Gary Sullivan's Antique Clocks and Furniture Blog


Antique Clocks and Furniture

Skinner July 16th Science and Technology sale is online

Robert Cheney has once again assembled an impressive selection of clocks, scientific instruments and mechanical devices for Skinner’s July 16th sale. Poking through the catalog of a sale like this is fun for those of us who like vintage mechanical oddities and such. The sale includes a pretty impressive grouping of Connecticut shelf clocks too. Be sure to spend plenty of time on our website before taking a look at theirs!! Nice work Robert.

Prices now posted on much of my inventory
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For some time I have debated in my mind whether or not to post our inventory prices online. Historically we have followed the antique dealer convention of not posting the prices, but after a recent experiment resulted in increased activity, I’ve reconsidered. You’ll now find the price listed on select objects. Take a look and let me know what you think. Better still, find an object that you can’t live without!

Stolen Thomas Claggett tall case clock repatriated after 34 years
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On Friday I hung the weights and started the pendulum in motion on an extremely rare Thomas Claggett tall case (grandfather) clock that has finally returned home. Made in Newport, RI circa 1740-60, and housed in a classic blocked-door Newport case, It was stolen from a family homestead just outside of Newport in April of 1977. My involvement in the recovery started about a year ago when I was asked to render an expert opinion as to whether detailed photos of a Claggett clock owned in Mississippi could be positively identified as the same clock seen in family photos taken in the 1960s and 70s before it was stolen. The brass dial (face) of the clock incorporates a rare rocking ship feature in the arched top. A small painted ship (currently missing) bobs back and forth with the motion of the pendulum. Behind the ship is a wonderful and unique painted scene of Goat Island, off of Newport. The details in the two sets of photos were clear enough to make a positive connection. They were one in the same.

Happy to play a roll in returning the clock to the front room of the family homestead where it had resided since it was originally purchased about 250 years ago, I put my opinion in writing. Three other antique clock/furniture experts did the same. Allegedly purchased for $650. at the Brimfield MA. flea market in 1975 (two years before it was actually stolen) The intrigue, subterfuge, bazaar coincidences and twists and turns that took place over the last year and a half would fill a book. The circuitous rout to recovery began with a failed attempt to sell the clock on Ebay in early 2010, and is said to have included a falsified bill of sale, incompetent police work, a “fascinating” Mississippi legal system, the astuteness of a Massachusetts auctioneer who “smelled a rat” and the pure dumb luck of the theft coming to the attention of a distant family member who happened to have an interest in Claggett clocks.

This is such an interesting business. Not too many other lines of work offer such a varied an interesting menu on a day to day basis.

Blogging about antiques
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My antiques blog is a new adventure and I’m really enjoying it. I hope you are as well. The new website, and particularly the blog are still largely undiscovered, so please tell your friends to visit the site and check it out. There don’t seem to be too many antique furniture blogs, particularly not with a slant toward the Early American furniture and clocks that we handle, so I think there is a need. Please give us feedback in the form of email or by posting comments on the individual blogs. Tell us what you like to read and what you don’t. That’s the only way I can determine what type of blogs to write. Do you like short, casual blogs, day-to-day antiques business discussions, or more in depth scholarship. Thanks for reading, I look forward to hearing from you.

El Paso Roadshow trip
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Spent Friday and Saturday in El Paso for Antiques Roadshow. It’s hot there! Went to a great rib joint Friday night and in the process tested the limit of how many antique appraisers can fit into a rental Camry. It was pretty quiet at the clocks and furniture tables, but I was taped with a nice 19th century French portico clock made of alabaster. I heard that a first edition of “The Hobbit” came in and was appraised for big bucks.

