Auctions: A Great Learning Opportunity


There is a great deal of information which can be gleamed from any auction, even if you are not there in person. The upcoming March 14 Fine Art and Furniture auction at Toomey & Co. offers a perfect example of how a collector can learn to distinguish Best from Better, and Better from just Good simply by studying the online auction catalog.


From left to right: Lot 120 and lot 121


Take, for instance, two L. & J.G. Stickley Morris chairs offered for sale. Lot 121 is a large, beefy form, pleasing in proportions and loaded with lots of quartersawn flaking. It bears a shopmark and comes into the auction with a $1,000-$2,000 pre-sale estimate, which would have been higher had it not been refinished.

Beside it is another of their Morris chair designs, one that is also signed. The arms have been refinished and it does show some wear. The key difference between the two, however, is the length of the slats under the arms, as collectors show a preference for the longer slats which fill the vacant space and make the chair look more rooted to the ground. For that reason, the pre-sale estimate on this version is lower at $800-$1,200.



The sale also offers the opportunity to compare two versions of Gustav Stickley’s spindle Morris chair. The flat arm version arrived refinished with “scratches to arms and overall roughness.” Regardless, pre-sale estimate is still a respectable $1,000-$2,000.

A similar spindle Morris chair, but made from mahogany, has its original finish and the very desirable “slant arm” design. Still bearing its red decal, it earned a pre-sale estimate of $3,000-$5,000. Had it been quartersawn oak, the estimate might have been higher. Mahogany Stickley furniture is rare, but rarity has to be coupled with widespread demand to excite bidders.



Entitled “Over the Hills,” lot 83 is a color woodcut by noted artist Frances Gearhart (1869-1958). Measuring 7” x 9”, it comes into the auction with a pre-sale estimate of $2,500-$3,500. Lot 84 is by Gustave Baumann (1881-1971) and titled “Pecos Valley.” The artist signed and numbered this one 81 of an edition of 125, information collectors appreciate. Baumann’s print is slightly larger at 9” x 11” and carries a hefty pre-sale estimate of $4,000-$6,000 – enough to buy a couple of Morris chairs.


For more information on the March 14 auction, please go to

All images courtesy of Toomey & Co Auctioneers