Auction Report


Leica fans focused on the July 13 sale at Christie's South Kensington as various vintage models hit the block. A Leica III g with a Leitz Summicron f/2 5-cm lens in the maker's ever-ready case sold for $1,585 (est. $900­$1,200)*. A Leica III f in chrome and black scale, with maker's box and Leica instruction manual, snapped up $1,410 (est. $300­$600). In the subminiature and detective camera category, a Ticka silver camera, designed to resemble a handsome pocket watch but fully functional as a "waistcoat pocket camera" and hallmarked "London 1906" made $3,348 (est. $3,000­$4,500).  


Patriotism was on the upswing at Christie's East (New York) July 10, when a historic Civil War presentation model 1850 staff and field officer's sword, engraved with the names of 21 battles fought in by its owner, sold for $32,900 (est. $20,000­$25,000). Another Civil War artifact, a fine cased elaborate historic presentation officer's sword first owned by Col. Joseph R. Cokerill, who commanded the 70th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, sold for $25,850 (est. $8,000­$10,000).   From other eras, a historic first-model Long Land Pattern Brown Bess musket, circa 1775, found after the Battle of Brandywine by an ancestor of the consignor, shot to $21,150 (est. $8,000­$12,000). A rare historic Texas Ranger­used .45 Colt single-action Army revolver dating from 1884 brought $23,500 (est. $15,000­$20,000). (Descriptions of "rare" and "historic" are auction terms distinguishing the lots from more common property.)  


Enthusiastic bidding greeted Christie's South Kensington's July 10 auction as the sale's cover-lot painting, The Bunker by Charles Edmund Brock from 1894, fetched a swinging $56,400 (est. $18,000­$27,000). Vintage specimens of antique golf balls attracted fierce competition as a feather-filled sample stamped W. Robinson soared to a record $42,000, going to the Valderama Golf Club in Spain (est. $10,500­$15,000). Club prices also exceeded expectations, as evidenced by a Scared Head long-nosed putter by John Jackson of Perth, Scotland, that sold for $12,337 (est. $2,250­$3,000).  


The summer stream of motor car and related automobilia sales began on July 24 at Christie's London, with a 1959 OSCA Tipo S 750 Sports Racing Two-Seater on the block. With coachwork by Morelli and painted in a bloody shade of Italian racing red, the racer made $139,277 (est. $129,000­$152,000). A 1927 Bentley 3 Litre Speed Model Sports Tourer, with coachwork by Vanden Plus and outfitted with a red leather interior, sold for $109,220 (est. $91,000­$106,000).  

On August 5, RM Auctions' vintage car sale at Meadow Brook Hall at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, registered some hefty prices. The top lot was a custom-built 1933 Duesenberg Model SJ Mudd Coupe (named after its original owner, Dr. Seeley J. Mudd) that sold for $1.21 million (est. $1.25 million­$1.5 million), just ahead of a ravishing 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Aravis Drophead that made $1.1 million (est. $800,000­$1 million).  

At Brooks Quail Lodge's sale in Carmel, California, on August 19, a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Berlinetta raced to $3.08 million (est. $3 million­$5 million), and a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Comp/61 Special accelerated to $1.37 million (est. $1.2 million­$1.5 million).  

Stunning results greeted Christie's $26.5 million Pebble Beach motor car auction on August 20, with a 1966 Ex-Scuderia Ferrari 330 P3 accelerating to $5.6 million (est. $5 million­$7 million), a 1928 Maserati Tipo 26B/M 8C 2800 hitting $1.65 million (est. $1.5 million­$2 million) and a 1932 Maserati 8C 3000 Grand Prix two-seater racing car zooming to $1.08 million (est. $1 million­$1.5 million).  

