$4,594 Seems A Bit Steep

by John Werry on August 5, 2011

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There must have been a few bidders that REALLY wanted this Victorian-era terrarium.   Either they know something about it that I don’t know or they had some excess money on hand that they wanted to part with.

This terrarium just sold at Skinner’s in July for $4,594 – 61 times their top estimate.  Broken glass, finish loss and probably a missing finial leave me scratching my head.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

james conrad August 6, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Yeah, it seems a bit steep considering. Reminds me of a small inlaid victorian table i went after a couple years ago that had a $300-500 auction estimate, went for over $8000. I remember posting on the forum ” whats so special about this table”, as it turned out, it WAS a special table built by Bugatti of Italy. So this piece could be special or, just 2 bidders determined to own it, price be damned.

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Victorian Junkie August 8, 2011 at 5:43 pm

What is the height? 18 inches? Five feet? I’m thinking it must be huge for that price.

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John Werry August 8, 2011 at 5:51 pm

40″ h x 28″ w

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james conrad August 9, 2011 at 6:57 am

This kind of thing happens to me ALL the time at auction. Take last year for instance, there was this period William & Mary (1700-1730) Pennsylvania walnut table i went after at a small auction house. The table was small, the finish was shot and the top was completely split in half, obviously this table was in need of some serious restoration.The estimate was $600-900 and although i was prepared to go higher, i sat there stunned as this table zoomed off into the stratosphere before finally being hammered down at over $23,000. with buyers premium.
http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/7241492

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John Himes August 14, 2011 at 9:42 pm

You know, first of all, I think Skinner’s got the estimate wrong. Maybe it’s just that I’m on the West Coast, but I’ve shopped a lot on th East Coast, too, and I don’t recall seeing a piece like this, even in some of the great historic homes, in my 40 years of collecting Victorian-era antiques. So I do think the form is much rarer than would be supported by a $50 – $75 estimate.

Secondly, while I agree it has Renaissance Revival details, if you look closely, you will see an element of the Gothic Revivial in the arched frames and the detailing. “Gothic” often commands much higher prices than strick “Renaissance.”

Thirdly, there is very little missing on this piece, even though it’s in horrible condition. The pane of glass is easily replaced. The missing bird carving, which doesn’t appear to be overly artistic, could probably be recreated by any moderately-talented carver (for a reasonable price) with one of the originals to use as a pattern. So it appears to be quite restorable.

Lastly, yes, there was probably a bidding war between two or more collectors who really wanted this piece. (Keep in mind that Skinner’s is a top-drawer auction house, and those bidding there are used to atmospheric pricing.)

So I think there are several factors at play so that, when all is considered, the price is not that sensational. If I had room for a piece of this rarity, I can see myself getting caught up in the fray.

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james conrad August 15, 2011 at 5:13 am

Now that i think about it, Skinners is not an auction house that i would consign a victorian piece for sale as their focus is much more in tune with early american – federal pieces.

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