Which stories did readers of The Hot Bid enjoy and share the most in 2019? Counting down, from ten to one, they are…
10. Cat Fancy, an original piece of Edward Gorey cover art for The New Yorker. Offered at Swann Auction Galleries with an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000, it sold for $16,250. Christine von der Linn, Swann’s specialist in art books and original illustration, said, “It draws you in… Part of its enchantment is that you find yourself, like the cats, getting lost in that big, soft bed.”
9. An Andrew Clemens sand bottle with a patriotic theme. Created in 1887, the bottle rocketed past its estimate of $35,000 to $45,000 to sell for $102,000 at Cowan’s Auctions. Auction house founder Wes Cowan called it “an outstanding example of [Clemens’s] late period work, but he didn’t make any crappy examples… He was recognized as a genius then and now. Anyone who holds a bottle in their hands is flabbergasted.”
8. A Malling-Hansen writing ball, an example of the first commercial typewriter. Auction Team Breker assigned this circa 1870s device, created by Danish pastor Rasmus Malling-Hansen, an estimate of €70,000 to €90,000 ($78,000 to $100,000) and sold it for €100,000 (about $111,600). Nick Hawkins, speaking on behalf of auction house founder Uwe Breker, said, “One of the things that’s remarkable about the design is it’s very organic, the curvature of the top and the keys… [Malling-Hansen’s] machine was really revolutionary when you look back on it now. It was almost too modern for its time.”
7. A parcel gilt sterling silver punch ladle in the Narragansett pattern by Gorham, made circa 1880. Rago Auctions estimated it at $10,000 to $15,000 and sold it for $16,250. Specialist Jenny Pitman described the experience of holding the ladle: “It feels good. You’d think it would feel awkward and barnacle-ly, but it feels good. The pointy shells encrusting it are on a part of the ladle that you don’t necessarily hold onto. It’s really exquisitely designed.”
6. A Willmann talking skull automaton, made circa 1930 in Germany by designer John Willmann. Potter & Potter estimated it at $6,000 to $9,000, and sold it for $13,200. Gabe Fajuri, president of Potter & Potter, summed up its appeal: “It combines the aesthetics and mechanics into a shining example of what [Willmann] was capable of. It’s a combination of art and science. And you know it’s a real human skull.”
5. Girl in a Red Dress with a Dog, a portrait painted by American folk artist Ammi Phillips circa 1830-1835. Estimated at $800,000 to $1.2 million, it sold at Christie’s New York for $1.69 million and a new world auction record for Phillips. John Hays, deputy chairman of Christie’s Americas, said of the painting, “It captures the essence of what folk art collectors want and what they look for. It’s hard to define it in words, but it has a universality to it. It’s just riveting, and kind of mesmerizing. You say, ‘God, he gets it.’”
4. Original artwork for page 33 of the Volume 2, Number 14 issue of The Sandman, which was released in March 1990. Hake’s estimated it at $5,000 to $10,000. It ultimately sold for $14,278 and a new world auction record for artwork from the original series of The Sandman. “As much as The Sandman was about the writing, the artwork is spectacular,” said Hake’s President Alex Winter. “With comic books, sometimes the art is great but the story is just ok, or the art is just ok but the story is great. With this, all 75 issues plus the special are great. It never jumped the shark. I’m a lifelong comic book geek. If someone came in and asked me, ‘What should I read?’ I’d hand them The Sandman.”
3. An 18-karat gold French quarter-repeating pocket watch that once belonged to Edgar Allan Poe. Christie’s gave it an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000 and sold it for the stunning price of $250,000. Heather Weintraub, associate specialist in books, manuscripts, and archives at Christie’s New York, talked about what it was like to hold the watch: “I have held it. It has a nice weight to it. It’s wonderful to be able to hold something from the 1840s that Poe may have held. It’s one of the reasons to love this job.”
2. A circa 1979 Star Wars Boba Fett rocket-firing prototype, unpainted, with the L-slot configuration. It broke the world auction record for any Star Wars action figure when it sold at Hake’s for $112,926. Five months later, a different, fully painted Boba Fett prototype soared to $185,850. The two results are the latest in a series of record-breaking auctions of Star Wars action figures, all of which occurred at Hake’s. The auction house’s president, Alex Winter, said of the historic string of sales, “Five years ago, it [the Boba Fett prototype] was a $25,000 figure. Star Wars collectors are serious, and a lot are of the age where they have disposable income. It’s in the last five years or so that it’s been elevated to the level that it is.”
1.The Mirror of Paradise, a 52.58-carat Golconda diamond set in a ring. It carried an estimate of $7 million to $10 million and sold for $6.5 million at Christie’s New York. Daphne Lingon, head of jewelry for Christie’s Americas, enjoyed the privilege of wearing the ring. “It was a bit breathtaking to try it on. It’s an exceptional stone,” she said, adding, “One of the perks, or requirements, of the job is actually trying jewelry on, because a lot of clients aren’t able to see it in person. Being able to handle and interact with the pieces gives a better sense of what they’re like. They’re not just objects–they’re worn.”
Special thanks to the following for permitting re-use of their images for this story:
Swann Auction Galleries, for the Edward Gorey Cat Fancy art.
Cowan’s Auctions, for the Andrew Clemens sand bottle.
Auction Team Breker, for the Malling-Hansen “writing ball”.
Rago Auctions, for the Narragansett pattern punch ladle.
Potter & Potter, for the talking skull automaton.
Christie’s, for the Ammi Phillips portrait, the Edgar Allan Poe pocket watch, and the Mirror of Paradise Golconda diamond.
Hake’s, for the original art from The Sandman and for the Boba Fett prototype.
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