19th-CENTURY PUNCH CIGAR STORE FIGURE GAVELS FOR A STAGGERING $542,400

. October 25, 2007

AuctionPublicity.com (Oceanside, N.Y.) – A rare, turn-of-the-century Punch cigar store figure, standing over five feet tall and in all-original condition, sailed past the high estimate of $150,000 to sell for a staggering $542,400 at a two-day, three-session multi-estate sale held October 20-21 by Philip Weiss Auctions. The figure was bought by Kennedy Galleries in New York City, on behalf of an anonymous collector.

punch-figure.jpg “We knew the Punch figure was rare and would generate interest, but the final sale price exceeded our wildest dreams,” said Philip Weiss. He said the bidding at one point had stalled at around $400,000, and he asked the audience, “May I hear a bid of $405,000?” A woman in the crowd of about 200 people suddenly raised her paddle, and that sparked a whole new round of bids and counterbids.
But when the woman lifted her paddle again, at $480,000, she casually inquired, “You do mean $480, right?” “My heart sank,” Mr. Weiss said with a laugh. “I thought for sure she was serious. But then she smiled and said, ‘Just kidding.’ That was a close call.” The woman, it turned out, was the representative from Kennedy Galleries. She would only identify her client as “a discerning collector.”
The Punch figure was the top lot in a sale that grossed $1.6 million and saw 1,600 lots change hands. “It was a tremendous weekend for everyone, buyers and sellers,” Mr. Weiss said. “The crowd was filled to capacity, and we had about 2,500 registered online bidders and a very active phone and absentee bidding component. We had eight or nine phone lines all going at once. It was crazy.”
The Punch figure was attributed to the American carver Samuel Anderson Robb (1851-1928), a gifted artisan who emigrated from Scotland to New York City and specialized in tobacconist carvings. The figure sold showed some signs of paint chipping due to normal aging, but that did not deter bidders from engaging in a spirited battle to own it. The crowd gasped at the final winning bid.
Many of the top lots of the sale – including the Punch figure – came out of what can only be described as a true, fresh-to-the-market estate. Sold were the contents of an unassuming two-story brick house on Long Island that had been sealed shut for the last 25 years but held a treasure inside: the lifetime private collection of Joseph Kedenberg (aka “Keden on the Keys”). He passed away in 1983.
The house had walls full of early trade signs and advertising material; 200+ occupational shaving mugs; rare 18th- and 19th-century folk art carved ship figureheads; turn-of-the-century barber and pharmacy bottles; a cast-iron toy collection, featuring original mechanical banks; and more. What must have been a showplace for Mr. Kedenberg in the 1950’s required two large trucks to haul away.
Following are highlights from the sale overall. All prices include a 13% buyer’s premium.
A maritime figural folk art wood carving, possibly a figurehead and made sometime in the 18th century, achieved a little more than its pre-sale estimate of $1,000-$2,000. By the time the dust had settled from a lively bidding war, the price had soared to $129,950. “Proves how much we know about folk art,” Mr. Weiss said matter-of-factly. The hand-carved piece, 39” tall, was beautifully detailed.
Original Charles Schulz “Peanuts” art – a category for which Philip Weiss Auctions has become renowned in recent years – was in evidence at this sale as well. A Sunday page from August 1971 with a baseball theme was a hit at $67,800, while a “Great Pumpkin” Sunday page from October 1962 brought $62,100. Three dailies also sold, bringing the total for Schulz art to more than $150,000.
Fine art did well, too. A few of the highlight lots included:
• “The Battle of the Sticks on the Ponte Santa Fosca, Venice,” by an unknown artist ($28,250). This huge oil-on-canvas work – unframed but still 132” x 63” — was done in the 18th century. It depicted two groups of men fighting, on either side of a bridge. It was quite stunning, despite holes and tears.
• Two watercolor renderings by John Held (American, 1889-1958), both of them framed golf illustrations ($9,900 and $9,325). Mr. Held was a cartoonist, illustrator and comic-strip artist whose work was often associated with the ‘Roaring Twenties Jazz Age,’ but he also loved golf-themed art.
