objects with a great provenance. .
This excerpt was written by Steve Culver
Oil on canvas
The Misses Stewart Hodgson [back to top]
by Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A. (1830-96), was recently discovered
by Ken Farmer in the collection of Mildred H. Boink. The painting was
in the possession of the Boink family for over 20 years.
Boinks originally purchased the Leighton for $400 from the widow of a
local industrialist, who collected art in the 60s. Originally, the
family members mistakenly believed the oil to be signed by an artist
named "Bart." Soon, after extensive research and verification, the
painting was discovered to be a lost Frederic Leighton painting, once
exhibited at the Royal Academy Winter Exhibition of 1897.
painting went on to be sold over the Internet with Sothebys.com on Nov.
29, 2001. It became the most expensive canvas ever sold on online for a
bidding record of $550,700. Double mid estimates…
A Rediscovered Masterpiece [back to top]
remarkable object, a rare alkaline-glazed stoneware figural jug made by
John Lehman in Randolph County, Ala., circa 1870, was offered for sale
by Ken Farmer Auctions on sothebys.com last month.
Frederick Lehman - born about 1825 in Germany and arriving in the
United States during the 1850s - is responsible for two of the most
impressive ceramic figural vessels produced by European- American
potters during the 19th century, This is one of them, the other example
that is virtually identical except for a more elaborate costume, is in
the collection of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. Both are impressed
on both lapels J.LEHMAN within a circle and around a star.
jug was discovered at the Antiques Roadshow in Miami last year. In
remarkable condition, with just a few chips and minor hairline cracks,
it created plenty of interest before bidding closed on Feb. 21 at
$72,500 ($80,500 including buyer's premium).
This excerpt was taken from an article in the March 11, 2002 Eastern edition of Antique Week, Vol 34. Issue 1711
Ken Farmer holds Sotheby's affiliated auctions several times a year
140-year-old Alabama figural jug [back to top]
wasn't watching the Daytona 500 on Sunday. In Radford, there was no
fried chicken, no cold beer and no Dale Earnhardt Jr. caps.
art and antique enthusiast’s sipped red wine, ate shrimp and quiche,
and enjoyed what Ken Farmer calls 'the best-kept secret in Southwest
an appraiser and auctioneer, runs one of the few international online
auction houses in the Mid-Atlantic and the only one in Western
Virginia. Farmer, who holds Sotheby's-affiliated auctions several times
a year, had his latest showing Sunday. The items included a
140-year-old Alabama figural jug that sat by itself in a glass case.
The minimum bid - $50,000.
November, Farmer sold a painting for $560,000 - an online record for
such a sale. Farmer found "The Sisters Hodgson," painted by Lord
Frederick Leighton, while assessing an estate in the Midwest, and his
research unveiled the painting's value, which had eluded the experts
from Sotheby's and Christie's.
a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then," he said with a
laugh. The estate had made a contractual agreement to take a $ 10,000
The story of the figural jug is just as rich. Its
owner, James Madison University graduate Cathy Harlem, lives in Miami.
She was in Radford on Sunday and she stood and stared at her jug for
quite awhile. Tears welled up in her eyes. “I just came to say
goodbye,” she said.
jug has been handed down by generations of women in Harlem's family.
Until Harlem decided to have the jug appraised last year, no one knew
its value. Years ago, Harlem's parents threw the jug in their car as
they moved from Alabama to Maryland. When Harlem's mother decided to
give the pottery to her daughter last year, she and her husband wrapped
it in some towels and drove to Miami, stopping many times along the
“It was just there in the back of the car," said Harlem's mother, Nettie O'Neal. The jug made it safely to Miami.
decided to have it appraised when the PBS television program "Antiques
Roadshow” came to town. That's where she met Farmer, who is affiliated
with the show.
was astonished to learn that the jug, made by a relatively obscure but
highly regarded artist named John Lehman, could be worth more than $
100,000. She put it in a closet because she was scared that her cat,
Squirt, might break it. “I have a cat that will pee on any vertical
surface,” she said.
Harlem decided she could never keep her sanity holding on to such a valuable piece of folk art. So she cut a deal with Farmer.
is confident someone will make a big bid closer to the deadline.
Sunday's auction also included other displayed items such as a George
Washington letter from 1780, a lock of his hair, and a portrait of
said, as fascinating as high-dollar auctions are, they’re not his bread
and butter. He also holds auctions of furniture, guns and other
antiques on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. “I’m prideful of
what I do,” said Farmer, a Pulaski native. “A lot of people think
Virginia culture ends in Richmond, but Radford is a great small town,
and I enjoy living here.”
