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Cowan’s auction proves new bidders willing to try online auctions
By Susan Emerson Nutter/b>

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Want to gauge the staying power of your company? Host an auction a midst the COVID-19 pandemic, and check the results.

Cowan’s Auctions, LLC, had their March 19-20 Americana and Country Americana as normally planned, though nothing seemed normal when the auction took place. Still, with several online bidding platforms in place, this event went off without a hitch and, in the end, the effects of COVID-19 did not devastate the outcome.

When asked about the circumstances surrounding the March event, Wes Cowan, Vice Chair

Hindman LLC; Principal Auctioneer, Cowan’s Auctions, LLC, explained, “Overall we were very pleased with the sale. The sell-through rate was 85 percent. To put this in perspective, this was higher than our last Decorative Arts auction in September 2019, when we achieved an 80 percent sell-through rate, keeping in mind that bidding for all of our auctions opens at one half the low estimate for the lot.”

Concerning the lack of an in-house audience, Cowan states, “We suspect that not having live gallery bidders probably did have an inpact, but the sale was carried live on four different platforms: Cowanslive; Liveauctioneers; Bidsquare and Invaluable. Bidding was active on Cowan’s Live bidding platform with sales of $136,000. The combined total for the other three platforms was $182,000. Prior to the auction, our marketing department sent multiple emails encouraging customers to participate online through our bidding platform, and I think the results suggest our efforts worked.”

Cowan added, “There weren’t any real ’blockbusters’ in the sale, but $481,000 for the two days was respectable.” The highest priced lot; the Portrait of Jonathan Southwick failed to sell, but sold post-auction for $18,750 which includes the buyer’s premium, as do all prices listed here.

The circa 1835 oil on canvas Portrait of Jonathan Southwick in Red with Hoop Toy had a wonderful hidden detail. The full-length portrait shows Jonathan dressed in red, holding a hoop and stick. Through the window, the artist painted Jonathan running along the sidewalk playing with the same hoop. Cowan’s catalog listing notes, “A search of birth records for ’Jonathan Southwick’ discovered one born in Bolton, Mass., in 1831, and another born in Danvers, in 1841.”

Several paintings by Alfred Montgomery, (1857-1922) also sold this day with Still Life with Corn, a late 19th or early 20th century oil on canvas making $5,938.

“Montgomery is known for these still life’s focusing on corn,” Cowan explained. “The Montgomery paintings we offered were property of a Midwestern consignors who had recently moved to Texas, and were refocusing their collection. We have two additional Montgomery paintings from the same consignment that will be sold in our Fall Americana auction.”

Two Regina music boxes fared well. A Regina Upright 15½ inch disc music player with the serial number 67001 sold with 29 discs for $9,375, as did a Regina Corona floor model 27 inch disc changer music cabinet. Cowan explained, “The Regina boxes were from a collector of advertising from Dayton, Ohio, who was downsizing. Both Reginas sold to private collectors.”

Where furniture offered was concerned, “The softest area of the sale was formal period furniture,” Cowan noted. “Given the current market (absent COVID-19) we were probably a bit too aggressive on some of the pieces that had been refinished, or were otherwise not desirable forms. Frankly, I think you’ll find we fared about as well as expected.”

A circa 1815 Massachusetts Federal figured mahogany desk-and-bookcase by Thomas Needham having a bottom drawer behind the prospect door with a label reading Cabinet Work of all kinds / Made & Sold by / Thomas Needham, / Charter Street, Salem, sold within estimate at $2,625. And though not formal period furniture, a 19th century red-painted and punched tin decorated step-back cupboard sold above estimate making $3,625.

Smaller decorative items had a wonderful showing. A Bristol, Rhode Island school, 19th century pictorial needlework sampler with text reading “What conscience dictates to be done / Or warns me not to do / That teach me more than Hell to shun / That more than Heav’n pursue”sold for $6,875. The dark ground of this sampler made the colorful, intricate needlework pop.

A coastal New England, mid-19th century copper and brass, full-bodied, fishmonger’s trade sign made of heavy gauge copper with forged brass fins and hanger rings and leaded seams was 42 inches long and sold for $4,688.

And a pair of 10½ inch high, carved and painted wood horses made to display Baker blankets sold together for $3,125. Cowan said, “These were probably made as counter-top displays for a general store or saddle shop specializing in horse tack. The Baker company of Providence, R.I., has been making the same blankets since 1866. Despite the fact that each horse suffered losses (their legs were made in two pieces originally, and both had lost their lower portions), the horses were still charming.”

The second day of this two-day auction; the Country Americana session went off as Cowan’s had expected. “This portion of the auction was comprised primarily of good, collectible smalls, many estimated very attractively. We’ve seen small, easily shipped items to hold their ground against a softening market even before COVID-19.”

One lot of note was the offering made up of six, 19th/20th century cobalt glass vessels that included four bottles, a carafe with a stopper, and a lidded jar. Estimated to bring between $200 and $400, the group realized $5,938. “Two pieces in the group – the lidded sugar bowl and the cruet – drove the price,” Cowan noted.

Summarizing sales that took place, Cowan was pleased to see new bidders participating. “We found of the 485 bidders who participated, 33 percent were new to Cowan’s. About the same percentage of winning bidders were new to Cowan’s, as well. Overall; considering the time we held the sale, we were quite pleased, and are already building for our fall sale.”

Contact: (513) 871-1670

www.cowanauctions.com

4/26/2020
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