• Untitled oil-on-panel painting by Giovanni Crevatin (Italian, 1837-1910), framed and signed and dated (1880) by the artist ($9,888). Mr. Crevatin came from the Italian school of the great master artists of interior scenes, both genre and romantic. This painting depicted people in a drawing room.
• “Lady With Two Tigers” by Frederick S. Church (American, 1842-1924), oil on canvas ($9,320). Mr. Church was born in Michigan and had a long career in New York City. He had an in-depth knowledge of animal anatomy, which was evident in his depictions in oil, watercolor and etchings.
• “Cats on a Spinning Wheel” by Licinio Barzanti (Italian, 1857-1944), 39” tall x 27-1/2” wide ($6,495). The winning bidder was presumably a cat fancier. This work showed five kittens playing on a spinning wheel. It also featured a Barzanti trademark: the ever-present roses on the right side.
Perhaps not fine art, but art nonetheless, was a superb pen-and-ink splash page drawn by the noted comic illustrator Murphy Anderson, for “Hawkman” # 17. It sold for $5,200 and showed the hero “Hawkman” flying into, and knocking out, two villains from the story “Enigma of the Escape-Happy Jewel Thieves.” Executed in the 1960’s, the illustration, in great condition, was 16-1/2” x 11”.
An outstanding dentist’s trade sign made of tin by Cushing & White of Walthan, Mass. (circa 1880’s), changed hands for $49,720. The 17” x 18” sign could be hung by three metal bars, and was embossed in the roof of the mouth with the maker. Also, an occupational white glass “Bay Rum” barber bottle, hand-painted and showing a policeman making an arrest (circa 1900), gaveled for $2,825.
A pair of wooden barber poles (circa 1880-1890), polychrome painted wood and with gold painted finials, blue borders and red and white candy stripes, both 45” tall, fetched $9,320; an original Royal Worcester figurine, titled “Circus Horses,” modeled by Doris Linder (circa 1936), commanded $4,630; and a porcelain occupational shaving mug showing a speed boat captain, 4” tall, made $2,370.
Philip Weiss Auctions has more blockbuster sales planned for the coming months. It all starts the weekend of November 17-18 with an auction that will feature rare books (including a large collection of Folio architectural volumes); photographs (signed Berenice Abbott, Karsh, Hurrell, Bull, etc.); and military (to include an Ernest Vogt Civil War drum and a rare early John Armstrong rifle).
Autographs will include three Gen. Custer signed documents; an important John Brown handwritten letter; a group of Nurenburg Trial documents; a Lincoln appointment to a Brigadier General; a signed John Lennon album; and a super signed Beatles piece, with provenance. Posters will feature three rare Atlantic City examples by Eggleston and a collection of Fillmore rock ‘n’ roll posters
And that’s just the Saturday session! On Sunday, November 18, the focus will be on sports (including a nearly complete set of T-206 cards, a complete set of Goudey 1934 cards and a fabulous Gil Hodges game-worn jersey); Part 1 of the Dr. Siegel Collection (featuring tobacco pins, tags, silks and blankets); and more original Schulz “Peanuts” art, to include at least two Sundays and three dailies.
The Sunday session will also include a large selection of SCG-graded cards from the Lionel Carter Collection; an amazing 1880 Yale University yearbook; a large collection of first flight covers and aviation books and autographs; stamps, many in lots and group lots; thousands of post cards; and original comic art (including “Superboy” # 77 cover art and “Adventure Comics” # 277 cover art).
A just-added November 30 sale will comprise the contents of a substantial Park Avenue apartment in New York City (“Millionaire’s Row”); a December 15-16 weekend event will feature 1,400 lots of toys, dolls, toy soldiers, trains, cast-iron toys and accessories; and a sale slated for February 9 will be Part 1 of an incredible stamp collection, to include several ultra-rare U.S. inverts.
Philip Weiss Auctions is a full-service auction facility, with a spacious gallery located at #1 Neil Court in Oceanside, N.Y. To learn more about the company and its upcoming auction dates, log on to www.philipweissauctions.com. The firm is accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign an item, estate or collection, call (516) 594-0731, or e-mail to phil@philipweissauctons.com.

Category: Auction News

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