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Auction Watch: Dog days still feature gems — from Asian art to historical tomes

| Sunday, July 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Real knockout: Captured in his glory days, this autographed photo of Muhammad Ali, along with a signed Ali boxing glove, are part of a trove of sports memorabilia at Constantine & Pletcher. Estimate: $100-$150
Forever spring: This French porcelain shelf clock, decorated with cherubs and new blossoms and greenery captures the spirit of spring whatever the time of year. Estimate: $500-$700
Wheel of chance: For amusement only, this salesman’s sample of a roulette wheel, complete with it original ivory ball and silver finial, is a sure bet. Estimate: $300-$500
Happy face: Painted by German artist H. Kotschenreiler, this portrait of a contented looking gentleman is an example of the Munich school of painting. Estimate: $500-$700
For a song: Owned by a Washington County piano teacher, this Kawai baby grand is houses in an ebony case. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000
Battle tested: As the nation’s celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, this tintype of a soldier who fought in the War Between the States is a grim reminder of the nation’s deadliest conflict. Estimate: $75-$100
Jar head: Far from its home, this South American llama effigy jug is an example of primitive folk art. Estimate: $200-$400
Weather channeled: Created by D.E. Lent of Rochester, New York, this American “tramp art” thermometer and barometer can help amateur meteorologists predict the upcoming forecast. Estimate: $400-$600

They might make a fuss. But they probably won't holler. Still, local auctioneers are finding it harder to earn a dollar this summer. With the dog days of the season braying just around the corner, quality merchandise and strong hammer prices remain elusive. Some houses will work through the minor slump. Others will regroup to return later next month. All the more reason to indulge in a trio of sales, which might possibly be the biggest number of events for the next four to six weeks.

Constantine & Pletcher

Constantine & Pletcher continues its Summer of Antiques and Collectibles sales, even in the face of a tough market.

“I look at Auction Zip (an online listing of auctions throughout the United States) and I don't see anything out there,” owner Dan Pletcher says. “We're even feeling it here. We're still holding sales every two weeks. But the merchandise we're seeing isn't like it is in the fall and winter.”

C&P, will indeed, soldier on with a July 21 sale brimming with goods from two Fox Chapel estates, along with additions from other consignors. Pletcher describes the auction as solid, with plenty of furniture, Asian art, glass and pottery, and a large collection of sports memorabilia with a lineup that boasts of local legends such as Lemieux, Clemente, Bradshaw and other Pittsburgh all-time all-stars.

A modest selection of furniture offers an eclectic grouping of choices from a Duncan Phyfe table to a Korean storage cabinet. In between, bidders can battle over an etagere, bird cage and other Victorian pieces. Also on the block are a British-made, drop-leaf table and mahogany inlaid chest. For more continental tastes, French country armchairs may sit well. Finally, the furniture section just may be put to rest when a Sheraton-style four-poster bed comes up for bid.

Nearly every Constantine & Pletcher sale rolls out a wide selection of art. This event continues the tradition with a host of early English and American prints, engravings and hand-colored etchings. Paintings represent the American and Munich schools, along with examples of American impressionism, art nouveau and continental works.

Pletcher describes the sale's offering of Asian goods as “small.” However, that smattering of goods pays off big with ginger jars, a vase and an outstanding six-panel screen with inlaid overlays, all from China. The accent remains on Chinese with a bone wisk, ivory trousse and garden lantern. Other prizes from the Eastern Hemisphere include scrimshaw and soapstone carvings, a folding Buddha shrine, bronze castings of warhorse and a Satsuma vase.

Always a strong group locally, ceramics and glassware show some muscle in the shape of a Royal Doulton dinner set, glassware from Washington County's Duncan Miller, an even dozen of Hummels, and 85 pieces of Haviland, Roseville and McCoy.

For the most part, auctioneers prefer to tightly categorize items in groups of fairly sizable numbers. Sometimes, however, an auction may lack enough items of any one kind to group them together. In what C&P calls its “items of interest” section, bidders will discover oddities, such as a salesman's sample of a roulette wheel, copper jelly pans, a model birch-bark canoe, a mini Conestoga wagon, two Isaly's freezer cans and a flock of early Steiff animals.

Finally, bidders can root, root, root for their home team as they face-off to take home hundreds of pieces of sports memorabilia. With an emphasis on local heroes, the bench strength is deep with hall-of-fame names that include Mantle, DiMaggio, Jordan, Ripken and Ali. The collection includes signed sticks, bats, balls, photos, gloves and souvenirs of just about everyone's favorite pastimes and games.

The full day of sales starts with an uncataloged auction from 9 a.m. to noon. The main event starts at noon. Previews are from noon to 5 p.m. July 19 and 8 to 9 a.m. July 21. Previews and sales are at the C&P showroom, 1306 Pittsburgh St., Cheswick, Pa.

Details: 724-275-7190

Three Rivers Auction Co.

Just days before his July 23 auction, Tripp Kline prepared to lead a Whiskey Rebellion. Actually, the owner of Three Rivers Auction Co. was staging a Washington County festival to celebrate America's first tax revolt as a new nation. As he instructed his troops on the placement of tents, tables and other festival gear, Kline also reeled off a list of the upcoming sale's goods, most of which belonged to a longtime Washington, Pa., family.

Befitting the owners' lifestyle, the furniture in this sale includes many well-cared-for pieces that, if not capable of earning four-figure hammer prices, should fetch mid- to high-three-figure bids. Standouts in the section are a red-and-yellow painted flat-wall cupboard, Victorian cylinder desk and Rococo Revival medallion black settee. The lady of the house earned a reputation as a well-regarded piano teacher, which means her Kawai grand piano might just strike the right chord with a former student or a musically inclined bidder.

Much of America's early history started in Western Pennsylvania, and several books in the sale tell that story as factually as possible. However, one three-volume set spins an elaborate hoax in relating one family's involvement in the region's frontier days. “The Horn Papers” first appeared in the mid-1930s as excerpts in a Washington newspaper, detailing the life of early settler Jacob Horn. Meticulously detailed, “The Horn Papers,” written by Horn's great-great-great grandson, contained genealogical charts, maps and other information that extensively examined Jacob's life. Certified as genuine, “The Horn Papers” were published in 1945. Just a year later, the publication was deemed an error-filled and mostly fabricated fraud by many of the same people who had vouched for its authenticity. A must for collectors, “The Horn Papers” may turn out to be the real deal after all.

Rounding out this sale are collections of silver, art from the likes of Robert Griffing, coins and jewelry, dolls and toys, a South American llama effigy jug and other pieces of pottery and ceramics, glass bottles from bygone Washington County dairies, glass and stoneware, and many “objects of interest” such as a tintype of a Civil War soldier and a American Tramp Art stick thermometer.

Bidders can preview the sale from noon to 6 p.m. July 23, with the auction starting immediately afterward, all at the Three Rivers showroom on 382 W. Chestnut St., Washington, Pa.

Details: 724-222-8020.

Royal York Auction Gallery

Before going on a short hiatus while its showroom hosts an exhibit on the history of East Liberty, the Royal York will conduct a July 20 auction.

With many items for the household, including silver, furniture, artwork and decorative accessories, this sale shows a playful side with a painted carousel horse looking for a new owner.

Sale previews are from 5 to 8 p.m. July 18 and 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 19. The sale begins at 9 a.m. July 20 at 5925 Baum Blvd., East Liberty.

Details: 412-661-1171

John Altdorfer is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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