A 1969 ex-Steve McQueen Porsche 917, used in the film Le Mans, brought $1.32 million (unpublished estimate), and an ex-Carroll Shelby 1964 Cobra Daytona coupe rocketed to an awesome $4.4 million (unpublished estimate) at the Monterey Sports Car Auction, organized by RM Auctions that same high-horsepower weekend. For slower-minded folks, a 1966 Volkswagen 21-window microbus chugged to $34,100 (est. $34,000­$42,000).  


Phillips struck gold in London on July 4 when Jean Francois de Troy's recently rediscovered eighteenth-century French painting La Retour du Bal hit a record $3.63 million (est. $600,000­$900,000). The painting was found in a cupboard, packed in cardboard under the stairs of the consignor's home. A picture of a fancily dressed group of late-night revelers returning home after a gala party, the work last appeared in public in 1769, when it was sold at a Paris auction. Its companion work, La Toilette pur le Bal, hangs at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Less dramatic but steamy was Francois Boucher's Venus Disarming Cupid and Cupid Caressing Venus that sold for $992,250 (est. $900,000­$1.2 million).  

A seventeenth-century Dutch painting featuring figures skating on a frozen river, A Winter Landscape, by Adam van Breen, hit a record $397,500 (est. $90,000­ $120,000). Another Dutch overachiever, A Dune Landscape with Travellers, by Esais van den Velde from circa 1590­1630, brought $173,250 (est. $30,000­$45,000).  


Olympic fever rose at Christie's South Kensington's July 6 sale when a trove of gold and silver medals, plaques, badges and silk shorts from the late British Olympian sprint champion Harold Maurice Abrahams sold for $12,337 (est. $12,000­$18,000). Some of Abrahams's victories in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris were relived in the popular 1981 film Chariots of Fire.   From other Olympiads, an aluminum Olympic torch studded with the famed five-interlinked rings from the 1948 Games realized $9,693 (est. $3,000­$3,750) and a colorful linen-backed letter-press poster from 1896 titled "Jeux Olympiques A. Athenes" and featuring a pack of racing cyclists sold for $564 (est. $450­$750). A framed and separately autographed black-and-white photo of Olympic great Jesse Owens doing the long jump brought $1,144 (est. $900­$1,200). Owens won four gold medals at the controversial 1936 Games in Berlin, dashing Hitler's hopes for an Aryan-dominated Games.  


Bonhams's London sale of fine picture frames on June 20 was honeycombed with striking examples, ranging from a Spanish seventeenth-century gilded molding frame that sold for $450 (est. $375­$525), to an English eighteenth-century carved-and-gilded frame that made $3,600 (est. $450­$1,000). A Provincial French Louis XIV carved-and-gilded frame with stylized leaf brought $1,950 (est. $600­$900). Neophytes to this rather arcane field need a good glossary to interpret typical catalogue descriptions of the profusely decorated frames, as evidenced by the description of the English example cited above: "...with plain sight, centered raking gadroon, plain hollow, and centered pin and ribbon-twist below centered raking gadrooned top knull."  


Television toys made their second appearance as a collectibles category at Christie's South Kensington on July 20. "Action Man Space Capsule," in its original box, and with the astronaut-costumed figure outfitted with deep-sea diving equipment and other thrilling accessories, sold for a dramatic $2,460 (est.$300­$450). A Batman Corgi gift set, including Batmobile, Batboat and trailer, and another Batmobile containing a secret instruction kit, all housed in their original boxes, zoomed to $1,581 (est. $300­$450).   Another Corgi gift set, based on the 1960s British hit "The Avengers" and featuring John Steed's vintage red Bentley and Emma Peel's white Lotus Elan (with two umbrellas, of course) in its original box, sold for $739 (est. $300­$450). From another BBC cult favorite, a replica red-and-silver Dalek, a kind of robotic warrior from a Raymond Cusick design for the program "Dr. Who," rolled to $2,109 (est. $750­$1,200).    