This article was taken from the February 18, 2002 edition of The Roanoke Times Virginia Section
Jim Woltz, Ken Farmer see synergies
Real Estate firms form new alliance [back to top]
Whether the job is to auction land, estates or antiques, Jim Woltz and Ken Farmer are sold on the idea of working together.
met 25 years ago while playing bluegrass music. Woltz played banjo
while Farmer played guitar. Both have recorded albums and still play in
their spare time.
the owners of Woltz & Associates Inc., of Roanoke, and Ken Farmer
Auctions, of Radford, plan to do business together. They will jointly
market their companies by acknowledging one another in their brochures
and by providing links to each other's Web sites.
& Associates primarily sells large tracts of land, estates and
commercial properties while Farmer, who also sells real estate and
land, specializes in antique auctions. Farmer will help Woltz if there
is a large personal property sale and Woltz will help Farmer if his
company receives a multi-parcel sale, the companies said.
of the changing markets, regulations and an ever-expanding base of
product knowledge, all auctioneers are challenged to work within their
areas of expertise and seek partnerships with qualified firms when
clients needs services that require a different specialization," Farmer
Both companies have established a name for themselves
a licensed real estate broker since 1985, has been a regular appraiser
on PBS' "Antiques Roadshow" since 1997. He also has appeared as a guest
on the Oprah Winfrey show to discuss antiques. His company's sales were
about $2.3 million last year.
Woltz, a broker, has been
selling rural, commercial and industrial lands for more than 26 years.
Woltz and Associates' 1999 sales totaled more than $30 million. The
company is licensed in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina,
Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Colorado.
Both men know the value of technology
& Associates has the capacity to do live online bidding. It is the
only Virginia company with the rights to a computerized, multi-parcel
bidding process, the company said.
online process, implemented in April 1999, "keeps everybody in the
game," said David Brammer, auction coordinator at Woltz &
Associates. "It's good for a small-tract bidder who is bidding against
a large developer."
a stretch of land, a tract, is divided into smaller tracts. These
individual tracts are bid on, then bids on a combination or grouping of
the smaller tracts are accepted. Once a higher bid is received on a
combination of tracts, individual bidders are unable to bid higher on
their desired tract.
online system allows bidding to continue on a single plot of land, even
after several plots have been grouped together for sale. When the
bidding ends, the combination with the highest dollar amount is sold.
Woltz said the multiparcel process has increased sales revenue by 50
conducts his auctions in a 12,000-square-foot auction center in Radford
and online through Sotheby's Web site. The gallery is complete with
video display of auctions in progress and 12 phone lines connecting
absentee bidders to the sales.
and Farmer are members of the National Auctioneers Association and The
Certified Auctioneers Institute and Woltz belongs to the National
Association of Realtors.
This article was taken from the July 26, 2000 edition of The Roanoke Times Business Section
A Radford auctioneer appearance on "Oprah"
The door to Ken Farmer's office has a Hollywood star on the front, [back to top]
- Sure, it's a paper star held up with tape, but Farmer's brush with
fame was pretty brief, after all. The owner of Ken Farmer Auctions
& Estates spent half of last weekend in Chicago taping an episode
of "Oprah.” in a segment that's a takeoff on the popular " Antiques
Roadshow" program. The episode broadcasted Monday February 14th on
(Channel 13) at 5 p.m.
has already achieved a sort of notoriety in antiques circles through
his regular appearances on the PBS television program “ Antiques
Roadshow” over the past four years. But, Farmer said, Oprah reaches a
different audience entirely. People usually respond with polite nods-
when they recognize the name of the PBS show, Oprah fans generally are
more energetic. “Oprah Winfrey?!” he shouted in imitation “They're
show about lost treasures tapped into the antiques expertise of Farmer
and three other appraisers. Many audience members brought what they
hoped were under appreciated treasures for the experts to assess. “You
find something your grandmother gave you or you bought at a yard sale
for $2 and it's worth $50,000, that's what everybody's hoping for," he
person brought in a guitar bought for $200 at a pawn shop. Farmer
recognized it as a rare 1950s electric guitar worth $8,000. Another
person brought a collection of intricate wood carvings, including a
walking cane with an elephant head and mice crawling up the shaft.
Farmer valued that collection at $8,000 as well. Farmer said such tales
of found treasures are fairly common and on the rise. “I think there's
a renaissance of interest in antiques going on,” he said.
spared no expense for her expert guest. Farmer was treated to limousine
service, a- deluxe hotel suite and fine dining.“It was primo,” he said.
