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Auction Watch: Sales build steadily at 2013 starts

| Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013, 8:53 p.m.
Constantine & Pletcher Drive on: These hard-working Buddy L pressed-steel trucks still have plenty of play in them. Estimate: $40-$100.
Constantine & Pletcher Pottery barn: Many collections of ceramics from Rookwood, Roseville and other well-known manufacturers are on the block. Estimate: $20-$100.
Constantine & Pletcher Prime cuts: No matter how you slice it, this samurai sword and accompanying bayonet are well-honed blades: Estimate: The sword $150-$200 and the bayonet $50-$100.
See-through classic: A nicely preserved antiques, this large curved glass china closet with its original finish, griffin-topped columns and paw feet. BHD
Bright on: Lighting collectors will take to this antique lamp with its caramel-colored leaded-glass shade and cast-iron base. BHD

Off to a fast start, BHD Auctions and Constantine & Pletcher set out to maintain the new year's early momentum with strong follow-up sales during the reminder of January. At the Royal York, the holiday spirit endures in the early days of 2013. Meanwhile, the rest of the field prepares for events in February and dates further down the line as the new auction year rolls out with a quiet opening month.

Constantine & Pletcher

Dan Pletcher turned the page on 2012 and never looked back during Constantine & Pletcher's New Year's Day sale at the Cheswick auction gallery. With more than 200 bidders in house and many more on the phone and Internet, the company's co-owner christened 2013 with five-figure hammer prices for a Tiffany lamp with a geranium-motif leaded-glass shade that electrified the crowd with a $34,500 final bid, a diamond ring that dazzled at $29,750 and another Tiffany lamp with 12 lily shades that blossomed at $26,000.

Though plenty pleased with the sale highlights and overall results, Pletcher is upping the pace in the next few weeks and months. He'll be initiating a series of sales featuring the contents of the legendary River House antiques shop. With River House owner Lillian Goldsmith saying goodbye to the business after many decades on South Highland Avenue in Shadyside, C&P will conduct three to four sales during February and March to liquidate the merchandise. So far, Pletcher reports that his crew has moved three 20-foot trucks of goods from the store and barely got past the door. Look for the first sale of River House antiques on Feb. 6.

Before the big day, however, Pletcher will keep busy clearing out the C&P showroom with a huge Jan. 26 sale of uncataloged merchandise that features everything from quality antiques to nearly new kitchen appliances. During the course of what should be a nearly five-hour bidding marathon, potential buyers can vie for nicely maintained pre-World War II Lionel trains, vintage toys from Buddy L and other manufacturers, a fleet of Matchbox Redline-series cars and pottery from Roseville and Rookwood in addition to Frontgate custom furniture.

The preview starts at 8 a.m. Jan. 26, with the sale at 10 a.m., at the C&P showroom, 1306 Pittsburgh St., Cheswick. Details: 724-275-7190

BHD Auctions

High hopes were the order of the day at BHD Auction's Jan. 1, sale at the old J.S. Dill auction house in Zelienople. With a Tiffany lamp and fine collection of country antiques and primitives, owner Brian Detch sensed the first day of 2013 might be something special. And when the final hammer came down, he discovered that the results wildly exceeded his expectations — with a few surprises.

“The Tiffany lamp brought in $5,100, which is a little lower than estimated,” he says. “But a primitive country cupboard that I figured would sell for maybe a couple thousand, at best, sold for $14,500. So, overall, it was a very good sale, especially in the antiques and primitives.” A prime example is a Pittsburgh-made jug that fetched a surprising $1,400. Asian rugs and WWII German military gear sold well, too.

Hoping to build on the results of the initial 2013 sale, Detch rebooted his Internet connection for a return to the company's online-only sales. The first, going on now and ending Jan. 17, features a potpourri of older furniture, country cookware, old-time metal toys, coin collections, glassware, ceramics and miscellany that could prove to be serendipitous finds. With “smalls” composing the biggest part of the sale roster, a few larger items certainly make their presence felt.

Continuing a recent run of curved-glass china cabinets, this sale brings to market a nice example with carved griffin-head side columns, paw feet and its original finish. Also attracting much attention is a utilitarian cabinet covered in at least one coat of white paint. However, a small corner of paint is scraped away to reveal that the piece, with a tall glass front with shelves on top of a few drawers, once belonged to the Pittsburgh Railways Co. A forerunner of today's Port Authority, Pittsburgh Railways trolleys trundled passengers across Allegheny County and beyond. One of its more famous routes was the 77/54, known as the “Flying Fraction,” which crisscrossed the city from Bloomfield to North Side to Carrick and back.

Nine sets of Staffordshire Ironstone coaching-scene plates are as notable for their unusual packaging as the contents inside. Manufactured by Johnson Bros., Stoke-on-Trent, in England, many of the sets remain nestled inside pyramid-shaped containers with lettering similar in color and style to the decorated items within.

The sale is loaded with interesting smalls such as a vintage steel beer can with an old-fashion bottle cap with the original Canadian-made brew inside. To keep your old beer and other perishables cold, bid on the a solid aluminum rustproof ice chest from Thermomaster. A nice selection of old-time wooden kitchen utensils and Griswold skillets add a country flavor to the sale.

As soon as BHD's first online sale of the year ends, another goes live from Jan. 18 to 31. This web-exclusive affair will get the fiber-optic lines buzzing with items from a Sewickley estate that is downsizing. With a strong emphasis on Victorian-era Eastlake-style pieces, the highlights include a handsome drop-front desk and several marble-top commodes. A drop-leaf table is perfect for small dinner parties or even a work surface for an in-home business. Several Asian and Oriental rugs will wear underfoot. Finally, one of the nicer-looking pieces from the estate is a caramel and cream-colored slag-glass lamp shade that sits atop a cast-iron base. Aside from a “BK” stamped on the base, few other clues exists regarding the lamp's origins.

Bidders will find a bit of whimsy in the sale, too, in the form of a wind-up, metal mechanical toy figure of a dog, squirrel and bear dressed in clothes and jumping rope. A ceramic bank of a plump uniformed Esso gas station attendant is big enough to hold about a half-gallon's worth of pennies.

A well-rounded sale, the lineup includes glassware, ceramics, old-time hand tools, Christmas ornaments and toys.

Details: 724-816-0683 or

Royal York Auction Gallery

High-end Christmas ornaments and decorations from Baccarat, Waterford and other quality manufacturers headline the Royal York Auction Gallery's first sale of 2013 on Jan. 19. Bidders can look for plenty of glassware, silver, furniture and other fine merchandise during the auction. Previews are from 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 17, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 18 and 8 to 9 a.m. Jan. 19 with the sale starting immediately afterward. The Royal York is on 5925 Baum Blvd., East Liberty. Details: 412-661-1171

John Altdorfer is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.

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