AMERICANA On November 29, Sotheby's New York offers the Americana library of collector Laird U. Park Jr., a staggering trove assembled over a 50-year period and chock-full of books, letters and manuscripts, largely by or about Benjamin Franklin and early Philadelphia. One gem is a letter written by Franklin on February 19, 1776, to Gen. Charles Lee, introducing his friend Thomas Paine as "the real author of Common Sense" (est. $120,000­$180,000). Speaking of Paine, another letter, from George Washington to James Madison, dated June 12, 1784, discusses a fund to help the down-and-out writer (est. $200,000­$300,000). The collection is estimated to fetch between $4 million and $6 million. Viewing is at Sotheby's on November 25 and 27, 10 a.m.­5 p.m., and November 26, 1­5 p.m., with the auction on the 29th, 10 a.m.­5 p.m. Contact: Selby Kiffer at 212/774-5322. 

AMERICAN PAINTINGS On November 28, history painting comes alive at Phillips New York with Benjamin West's Death of General Wolfe, featuring the British commander lying mortally wounded as his troops vanquished the French on Quebec's Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759 (est. $180,000­$200,000). The viewing is on November 21­24 and 26­27, 10 a.m.­5 p.m., and November 25, noon­5 p.m., and the auction is on the 28th at 2:30 p.m. at Phillips New York, 406 East 79th Street. For more information, contact Lyle C. Gray at 212/570-4830. 

AVIATION Billed as the largest single-owner sale of its kind, Butterfields' November 14 auction at its San Francisco headquarters features some 1,000 items of First World War aviation memorabilia from the collection of Floridian Norm Flayderman. Gems from the collection include a rare, shot-glass-sized engraved silver trophy cup that the Red Baron (German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen) commissioned after each kill (est. $10,000­$15,000) as well as documented fragments from his downed Fokker triplane (est. $400­$600). Viewing: November 10­13, 9 a.m.­5 p.m, auction: November 14, 10 a.m. at Butterfields, 220 San Bruno Avenue. Contact: Greg Martin at 415/503-3341.  

BOOKS AND MANUSCRIPTS Literary lions take over at Christie's New York on December 14, led by a rare first edition of Edgar Allen Poe's 1843 Prose Romances, which contains literature's first detective story, "Murders in the Rue Morgue" (est. $120,000­$180,000). An extensive selection of Walt Whitman material includes a first edition of Leaves of Grass (est. $50,000­$70,000). James Joyce's previously unknown first draft for Ulysses' "Circe" chapter leads the twentieth-century entries. It takes the book's Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus through Dublin's red light district (est. $600,000­$900,000). On the political side, a 1792 letter written by George Washington to an aide about the new federal city of Washington and the dismissal of French-born architect Charles Pierre L'Enfant from the project offers a fascinating window into that time (est. $250,000­$350,000). Viewing: December 9­12, 10 a.m.­5 p.m.; December 13, 10 a.m.­2 p.m.; auction December 14, 10 a.m. at Christie's New York, 20 Rockefeller Plaza. Contact: Chris Coover at 212/636-2669 or Thomas Lecky at 212/636-2666.  

CONTINENTAL FURNITURE AND ANTIQUE SWORDS A rich armada of property de-accessioned by the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization founded in 1783 by Continental officers of the American Revolution, goes on the block at Sloan's Auction Galleries in Washington, D.C., on December 5. Items include a sword once belonging to Jean Lafitte, the storied eighteenth-century pirate and mercenary (est. $25,000­$35,000). Furniture includes a Louis XIV­style carved giltwood marble-top center table (est. $12,000­$18,000) from the late nineteenth century. Proceeds will benefit the society's permanent collection. Viewing: November 28, December 1­2, 10 a.m.­5 p.m.; November 29­30, 10 a.m.­9 p.m.; December 3, noon­5 p.m.; December 4, 10 a.m.­4 p.m., with the auction December 5, 10 a.m., at Sloan's, 4920 Wyaconda Road, N. Bethesda, Maryland. Contact: Colin Clarke at 301/468-4911.  