Important new reference book for collectors
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Attention clock and furniture collectors: A Terrific new book on American wood movement tall case clocks has just been released and every serious collector of folk art, furniture or clocks should have one. American Wooden Movement Tall Clocks 1712-1835 by Philip Morris has instantly taken its place as an essential reference book in my library. Philip has compiled a remarkable assemblage of tall case clocks, spanning several sub-categories that will be of great interest to clock and furniture collectors alike. Whether your interest is in early brass dial clocks, decorated folk art examples, or the work of specific craftsmen or regions, you’ll find it all in this scholarly publication. The quality and variety of the clocks is Stunning and the photography is exceptional. As a researcher, the previously unpublished biographical information will be invaluable to me. Even if you are not a clock collector, but have an interest in folk art or furniture, you should make this book part of your library. It is only available from the author:

Marilyn Monroe’s “subway dress” sets record at auction
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The iconic dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in the famous scene from “The Seven Year Itch” just sold for a steamy price! Made famous in the shot where Monroe is standing over a subway grate as a train passes and billows her dress, it was expected to fetch one to two million dollars. When the dust had settled at an auction of objects from the Debbie Reynolds collection., it brought about 6 times the previous record for a costume. The new owner paid five and a half million dollars (5,520,000.00) for a pretty cool piece of movie history. Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” held the previous record at $923,187.

The new website, one month since launch.
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Well, it has been just a little over a month since we launched our “new” website. I have been hard at work updating and creating new content and that all seems to be paying off. The site now has much richer and more interactive, searchable descriptions for our merchandise with far more images available. Among the improvements to this aspect, my favorite is the Related Items feature. This allows Gary and I to directly communicate which other items on the site pertain to one another. We can include items that are from the same region, similar in form or any criteria we choose. Most importantly, it offers visitors a quick means to learn about related items and compare the various forms.

This level of information is what the current Web requires and we are glad to be able to meet this demand. The site has a number of other great features, which provide useful and interesting content. The News & Media section and Gary's antique furniture blog gives us an opportunity to convey the interesting things that go on here on a daily basis. The world of the antique dealer continues to be exciting in many ways and these stories are now being related.

Our Research feature provides the same great free information but with a more slick and functional interface. Be sure to check out the interactive map in the Clockmakers section.

And last and certainly not least, is Service. Within this feature we have begun to create some “how-to” videos. Gary has been giving lectures and lessons on clocks, including care and maintenance, for some time. Just recently I have begun capturing some of them on video. Our maiden video discusses how to properly dismantle a tall case clock. This was no small feat. This procedure is something we each perform a dozen times a week without a second thought, but breaking that down into a clear and easily understood video took some preparation. We are steering the website toward a more video rich format. We plan to create a number of videos on various topics, even including descriptions of new merchandise. Please let us know of any ideas or requests that you have for videos, and we will try to incorporate them.

So all-in-all, the upgrade has been worth the work. Our site is now more relevant and content rich with plenty of room for expansion as the demands of the Web grow and change. Gary and I can better convey who we are, what we are doing and what we have to sell. And the ultimate answer, yes, site traffic is up quite a bit, thank you.

Marking the passing of Albert Sack
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As I sit here thumbing through Fine Points of Furniture by Albert Sack, researching a games table, it occurs to me just how often I turn to the many reference books created by Albert Sack. His recent death at 96 marks the end of the Sack Era of Americana, a century long period when the Sacks were king. From Israel Sack’s early days in Boston, to the dominance of the sack firm in New York during the second half of the century, the breadth of Early American material culture that passed through the Family is staggering. Any piece of furniture with a Sack provenance is just a little more saleable and in many cases a bit more valuable than those without. At least one antiques dealer even goes so far as to advertise that he is looking to buy objects that have previously been sold by the Sack firm. The contributions that Albert made to the scholarship of these objects that we so highly prize can not be measured. He was unquestionably the most prominent American antiques dealer in history. I for one, am most appreciative of his willingness to share his great knowledge with the rest of us.

Returning from Eugene Oregon Antiques Roadshow
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Waiting in Eugene, OR. for a delayed flight to San Francisco after doing the Roadshow on Saturday. Looks like I'll miss the flight back to Boston once again. If anyone is aware of a dependable airline, I would love to know about it.

I'm Happy to report that I had good success in Eugene. I appraised a superb tiger maple Chippendale Chest-on-chest, made in Massachusetts or RI, circa 1795-1800. It was in great condition, with a terrific old surface and nice Chippendale brasses. It's amazing how many important new England antiques have migrated to distant corners of the States. Look for it on PBS next year.

Eugene was the first city where I appraised furniture for the show and I really enjoyed it. Twelve hours of standing, examining one piece of furniture after another is tougher than I thought, but being part of the Roadshow is well worth it.