Farmer got to shake hands with the queen of daytime talk, but that was
about it. He didn't even come away with a photo of her. “They wouldn't
even let you bring your camera in the building,“ he said. "Her image is
sacred.” Neither was there any backstage schmoozing. "She doesn’t do
that. She's the star."
favorite part of the trip, posh suite notwithstanding, was the intense,
genuine reaction people had when they learned the actual value of their
antiques. “One lady cried, one lady was jumping up and down, just
having a duck she was so excited,” he said.
love for antiques grew out of pride in his home region and its crafts,
from carvings to mountain instruments. “Part of it was my love for the
music of the Southern Appalachian region," he said. “[It] gave me a
strong sense of pride of being a Southern Appalachian.” In his 20 years
in the business, Farmer's expertise has moved well beyond Appalachian
treasures. The breadth of his knowledge was one the reasons he was
chosen for the 'Oprah' episode.
Farmer will appear again on "
Antiques Roadshow" - the most popular show on PBS - several times this
year. It is broadcast Mondays at 8 pm . He will also appraise items at
the Art Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke today from 10 a.m. to 3
p.m. for $5 an item. He's busy and in demand, but Farmer said it hasn't
gone to his head. "I’m no superstar - got my 15 seconds of fame,” he
This article was taken from the February 12, 2000 edition of The Roanoke Times Current Section
John Shearer of Martinsburgh, Virginia
Important New Evidence on a Southern Cabinetmaker [back to top]
research is the process of forming tentative theories to fit the
available facts and then revising them as new bits of information come
along. This process is taking place once again as a previously unknown
example of the work of Virginia cabinetmaker John Shearer comes up for
auction on May 18th at Ken Farmer's gallery in Radford, VA.
recent years, an increasing amount of collector interest as focused on
readily identifiable pieces from important regional workshops. The
attention and prices garnered by works from the Dunlaps of New
Hampshire are a manifestation of this trend. Add to this an energized
research campaign in the Southeast to document examples made by
Southern cabinetmakers, spearheaded by the efforts of the Museum of
Early Southern Decorative Arts in North Carolina and Colonial
Williamsburg in Virginia. Both these factors have contributed to
heightened market appreciation for the well-documented works of John
Shearer, a cabinetmaker who flourished in the early 19th century in
Martinsburgh, then part of Frederick County, Va., (now Martinsburg
W.Va.). A walnut chest of drawers signed by Shearer sold for $63,000 at
a 1994 Skinner's Americana auction, well beyond its estimate of $8000 -
has everything you could wish for in a regional furniture maker. His
high-style case pieces are well executed and idiosyncratic enough to be
easily recognizable. Williamsburg curator Jonathan Prown, who with Ron
Hurst is preparing a new book on Southern Furniture; the Colonial
Williamsburg Collection, 1680-1830, explains: "We have to be careful
not to judge Shearer by eastern urban standards, because he was working
in a different region, so his whole stylistic and structural vocabulary
was guided by a different set of rules than in a place like London, New
York or even Norfolk, Va. He was clearly a pretty flamboyant character,
but I object to characterizations of him as being rather bizarre. You
have to keep in mind the context he is working in: he's on the
frontier. He's out there in the valley of Virginia where there were all
sorts of people and influences."
of this flamboyance can be deduced from the evidence Shearer abundantly
provided on his own pieces. One of his masterpieces, a desk and
bookcase in the MESDA collection, is signed no less than 20 times. The
same piece of furniture also yields the date he made each part - 1801
for the desk, 1806 for the bookcase - and the fact that it was executed
at Martinsburgh. Furthermore, he supplies several biographical tidbits,
which are repeated on other Shearer pieces: the statement that he came
from Edinburgh in 1775; and, through the sentiment "God Save the King,"
that he was a confirmed Tory sympathizer long after the Revolutions.
Why he came to this continent in those turbulent years and why he
remained after the Colonists' victory over the Crown are intriguing
furniture expert John Bivins, who co-authored MESDA"s catalogue The
Regional Arts of the Early South with Forsyth Alexander, emphasizes the
Scottish influence in Shearer's work: "It seems evident that the
cabinetmaker was trained in Scotland because of the great number of
Scottish stylistic details he uses, which are really not disseminated
around the lower valley in Virginia. If you compare it with Edinburgh
work, Shearer's furniture is loaded with and eclectic blend of Baroque,
Rococo, and Neoclassical elements with a heavy emphasis on
architectural detail, which you also see on Scottish tall case clocks."
the hard facts Shearer placed on his own pieces and the stylistic
evidence, this Southern cabinetmaker might seem an easy biographical
subject. But previous efforts to firmly identify him with a documented
local resident of Martinsburgh are now in jeopardy. The classic work on
the artisan is a May 1979 article by John J. Snyder Jr., "John Shearer,
Joiner of Martinsburgh" in volume V of the Journal of Early Southern
Decorative Arts. Snyder discussed the seven examples of his work known
at that time and connected the maker with a John Shearer born in 1765
who filed a will in Washington County, Md., in early 1810 and died
shortly thereafter. This John Shearer's family were Scots immigrants
and many facts are known about relatives, marriages, and children, but
there is no mention of his trade or listing of any cabinetmaking tools
in the will.
identification, further more, presents two problems at either end of
Shearer's life. Snyder assumed that, since the boy John would have come
from Scotland at the age of 10 (relying on the Shearer's own furniture
inscriptions that he came from Edinburgh in 1775), he must have trained
under a local cabinetmaker in Virginia. Even if that master was himself
Scots, questions can be raised about whether this training would
account for Shearer's unusual style, or should researchers look for
another Shearer who was fully trained before he came from Scotland?