FILM AND ENTERTAINMENT Christie's South Kensington plays Hollywood and beyond on December 12 with a wardrobe of vintage props and costumes, including a raspberry-colored two-piece Givenchy suit worn by Audrey Hepburn in the 1964 romantic thriller Charade (est. $4,500­$7,500).   For sheer entertainment, a circa 1912 poster of Harry Houdini depicts the padlock-bound showman hung upside-down in a water-filled tank performing his "Chinese Water Torture" act (est. $3,000­$4,500). Viewing: December 10, 1­4 p.m., December 11, 9 a.m.­7:30 p.m.; auction: December 12, 11 a.m.­2 p.m. at 85 Old Brompton Road, London. Contact: Sarah Hodgson at 44/20-7581-7611.  

FIREARMS A sale of firearms dating from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries from the noted collection of William Keith Neal, the late British antique gun authority and historian, takes place at Christie's London on November 9. Highlights include a German double-barreled over-and-under pistol dated 1548 (est. $37,500­$45,000) and a pair of flintlock carriage pistols in pristine condition by H.W. Mortimer, London, circa 1795, in their original case (est. $18,000­$22,500). Viewing: November 5, 2­5 p.m.; November 6 and 8, 9 a.m.­4:30 p.m.; November 7, 9 a.m.­8 p.m. at 8 King Street, St. James, London. A New York City viewing will be held October 13­14 and 16, 10 a.m.­5 p.m., and October 15, 1­5 p.m., at 20 Rockefeller Plaza. Contact: Howard Dixon at 44/20-7389-2022.  

FOUNTAIN PENS Bonhams will stage an online auction of modern limited-edition pens in mid-December. Items include a blue marbled Parker Duofold Centennial from the 1990s (est. $150­$225) and a jet-black Montblanc "Agatha Christie" piece from 1993 (est. $300­$450). Contact: Alexander Crum Ewing at 44/20-7393-3950 or Julie D'Arcy Evans at 44/20-7393-3919. 

ROCK AND ROLL The beat changes at Bonhams on November 8 with a rare trio of 1960s concert programs from soul man James Brown (est. $300­$450). For Elvis aficionados, an ashtray pinched from the Imperial Suite at the Las Vegas Hilton in the 1970s, along with two butts from Hav-A-Tampa cigars that the King smoked there, is bound to draw interest (est. $300­$450). Viewing: November 5, 11 a.m.­3 p.m., November 6­7, 9:30 a.m.­4:30 p.m., November 8, 9­10:30 a.m. at Bonhams, 65 Lots Road, Chelsea/London. The auction starts at noon on November 8. Contact: Niki Roberts at 44/20-7393-3952.  

SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENTS Science-minded auction action begins on November 1 at Bonhams London with a lacquered brass microscope with ground glass lenses from the 1860s by Andrew Ross of London, one of the best-known microscope makers of the nineteenth century. It comes with accessories and its original mahogany case (est. $1,500­$2,250). Contact: Alexander Crum Ewing at 44/20-7393-3950. Viewing: October 29, 11 a.m.­3 p.m.; October 30 and 31, 9 a.m.­4:30 p.m.; auction: 9 a.m.­10:30 a.m. at Montpelier Street, Knightsbridge, London.  

TWENTIETH-CENTURY ART AND DESIGN On December 6, Christie's London mounts its first-ever sale devoted exclusively to Italian paintings, sculpture, furniture and decorative arts of the twentieth century. Offerings range from a Cubist-styled Nature Morte, a 1913 oil painting by the Italian Futurist Gino Severini (est. $300,000­ $450,000), to the 1980 "Tramonto a New York," a foam-cushioned sofa that resembles the New York skyline at sunset, by Gaetano Pesce. Viewing: December 1­6 by appointment only; auction: 7 p.m. at Christie's London, 8 King Street, St. James. Contact: Brett Gorvy at 44/20-7839-9060 (paintings) or Simon Andrews at 44/20-7321-3236 (design).   --JT