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by Martin Willis

Not often can so many magnificent pieces travel through time unattributed, but such was the case of many Nathaniel Gould’s masterpieces. It all started several years ago when furniture scholar, Kemble Widmer and Joyce King were contacted by fine antique dealers, C.L. Prickett who recently purchased an outstanding mahogany Chippendale bombe secretary/bookcase. Prickett contracted Widmer & King to try to track down the maker of his acquisition, knowing it was most likely a Boston, Massachusetts furniture maker.

Detectives at Work

ANTIQUES2-master315Now let’s shift gears and talk about three vellum covered account books sitting unregarded on the shelves at the Massachusetts Historical Society for 174 years. These books were assumed to be nothing more than account ledgers. During their investigation Kemble had a strong hunch that the piece they were researching was by Nathaniel Gould. One evening, it occurred to Joyce King that when all else fails in their research, Google it. Surprisingly in her Google search, Nathaniel Gould account books popped up under the Massachusetts Historical Society. Ironically, this information had only been on the internet for one or two weeks. Joyce immediately called Kem, (as he likes to be called) and told him what she found, and suggested that they might be important. The next day they made their initial trip to the historical society in Boston and after the pieces were brought out for them to inspect, to their surprise, they could tell right away that these written accounts were geared toward Gould’s furniture making. They discovered that the ledgers were a treasure trove of information including Gould’s prolific unknown work. It also became obvious that the fine wood he used was only possible because he controlled the mahogany coming to the shores of Salem.

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A Collector’s Perspective

by Martin Willis

d4e88957b0f3f8dccea0ded421879b73I have to look back in my memory to try and understand why I loved antiques at such an early age. I attribute this to walking around the border of our property in Eliot, Maine at the age of 7 or so and discovering shards of antique bottles from a 19th century dump. I loved the way the glass had turned purple with time, and the embossing on them told stories. I eventually got a garden hoe and started to dig, and found treasure after treasure of these intact examples of history.

triloids1I caught the bug and was hooked right there and then. I eventually got some friends together to search other properties, burrowing deep into the woods, poison ivy and all. I would bring the finds home, clean them as good as I could in a washtub, and display them on shelves in our barn. I had bottles, insulators and inkwells of all kinds, colors and sizes. The shelves became overloaded and eventually went into boxes. I still bear the scar of a bad cut I got at a site and remember it exactly. I was so enthralled in the dig, I tore some cloth of my T-shirt wrapped my finger and kept up the hunt. My prize possession that day was a cobalt blue poison bottle. In the 19th century, there was low lighting, so bottles containing poison had rough ribbed or faceted surfaces. When you grasped one in the dark, you knew not to ingest the contents. In general, the bottles I found were mostly common, and had little value, but for some reason the stories they told were more important than money to me.

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17 Nov 2014, by

What People Collect

imagesIf it exists, it is collected by someone. In my long career in the antiques and auction business, I have seen the vast variety of items that people collect.

The reason people usually start collecting is, a connection. Not with the objects per say, but with memories. Sometimes people just plain collect because they realize something appeals to them, this has happened to me with fine art.

People don’t always collect just items, sometimes they collect themes. Here are just a few theme examples: PhotographyCivil War & militaria, fine art paintings & sculpture, furniture, duck decoyshistorical ephemera, antique toys, coins, beer cans, books. Animal themes collected include: cats, dogs, elephants, tigers, lions, hippopotamuses, squirrels, turtles, loons, ducks and owls. I have been in houses where there are 1,000s of these themed collectibles. The person, couple or family cherished the aspect of collecting, and buying examples, at auction, on vacation, or other various means. Their stories of their collecting experience was often very interesting and meant something to them.

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by Martin Willis

Listen to the associated podcast here.

homer

When visiting Prout’s Neck, right away you know you are somewhere special, a peninsula surrounded by water, a harbor on one side and the rocky ocean coast on the other. It is a place where you can become secluded if you choose and take in Maine’s nature at it’s best. It is a place you can paint.

I had the opportunity to visit the studio of a preeminent figure in American art, Winslow Homer, who was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1836 and later settled to this beautiful surrounding. You can almost picture the artist with easel perched on the shore, creating one of his astounding images. I was disappointed to find out that this never happened. Winslow Homer was a studio painter. To be a studio painter of his magnitude, you could only be a gifted observer, a lover of the visual.

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by Martin Willis

The More You Pay the More You Like It

Values of rarities are only perceived ones and are subjective to the beholder. Only two people have to have this perception, the winning bidder and the under-bidder. Proven history shows that auction is a great method to sell rare items, people fight with their money to claim their prize.

This was no exception at Bonham’s groundbreaking History of Science Auction held in New York on October 22nd. Offered were 288 lots including items ranging from 18th century pocket globes to the ilk of 20th century tech.

26112-apple-1_articleThe star of the show was a motherboard retaining a label reading, “Apple Computer 1 / Palo Alto, Ca. Copyright 1976”. Let’s face it, not a pretty object, but historically very significant in the digital world. The bottom line is, when the bidding ended and the dust settled, Apple 1 sold for an astonishing $905,000.

bear5Click Here to read more and to find our why this bear has anything to do with old computers.

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