Rarity, Condition and Provenance: Which Will Prevail?

One thing you have to say about Arts and Crafts auctions: they always keep things interesting.

This coming Saturday’s Don Treadway-John Toomey auction at the John Toomey Gallery in Oak Park, Illinois, will be no exception, as two of the early lots are sure to draw attention to themselves.

The first is an early Gustav Stickley secretary designed by Harvey Ellis featuring two doors with divided leaded panes flanking a paneled drop-front door with iron strap hardware (top photo). This is considered by many to be the most impressive, most significant collaboration between Stickley and Ellis, an opinion supported by surviving examples having sold for more than $100,000.

This particular example, however, comes to auction bearing “professionally replaced shelves and interior,” prompting the question “Will condition issues outweigh rarity?”

The secretary will hit the auction block with a pre-sale estimate of $20,000-$25,000. Had it been in original condition, the estimate would most likely have been twice that number, with expectations of it hitting six figures not to have been unrealistic. But it remains to be seen how collectors at that level will react to the replaced shelves and interior.

The other piece of special interest is a desk that, according to the catalog description, “is believed to be Charles Limbert’s own office desk. Though similar to the other office desks seen in the period photograph of the Limbert offices, this desk appears to be both wider and deeper than the employees’ desks and has a leather top. This desk also lacks the “modesty panel,” which adorned desks used by ladies in the office.”

While this desk also has some serious condition issues and the connection to Charles Limbert appears to be circumstantial, two serious Limber collectors may well drive the price of this unusual desk (lower photo) beyond the pre-sale estimate of $6000-$8000.

Among the other notables in Saturday’s sale are a Limbert hall chair (#81) and Limbert library table (#153), both with cutouts, as well as a Charles Rohlf’s hall chair (est. $7000-$8000). The sale also includes a wide assortment of Rookwood pottery, some rare Teco pottery, and a great selection of Newcomb, Van Briggle and Fulper pottery. There will also be a rare Grueby tiled fireplace surround coming in with a pre-sale estimate of $25,000-$35,000.

And tucked away in the crowded field is a 1901 Gustav Stickley desk revealing his early Gothic influences. It may overshadow both the Harvey Ellis secretary and the Charles Limbert desk, as it comes in with a pre-sale estimate of $30,000-$40,000.

Check back here early next week for coverage of the highlights of this sale.

To see the online catalog, go to http://www.TreadwayGallery.com.