On Sunday Greg and I attended our first auction in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I’ve been intimated by the process and was nervous about the whole idea of bidding. Would I over bid? Or bid by accident?
I got a tip about this particular auction a few weeks ago at a Historic New England workshop and heard a few of their 4-drawer chests would be auctioned off at Northeast. I scoured the auction catalog and found the bowfront chest above. The piece had no notation coming from Historic New England’s collection but I was able to find the chest in their Collections Access section.
The maker unknown, dated 1800-1810, and described as, “Chest of drawers with four graduated bowfront drawers; cock beading; bail handles; ogee bracket feet.” In the above photo you’ll notice one of the legs is badly damaged. In the top photo supplied by Northeast Auction the leg looks as if it’s been repaired? Northeast notes the piece as: New England Chippendale Bow Front Chest of Drawers.
I went into full daydream mode for weeks with this chest and where I would put it in my den. The cherry and the bowfront were gorgeous; I really liked the size and how the chest wasn’t heavily ornamented with veneers.
When we arrived at the auction we were able to preview all the items. I was able to inspect the chest, open all the drawers and take a closer look at the repair done to the leg. I registered with the auction by supplying my driver’s license and signing off on a form that made me aware of the 18% buyer’s premium and then I received a number card to bid. The buyer’s premium is a fee imposed by the auction house in addition to the hammer price. It’s something to keep in mind when bidding on items. If you’re looking at passed auctions you’ll often notice two numbers. One is with the buyer’s premium and the other is without premium.
I also checked out two rugs I spotted in the catalog; the auction house rolled out both for me and let me view outdoors. I tend to like the more worn antique rugs with some fading. The above is a large Khorrossan and below a smaller Kuba rug.
Once the auction started I was surprised how quickly they moved through items. Tea sets and bowls went for thousands of dollars. What had I got myself into? The room was full of dealers with much larger bank accounts then me. Was I out of my league?
As we moved closer and closer to the lot I got really nervous and overheated. I removed my number stuck between the pages of my catalog and got ready. The bidding started on Lot 588 and within moments I had bid a few times. I got nervous and was out bid. I was devastated. A few more chests came up that had similar estimates that went for about half the price. Why? We left before the rugs came up; I was too depressed and I wasn’t that in love with them. We went out for lobster rolls and tried to come with tactics on how to win next time.
In the end it was a learning experience—how an auction is run and I got over my fear of bidding. And I realized I have a thing for Chippendale 4-drawer chests with beautiful ogee feet. Will I ever find another?