There seems to be no body of similar work in the Martinsburgh area to
suggest a regional school of Scottish influenced cabinetmakers.
greater problem has arisen from the recent emergence of the slant front
desk illustrated, which will soon be auctioned by Ken Farmer. The
walnut desk, which came out of a Midwestern private collection, is
sighed 11 times, has a miniature-inlaid bust resembling King George
III, and mentions the name of the patron. Alfred Belt, who ordered the
piece, another fact Shearer often included in this inscriptions. Within
a secret compartment, the desk also contained a document written by
Shearer, which refers to Belt. As far as stylistic considerations are
concerned, Bivens, who has examined the piece, says: "It falls right in
the mainstream of Shearer's work; it has all the bells and whistles you
would expect." The dates written on this desk, however, are 1816 and
1817, long after the John Shearer identified by Snyder is supposed to
Jonathan Prown points out, "When you get into the records, there are a
whole heck of a lot of John Shearer's in that area. It may be that we
have not pinned down the right person." All this attention now directed
on Shearer's work by the auction in Radford - the lot's estimate is a
healthy $75,000-$150,000 - should lead to more research on a new
identification which would accommodate a lifespan extending to 1817.
Another John Shearer, perhaps even a relative of the 1765-1810
candidate found by Snyder, may be discovered along with firm records of
his trade. Known pieces now number around two dozen and other examples
from the earlier and later stages of Shearer's career may yet turn up.
History may lie in the past, but our complete knowledge of history
always belongs to the future.
This article was taken from the May 1996 issue of Antique Review
A Tale of Three Fireboards [back to top]
June 6, 1992 Ken Farmer Auctions sold three fireboards at an on the
premises sale in Southwest Virginia. The first one with a folky
landscape was bought by R.E. Crawford for $25,000. The second one,
ripped down the center, but with a lion in the foreground was bought by
dealer Dan Twigg, representing a Pennsylvania client. The third
fireboard went to a Roanoke, Virginia dealer, Bob Beard and after
restoration it was later re-sold to a Virginia collector for the
purchase price plus the cost of restoration, a total of less than
$3,000. In a telephone interview Mr. Beard stated that, “the serious
collectors for this type of merchandise are not plentiful and nothing
excites buyers more than a sale at the old homeplace continuously
occupied for generations.” (See the original story in MAD, September
1992, page 6-A)
down, two to go. It’s here that the story gets interesting Crawford
sold the first fireboard to Dr. Henry Deyerle who had it restored and
put in a custom frame. According to Dr. Deyerle's estate records, he
had invested close to $35,000 in the piece. Then in May of 1995,
Sotheby’s held a sale of the Deyerle collection in Charlottesville. Ken
and Jane Farmer purchased the fireboard; lot 345, for $6,900 ($6,000
plus 15% buyers premium) and it is still in their collection.
Farmer’s most recent catalogue sale (May 20, 2000) the lion fireboard
was passed at $6,000. According to Farmer, the consignor, a Virginia
collector, had traded a cupboard to the original Pennsylvania purchaser
in exchange for the fireboard. The trade reportedly represented that
each party valued their items at around $30,000. The Virginia collector
currently is planning to donate the lion fireboard to a museum. Some
dealers and collectors stated that the price dropped so drastically on
both fireboards due to their large size and painted border rather than
the overall image on the surface.
So what can we as collectors,
dealers and auctioneers all learn from this tale? First, the results
from on-the-premises sales are not always indicative of market value.
Bidders get excited and emotions run high. Sit on your wallet and not
your heart the next time you attend a sale at Grandma’s house. We all
get excited at the prospect of buying a bargain and therein lies the
roots of all competitive bidding situations. Farmer said that he had
several potential buyers for the lion fireboard in the $8,000 to
$12,000 range but a $20,000 to $30,000 estimate doused any potential
buying fever. The firm is negotiating privately to secure a sale.
Therein lies the second lesson. At catalogue auctions don’t allow a low
estimate to create overconfidence in your bidding and always be
prepared to make offers on highly estimated and passed objects after
So there you have it, 3 fireboards and prices that look like the stock market index graph.