SMART COLLECTOR

Auction best method to sell gun collection

Posted March 16, 2012, at 3:19 p.m.
The Detective No. 27 comic brought $522,813 in a recent Heritage Auctions sale in Dallas.
ha.com
The Detective No. 27 comic brought $522,813 in a recent Heritage Auctions sale in Dallas.

Q: My husband died last year and left an assortment of very old rifles and pistols. Some are very valuable. I want them out of the house, and I don’t want anyone to know they are here. How do I go about selling them?

A: Please accept my most sincere condolences on your loss. It’s tough to have to deal with “stuff” on top of losing a loved one.

This is no time to climb on my soapbox, but readers, please plan ahead about the disposal of your treasures. Don’t leave a burden for your loved ones. Enough said.

Several auction houses have dedicated gun sales. While some deal only with the best and most historic, they should steer you to possible other auctions if and when they’re not interested. Avoid gun dealers. As a novice, you know too little about the field to tilt against the pros. Once a dealer is involved, word on the firearms can spread. Plus, you might not realize the best price. Auction draws a worldwide pool of motivated buyers.

Judy Labbe, a department head in the firearms division of James D. Julia Auctioneers in Maine, jamesdjulia.com, noted that the reader has two concerns: confidentiality and the ability to get top dollar for her guns. Auction is a good bet on both counts because consignments are confidential. And after arranging consignment, the guns are out of the house.

Julia sells only historically important and very rare guns. Last October, a Boss over-under side-lock shotgun sold for $189,750. A “Coconut” post-WWII experimental rifle brought $103,500. Another family-owned division of the house sells firearms valued at $5,000 and under.

Labbe suggests you send or upload a listing of what you have, along with photos. If the assortment is large, lay the firearms on a white sheet for a group photo.

FYI: Rock Island Auction in Peoria, Ill., and Bonhams in California also have major sales of firearms. Shop the guns around. You have only one chance to sell advantageously.

Q: We’d like you to appraise our table. It has a square top and there’s a small shelf on the underside. We’ve been told it’s an antique poker table.

A: Regrets, but I cannot and will not appraise because I lack the professional credentials to do so.

What I can offer is info about the table. Seen in images, it’s a late Victorian table in the Eastlake style. Machine made, it dates from about 1880-1890.

Charles Eastlake was the Martha Stewart of his day. His 1868 book, “Hints on Household Taste,” was published in England, yet his ideas on style heavily influenced American taste by the 1870s. Opposed to curved lines and showy ornamentation, Eastman advocated sound construction and function.

The reader’s table has a sturdy square top to equally sturdy spindled legs — an Eastman touch. A drawer in the apron and brass (I think it’s hard to tell) casters add to function. Wood is hard to determine, but most such tables were walnut or another dark wood.

A shelf suspended by four spindles drops from the underside center of the top — imagine a stationary square swing — and serves as an additional surface.

Victorians loved novelty. At the time, folding beds and collapsible chairs were the latest in ingenuity. What could be more novel and clever than a “floating” shelf under a table?

You could call this a poker table, but similar Eastman tables are called parlor, side or occasional tables. Some have bottom shelves, some don’t. A fancier version of this table, with a drawer in the bottom shelf, was labeled a tea table and sold in a recent auction for $250.

No image of the top surface was sent. If the top is a game table, that’s another story. Fancy inlaid Eastlake gaming tables have sold for four figures at auction. Plain-top Eastlake tables go for $75-$200 at auction and are still common.

Auction action

The Detective No. 27 comic from 1939 that sold for $522,813 recently at Heritage Auctions in Dallas was in top condition, preserved and professionally graded. It sold as part of a comics sale that realized more than $8.9 million, including a private collection that sold for $3.5 million.

Collector quiz

Q: Two American art potteries that operated in recent decades are getting another look from collectors. Which description fits Pillin Pottery? Which fits Santa Barbara Ceramic Design?

Operated 1973-1987. A homegrown studio pottery movement featuring hand thrown and decorated wares. Used nature themes on most products.

Operated from the late 1940s-late ’80s. Most was hand thrown, but later work was molded. Most often hand decorated with figures of women.

A: The first is SBCD, a group of studio potters and decorators who expressed the California aesthetic. Source: “Santa Barbara Ceramic Design: Art Pottery from America’s Riviera” by Terry Gerratana (Schiffer, $39.99).

The second was Polia Pillin, another California potter, loved for her free forms and Picasso/Chagall-like decoration. Source: “Pillin Pottery” by Jerry Kline and Mike Nickel (Schiffer, $59.99).

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.

 

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