Records are made to be broken, and 2012 had its share of applause-garnering sales in the auction arena. Here are several pieces with interesting stories surrounding them pertaining not only to price, but also to provenance.
The highlight of the High Noon Western Americana Weekend, held Jan. 28-29, 2012 in Mesa, Ariz. was the Saturday evening auction sale of Pancho Villa’s rare silver embroidered saddle. The saddle was created for the infamous renegade by renowned Mexican artisans prior to his assassination in 1923. Finely crafted silver conchos on the saddle bear the initials of Francisco Villa, the revolutionary hero’s given name. The historic piece sold for $625,000 (not including buyer’s premium), setting a new world record for a saddle at auction.
On June 19th, 2012, the "Chantland Blanket" headlined John Moran Auctioneers' Fine Antiques Auction held in Altadena, Calif. It is one of only five similar examples known to exist outside public collections, and it was discovered during one of Moran's free walk-in evaluation clinics. The consignor whose family had handed it down though several generations since the 1870s, used it daily not knowing that a very similar blanket is on exhibit in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. The combination of rarity, condition and provenance attracted well-known dealer and specialist Donald Ellis, of Donald Ellis Gallery, who purchased the Native American textile for $1.8 million (including buyer’s premium) setting a new world record price for any Navajo textile sold at auction.
Bertoia Auctions in Vineland, N.J. beat the record for a tinplate boat sold at auction on Nov. 10, 2012 when an example of the Märklin paddle wheeler "Chicago" sold for $264,500. The German-made toy, circa 1900-1902, starred on the cover of The Allure of Toy Ships, a reference guide penned in 2006 by its owner at the time of the auction, Richard T. Claus. The 31-inch boat features tiered decks, lifeboats, finely hand-painted details and six original crew figures. It was described by Bertoia as “a marvel of artistic perfection.”
Discovered during a Tuesday free appraisal day at Kaminski Auctions in Beverly, Mass., this pair of enameled English decanters set a record price of $46,215 (including buyer’s premium). No pair of glass decanters had sold for more prior to the November, 2012 Annual Thanksgiving Sale held by Kaminski. The consignor reportedly knew little about the record-setting glassware stating they had belonged to his grandmother and had been in the family sitting on a sideboard for many years. First suspected to be Baccarat due to their high quality, further research revealed that they were probably the work of William Collins, a London glassmaker working around 1810-1820 who held the patent for this type of enameling technique in the United Kingdom.
On Dec, 4, 2012, Sotheby’s in New York reported selling the Duc d’Orléans Breguet Sympathique, which set a new auction record for any clock and the second-highest price for any timepiece at auction, for $6,802,500. This fine example of the rare Sympathique clocks, known to bring recognition and fame to French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet, is dated 1835. The unique ormolu -mounted red tortoiseshell boulle-style clock includes a repeating gold watch automatically wound, set and regulated via the clock, according to Sotheby’s detailed auction description.