The Maine Antiques Digest has this report on the late September sales of Americana. Even though these are not the marquee sales in the field–those come in January–the lack of material and the disappearance of buyers was troubling to the trade. Sotheby’s decided not to hold a sale. Christie’s went ahead more out of tradition than
Of the 114 lots of prints, furniture, paintings, and decoration offered in the slim catalog, 86 lots, or 75%, sold for a total of $801,875, which is 50% sold by dollar and well under the presale estimate of $1.5/$2.5 million.
It is hard to get a true reading of the market during the economic downturn. Dealers said they have been doing some business, and auctions have had little to offer. “It may take a major estate sale to give us a true reading of this market,” said Alan Miller of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, an advisor to collectors of American furniture. […]
Only a few lots (including the card table) soared over conservative estimates. But the two much-touted top lots failed to sell because their estimates were too high for the current market. A Canada goose decoy, said to be from a legendary Susquehanna River rig (est. $200,000/400,000), and a Boston bombé chest of drawers, consigned by Historic New England (est. $500,000/800,000), received no bids at all.
The Digest’s Lita Solis-Cohen points out that the bombé chest is an example of price decline citing sales of comparable pieces from 2001 to this bought in lot that show a striking trend toward declension from $500k to $400k to no sale. Solis-Cohen cites another dealer on what happened in the once hot decoy market:
“In the present brutal market some of the major players for decoys in the quarter-million- to million-dollar level have vanished,” said Stephen O’Brien Jr. of Boston, a specialist decoy dealer and auctioneer. “When four or five out of eight or ten collectors are no longer participating at a high level, it has a drastic effect. Of the known examples in a rig, they have to look at each piece to see where it ranks and ask, is it one, two, three, or four? In this case, the market spoke on that day.”
Fall Americana Sale (Maine Antiques Digest)