We recently attended a Kelly and Ben Schultz auction in Clarence, NY, not far from our East Aurora Home. This is one auction gallery that hasn’t adopted internet bidding, so the “competitors” are in the room or on the phone. That doesn’t mean the consigners are at a disadvantage. Kelly and crew have a following and regular sales are advertised well. Between a large floor contingent of buyers and multiple phone and “left” bidders on some items, there’s plenty competition. As is the case with most auctions, there are a few bargains and a few surprises on the upside.
I’ve always imagined I’d walk away with a bargain price for whatever it was I wanted to buy. Of course that’s rarely the case. It only takes two bidders to make an auction. At the May sale I figured I’d “steal” a pile of pewter plates. We’ll it didn’t work out that way; I paid a fair price. In the “good old days” it would have been a real bargain, but antique pewter is suffering from “supply and demand” pricing at the moment. Still, I was happy to come home with the lot which included some early “marks.”
Every time I add some pewter to the “reference library” it seems I’m off on a research mission to identify a mark. What struck me on this occasion is that the book I often first check is “American Pewter” by J.B. Kerfoot, first published nearly 100 years ago. That means the author was busy assembling his collection and research in the early part of the 20th Century or before. Kerfoot died in 1927, a few years after the pewter book was published. Later books on pewter were often built on and amended Kerfoot’s work.
Of course this took my off on another tangent. Why, I wondered, was much of the interest in collecting “early” items taking place in the early 1900s. With absolutely no organized research on the topic, a few things came to mind.
The 1876 Centennial celebration sparked an interest in the early years of the country and patriotism. The Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890, while the Mayflower Society came about in 1897. With a growing portion of the population lacking a direct connection to the Colonial era, buying Colonial-era antiques perhaps was a way to be “part of the club.”
It seems by the 1920s more than ever was focused on the Colonial times. Antiques Magazine was founded in the 1920s and the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg was beginning in 1926. Wallace Nutting’s photo-art prints of Colonial scenes and his books on furniture and reproduction pseudo-colonial furniture factory helped fuel interest.
So, once again my pewter research took me down a different path. That nudge in a new direction that collecting brings is part of my enjoyment of antiques (and likely what my teachers would have termed daydreaming 60 years-or-so ago).