American Stoneware And Redware Auction Results

Crocker Farm’s July 19th auction of American stoneware and redware pottery in York, Pennsylvania, started off with a bang when lot number one, a very rare Western Pennsylvania stoneware wax sealer with baseball player decoration, sold to the phone for $65,550. The “out of the park” price was over three times its estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. “We had more interest in this piece of pottery than any other we’ve sold before,” said Anthony Zipp, who, along with his wife Barbara, and three sons, Brandt, Luke, and Mark, owns and operates Crocker Farm, Incorporated, an auction house specializing in antique American ceramics. The rarity of the design, importance of baseball as an American theme, and desirability of Western Pennsylvania stoneware, all contributed to the success of the piece on the auction block.

A wax sealer is a canning jar with inner rim designed to hold a metal lid, which would be sealed with wax. It is a classic Western Pennsylvania form, of which thousands are known. The example sold on July 19 is one of a few known with a figural decoration and is believed to be the finest among them. “The baseball player wax sealer came out of Ohio from a man who was gifted it forty years ago. He was unsure of the value. Needless to say, he was shocked at the hammer price!” The hammer price of $65,550 is believed to be a world auction record for Western Pennsylvania stoneware.

Among the 317 lots in the auction, there were several notable sales. The market for Norton stoneware remains particularly strong. Fresh from a North Carolina collection, a four-gallon stoneware jug with double pheasant decoration marked “J. & E. NORTON / BENNINGTON, VT” brought $24,150, against an estimate of $7,000 to $10,000, and a three-gallon Norton jug with a single pheasant decoration brought $14,375 ($5,000 to $7,000).

Stoneware from New York State and Manhattan sold well. A very rare stoneware jug with incised bird decorations, marked “W.H. FARRAR & CO./GEDDES, NY” was hammered down at $17,250 ($7,000 to $10,000). A four-gallon stoneware churn with elaborate game bird decoration, marked “C.W. BRAUN/BUFFALO, N.Y.,” sold for $13,800 ($8,000 to $12,000), despite a hole and cracks in the underside.

Anna Pottery pieces, which have become a staple of the Zipps’ auctions, garnered fierce bidding. Two lots were sold that were previously owned by noted American ceramics scholar and collector, Georgeanna Greer. The first, an Albany slip glazed pig bottle with extensive inscription, map, and the rare early date 1878, brought $13,225 ($6,000 to $8,000). The second, an Albany slip glazed mug incised “Decatur Quail/1881” with applied figure of a frog on the interior, crossed the block at $6,900 ($2,000 to $3,000).

Also from the Midwest, a large-sized molded stoneware figure of a pig brought $3,220, five times its estimate of $400 to $600. A rare stoneware harvest jug with handle modeled to resemble cut and crossed logs all sold well above estimate for $4,025 ($800 to $1,200).

Leading lots from the Shenandoah Valley was an extremely rare redware memorial urn made by Anthony Bacher in Thurmont, MD in 1873. The urn featured an impressed floral decoration and the incised name “Mollie Mackley” followed by a poem. The name “Mollie Mackley” likely refers to a relative of potter, James C. Mackley, with whom Bacher worked in Thurmont. The piece crossed the block at $34,500 ($30,000 to $45,000). Among stoneware lots from the Shenandoah Valley, two stoneware pitchers marked “W.H. Lehew & CO./STRASBURG, VA” brought $2,875 ($1,000 to $2,000) and $2,530 ($800 to $1,200), and a four-gallon heavily-decorated jar marked “BELL” was hammered down at $2,530 ($600 to $1,000).?

From the D.C. area, a two-gallon Alexandria stoneware jar with exuberant floral decoration, marked “B.C. MILBURN/ALEXA,” sold for $5,463 ($2,500/$4,500). A decorated one-gallon jar bearing the mark “H. SMITH & CO,” also of Alexandria origin, brought $4,140, over twice its high estimate of $1,800. An extremely rare stoneware jar with slip-trailed floral decoration and the cobalt script signature “R. Butt” sold for over three times its estimate at $13,225 ($2,500 to $3,500). This selling price is a new world auction record for an example of Richard Butt pottery. The previous record was $9,200 for the only known jar bearing Butt’s Montgomery County, Maryland, maker’s mark, which sold in Crocker Farm’s May 19, 2007 auction.?

There were some surprise lots in the auction. A stoneware flask bearing the maker’s mark of Manhattan potter, Clarkson Crolius, Jr., sold for $3,450, over five times its high estimate of $600, after a heated battle between two phone bidders. A one-gallon stoneware jar with rooster decoration, marked “J.W. COWDEN/HARRISBURG, PA,” sold to the floor for $8,913, nearly nine times its high estimate of $1,000.?

“We could not find a single weak spot in the sale. Every region and style of pottery sold well, and only one lot failed to meet its reserve. Even low-end to mid-range valued pottery, which can sell soft from time to time, brought strong prices. We were very pleased with the outcome of the auction.”

The Zipps are currently seeking consignments for their next auction of stoneware and redware, to be held on November 1st at the York, Pennsylvania, Expo Center’s Old Main Building, opposite the Greater York Antiques Show and Sale. For more information, contact the Zipps by phone at (410) 337-5090, by e-mail at [email protected], or visit their Web site at