Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Blanchard’s Auction Services
POTSDAM, N.Y. – Blanchard’s Auction Service has been a dominant player in the rustic furniture market for years, with its annual Adirondack sale a fixture in the firm’s annual calendar. This year, as it was in August 2020, the sale was conducted online from the auction house gallery rather than at the Saranac Lake ski lodge it auctioned from for nearly 15 years. Without the spatial constraints of outdoor tents or lodge interiors, Blanchard’s expanded the sale, offering nearly 625 lots compared to the 400-500 lots he usually puts up. All of the lots offered sold – a strategy Kip Blanchard purposefully targets with realistic, even conservative estimates.
Blanchard was upbeat when we spoke to him a few days after the sale. “We were excited, and it was a great sale. Most of the sale sold to clients within our mailing list who we’ve done business with for a number of years. Even though it’s Adirondack, it’s the kind of thing you find in Western lodges or in homes in the mountains up and down the East Coast, so our buyers aren’t local, and being online only broadens our reach. We had the greatest number of registered bidders that we’ve ever had – from 47 different states and ten countries – and 220 unique buyers.”
Arguably one of the most significant parts of the sale were nearly three dozen lots from the collection of Ralph Kylloe, author and expert on rustic furniture and the former owner and proprietor of the Kylloe Gallery at Lake George; once Kylloe retired a few years ago, Blanchard’s handled pieces from his gallery. Works from Kylloe’s collection included Aurora lamps, carved animals and Adirondack baskets, but it was his rustic furniture that really attracted bidders, including the top lot in the sale, a writing desk with gallery made around 1914 by Old Hickory that sold for $17,700. Not only was the desk included in Kylloe’s book, The Old Hickory Furniture Book, but it had been his personal desk and part of his collection for more than 25 years. Kip Blanchard said there had been lots of interest in the piece and confirmed that it had been purchased by a collector in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks. When asked if it was a record price for Old Hickory furniture, Blanchard said he didn’t know, only that it was the highest price the firm has ever realized.
Other Old Hickory furniture pieces in Kylloe’s collection included an oval dining table that made $1,620 and a twin bed at $780. His collection featured four lamps, including two Aurora Handcraft hammered copper table lamps that sold well above expectations, bringing $3,600 and $2,940, respectively. Rustic pieces by Michael Hutton featured small tables and small furnishings like mirrors, magazine holders, a birdhouse and a wall pocket.
Furniture and decorative pieces by Barney Bellinger were hot and the sale featured more than a dozen works by him, all from a lake home in Minnesota whose owner had commissioned the pieces directly from Bellinger. Leading works by Bellinger were an Adirondack sofa table that had been custom-made in 2002 for a Minnesota lake home and depicted on its front rail a small oil painting depicting a guide boat. The table sold to a collector in Stockbridge, Mass., for $6,120. A painting of a rainbow trout in a Bellinger frame had been featured in Kylloe’s book, Rustic Artistry for the Home, in which it was shown on an easel in Bellinger’s studio. Bidders fought hard for the piece, but one finally reeled it in, for $5,760. A Bellinger writing desk custom made with painted backsplash and vintage guide boat yoke legs sailed to $3,960. Three end stands with fish decoration were offered separately and brought $3,720, 3,600 and $3,960, respectively.
Bringing the most in the fine art category was “Four Seasons” by George William Whitaker (American, 1840-1916), a tonalist landscape painter who was the first instructor of oil painting at the Rhode Island School of Design. The same Stockbridge, Mass., collector who bought the Bellinger sofa table paid $6,120 for the four-panel painting in its original frame. An oil on board painting of a whitetail deer by Ned Smith leaped to $2,460 and a painting of Mount Marcy with a waterfall in the foreground and an illegible artist’s signature made a splash at $2,220, nearly four times its high estimate.
It would be hard to envision an Adirondack sale without a canoe, and the auction had ten on offer, led by a rare “A” grade Rushton 15-foot white cedar and cherry Indian girl canoe that had been in the same North Country family for years and dated to about 1910. The canoe had been restored by Everett Smith of Canton, N.Y., with little use since its restoration; it finished at $4,680. Full size canoes ran in price from $870 for a 12-foot-long Stalek Canoe cedar strip canoe to $3,720 for a 13-foot Rushton Ontario #8 model.
“Boats in the sale were some of the best buys,” Blanchard said. We had ten boats in the sale, and they are going to ten different states.”
Hunting and fishing are part of the Adirondack lifestyle so, naturally, the sale included lots related to those pursuits as well. A carved walnut Black Forest deer head with real whitetail deer antlers mounted to a carved plaque leaped past its estimate to finish at $3,840 with taxidermy examples of everything from black bear ($2,100), elk ($1,080), big horn sheep ($900) to red fox ($630), Northern Pike ($600), and fallow deer ($450). Nearly 50 lots of duck and swan decoys populated the sale, as did numerous lots of fishing rods, reels, creels and nets.
A few years ago, Blanchard’s got good money for a few totem poles from the Totem Camp in Harrisville, N.Y., which had belonged to the Smith Family of Smith-Corona typewriter and LC Smith shotgun fame. Kip Blanchard said he got a call from a woman about a year ago saying she was from that family, that she still had one pole, and would he like to sell it? Fast forward a year and Blanchard’s offered the remaining Totem Camp pole, which stood 80 inches tall. Blanchard said it was purchased by one of the buyers who had bought a Totem Camp pole a few years earlier, for $2,880.
Blanchard’s next Adirondack auction will take place Columbus Day weekend and will feature more pieces from Ralph Kylloe’s collection.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For additional information, www.blandardsauctionservice.com or 315-265-5070.