Auction Post Mortem for Thursday 3/21/2024 - Flops, Floats, and Flights

Auction Post Mortem for Thursday 3/21/2024 - Flops, Floats, and Flights

Watch the auction here.

When I left the weekly antique market on Sunday morning last week, I was feeling pretty good, and felt like I got a lot of stuff for a good sized auction. It wasn't until I got home and actually unpacked my haul that I realized that I had somehow over estimated the quantity of stuff I brought home. I guess when I was in the mix of the market, it seemed like I was making more deals than I really was. I think partly I might have just been super excited that I finally nabbed a velvet devil painting at a great price.

Fortunately I had a great lot of stuff come in from a consignor this past week, which included a whole bunch of great funerary and mourning antiques, including those two pieces of unique hair art. Still, even with those consignments, I was looking a pretty slim auction, albeit one that had some really excellent items.

I was relieved when I got a shipping notification Monday morning from an online photography auction in Pennsylvania from which I had won 22 lots, figuring that they would get to me in time to beef up Thursday's show. Much to my disappointment, though, the tracking showed that the package wouldn't reach me til Friday. But! Perhaps by divine providence, there it was on my porch Thursday morning. OK, we're in business.

This week's auction was a super fun one, and I was really pleased with the pace with which we burned through 90 lots. Lots of power bids and enthusiasm for the headline items, but also strong results and happy customers on some of the smaller, under the radar stuff. Let's get into some of the numbers.

Float: French Memorial Hair Work

Consigned, Sold $445

This was one of the best pieces of hair work I have maybe ever had in this auction, and I was really excited my consignor entrusted it to me to sell. I regularly see smaller version of this style, without the included photograph, listed in the $300 to $500 range, so my hope was that this example would bring toward those upper numbers. Of course, what things people list stuff for and what they actually sell for don't always align, so I thought there was a possibly it could bring a bit less. After the strong showing of a smaller, less intricate bit of hair work in Thursday's show, I was feeling more confident. Bidding was a bit sluggish at first, but when it caught fire, off it went and stopped at a very cool $445. It gets the float designation and not the flight designation simply because it performed as expected, and brought right around my estimated value.

Flight: Framed Oval Cabinet Card with Hair Work

Consigned, Sold $190

I was worried that this bit of hair work might be a bit understated to really catch on. The work was finely done, but required a close, in-person view to really appreciate, and I was worried it wouldn't convey well on camera. Also, the presentation isn't quite as ostentatious as some more complex examples. I was really excited when there was so much enthusiasm for it, and it took off to $190.

Flop: Velvet Devil Black Light Painting

Purchased $50, Sold $135

I got this painting at my weekly antique market. I didn't see it when the dealer initially pulled it out, and its only because a buddy of mine said "Ryan, did you see that devil painting over there?" that I catapulted myself over the market to pounce on it. I have seen these pop up in other oddities auctions and pages on Instagram and Facebook, and was really excited to find one out in the wild. I had pretty high hopes for it, figuring that the subject matter and black light sensitivity should get it easily to $200 or more. All that said, even though I'm putting this one under the flop column, I am totally pleased with a $135 sale price, given that I only paid $50 for it. Plus, it sold to someone in the industry I've got a huge respect for, who helped to pave the way and make oddities dealing and collecting what it is today. That's a bonus.

Flight: "Do You Believe in Witches?" Witch Hazel Advertising Pamphlet

Purchased in a $25 lot, Sold $145

The guys at the antique market are absolute fiends for ephemera, and any time a box pops out, people are clamoring to get to it first, and will often just buy the whole thing. I was the second person to get to one such box, and fortunately the guy that got there first decided to pick through it and just buy the things that he wanted, instead of the whole number. So I patiently stood next to him, and picked through his discard pile. Eventually he got bored of looking through the box and moved on, leaving a few unsearched scraps at the bottom. This little witch pamphlet was one of those scraps, and one of my favorite finds of the day. I picked it up with a couple other bits of ephemera for $25.

I know my customers love this kind of thing, and figured that it might bring $125 or so. This seems like a lot for a tiny piece of advertising paper, but it really was very cool, and made many references to Salem, which is like a magic word in my audience. It ended up bringing a very strong $145, confirming my suspicion that it would catch fire.

The other two pieces I got in this three piece lot were a hidden picture trade card, which sold for $26, and a mechanical clock card, which sold for $18.

Flight: Pair of CDV Photographs by William Mumler and Mrs. Stuart

Purchased $84.75, Sold $225

I did a little bit of fire chasing with this one. I had a photograph by Mrs. Stuart, associate and host of famed spirit photographer William Mumler, a few weeks back that did really well in the bidding. It was a risk, having paid $75 for the single CDV, because I had to hope that the fame and intrigue of the photographer of an otherwise forgettable CDV photo would be enough to carry it to a win. When I saw another photo by Mrs. Stuart, this time paired with a photo by Mumler himself, in that online photo auction last week, I figured I should got for it and see if we can replicate the success. It paid off, and two competitive bidders with a bit of a rivalry brought this pair of photos to a $225 result.

Float: Boarded Post Mortem of Man

Purchased $84.75, Sold $70

This might be the rare occasion where something that I lose money on makes into the float category. In this case, it was a nice post mortem of a middle aged man dating to 1902. In the world of post mortems, the most desirable tend to be daguerreotypes and ambrotypes from before the advent of the modern funeral. Further, post mortems of children and women after them tend to get more interest from collectors, in general. So the fact that this was a later, 20th century post mortem of a middle aged man held it back a little bit. I did pay $75 for it, plus a 13% buyer's premium, but I didn't expect to make any money on it, and hoped it would instead be a draw and get people bidding, because it still is of great collectible value. Sometimes its worth it just to have an item to break the ice and get people excited. I also bought this alongside a great many other images, and looked at this as one large purchase, rather than as individual pieces. In the end, that great purchase was very profitable.

Other Items of Note

Float: 1895 Salem, MA Badge; Cosigned, Sold $110

Float: "Gone But Not Forgotten" Mother and Father Memorial; Consigned, Sold $100

Flight: Ornate Brass Frames; Purchased $40, Sold $55 and $50 Each

Flight: Wooden Snake Carving; Purchased $60, Sold $100

Flight: 1924 French Nightclub Program; Purchased $5, Sold $80

Flop: Ethyl Chloride Vial; Purchased $20, Sold $25

Float: Antique French New Years Postcards; Purchased $20, Sold $50

Flight: Carter's Photo Library Paste Jar; Purchased $5, Sold $37

Flight: Damaged, Unframed Ship Painting; Purchased $5, Sold $47

Flight: Jars of Dentures; Consigned, Sold $65 and $55

Float: Wooden Statue of Boys Boxing; Consigned, Sold $75

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