Archive for April, 2013

Emeralds, gold coins reign at Government Auction, April 28

April 26th, 2013 by

TEHACHAPI, Calif. – Government Auction’s auction on Sunday, April 28, will feature emerald jewelry, antique gold coins, designer handbags and Rolex watches worthy of an ancient Egyptian ruler or modern-day trendsetter. The auction will begin at 5:45 a.m. Pacific time (8:45 a.m. Eastern time) and Internet live bidding will be provided by

12-carat emerald and diamond ring. Government Auction image.

Cleopatra was perhaps the first “celebrity” associated with the enigmatic emerald. The Egyptian queen had a fascination bordering on obsession with the brilliant green stone and even owned an emerald mine. To those in ancient Egypt, the stone represented wealth and power, and was the symbol of fertility. Cleopatra’s hoard of gemstones has never been found, but her association with the rare gemstone endures. A highlight in the April 28 auction that the last pharaoh surely would have coveted is the 14.97-carat emerald with 10.25-carat diamond necklace.

A stunning piece composed of 14K yellow gold, the necklace has a drape motif that suits even the most elegant of evening wear. The 18-inch necklace features 20 graduating emerald and diamond bezel pendants supported by an emerald and diamond lattice with numerous prong- and bead-set round brilliant-cut diamonds. The piece is topped off with matching yellow gold links and a concealed box clasp with twin safeties.

Another piece Cleopatra would have been proud to add to her collection is a 12-carat emerald and diamond ring. The ring is composed of 14K white gold, with the featured large emerald set within a diamond lattice gallery supported by diamond set shoulders and completed with a 2 1/2-millimeter wide band. There are approximately 28 prong- and bead-set diamonds in the ring weighing 1.70 carats.

In keeping with our theme of powerful and sophisticated women, a Louis Stewart designer bag reported to have been owned by Chris Jenner of “Keeping with the Kardashians” is also featured in this auction. The Louis Stewart line is fast becoming the latest trend and is popular with the celebrity set due to the company’s product quality and style. Stewart is a designer who worked for Louis Vuitton before launching his own brand. This brand has not made it to the stores yet, but is receiving high visibility from celebs such as Rhianna and Nicki Minaj. The Louis Stewart handbag featured on April 28 is black patent leather with a small crystal bling lock, and the Louis Stewart logo is displayed on a front silver badge.

Also offered for auction in the coin category is a highly sought-after piece—an 1894-S $20 U.S. Liberty Head gold coin. The Double Eagle, as the coin is also known, was minted from 1850 during the height of the California gold rush until 1907. Of all the U.S. gold coins minted before 1907, the Double Eagle had the highest gold content, almost one full ounce of pure gold. Designed by James B. Longacre, the coin weighs 33.43 grams and is composed of 90 percent gold

1894-S $20 U.S. Liberty gold coin. Government Auction image.

and 10 percent copper.

Another collectible coin for auction is the 1925-D $2.5 U.S Indian Head type gold coin. The Indian Quarter Eagle, as the coin is also known, was minted in Denver. Designed by Bela Lyon Pratt the coin features an incuse, or sunken, design of an American Indian with full feather war headdress on the obverse and the American eagle on the reverse. The piece is 18mm in diameter, weighs 4.18 grams, and is comprised of .900 fine gold and .100 copper.

An exceptional Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatch is an auction highlight in the elite timepiece category. This man’s watch is crafted in stainless steel with silver sunray finish dial and steel hour posts and band.

Additional auction highlights include a 5.00-carat princess-cut diamond, Chanel sunglasses, Louis Vuitton leather bag, Formula 1 Hublot Watch and much more.

For additional information on any lot in the sale, call Debbie at 661-823-1543 or email

View the fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet at

NYC art gallery to host Coney Island ‘Sideshow’ exhibit May 2-25

April 22nd, 2013 by

Featured collection focuses on carnival ‘freaks,’ folk art, arcade relics, bizarre novelties

NEW YORK – The heart-stopping whoosh of a roller coaster on its downward trajectory, the sugary smell of cotton candy and salt water taffy, the sideshow barker’s incessant chant to “step right up and see the strangest sights on earth.” All played their roles in creating indelible memories for the millions of people who visited Coney Island over the last century.

Edward J. Kelty (American, 1888–1967) panoramic photo of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey ‘Congress of Freaks.’ Ross Art Group image.

While the golden era of New York’s most beloved amusement park has come and gone, relics of Coney Island’s colorful history and photos of its amazing cast of performers move back into the spotlight in “Sideshow,” an exhibition running May 2-25 at The Ross Art Group’s Manhattan gallery. Sideshow’s featured collection belongs to Dr. Robert M. Lerch, a New York City physician and longtime collector of the bizarre and unusual. The exhibition chronicles roughly the first 50 years of Coney Island – whose first enclosed amusement park area opened in 1895 – with additional pieces from other early 20th-century carnivals and circuses.

The “backbone” of the show, said Ross Art Group’s owner, Mickey Ross, is the collection of 28 original architectural drawings and blueprints that conceptualized Coney Island carnival rides and structures.

“The drawings were created by amusement park ride inventor and manufacturer William F. Mangels (German/American, 1867-1958) and depict such classic rides as the ‘Whip,’ Loop roller coaster, and carousel horses with a mechanical function,” Ross said. Like all other items in the exhibition, the architectural designs will be available for purchase.

One of the most remarkable inclusions in the collection is the assemblage of circus photos by itinerant photographer Edward J. Kelty (American, 1888–1967). The grouping includes a number of Kelty’s inimitable 11 by 20in panoramic shots of performers known collectively as “the Congress of Freaks.”

“Kelty had a fascination for human oddities and spent 20 years following and photographing circus troupes. Once a year, the entire Ringling Brothers ‘Freak Show’ cast would gather for a group shot. It was a big event,” said Ross. “The pictures include every imaginable type of performer – sword swallowers, snake charmers, bearded ladies, fire eaters, and ‘giants and midgets,’ plus aerialists and clowns.” Kelty’s Congress of Freaks photos, which originally were sold to the performers themselves as mementos, are highly sought after by today’s collectors.

Other iconic photos featured in Sideshow were taken prior to the end of World War I by Arthur S. Mole & John D. Thomas. Their technique consisted of mustering thousands of people to form aerial views of iconic symbols, such as The Statue of Liberty or Uncle Sam. Most of the photos’ participants were army troops who took part with the US Government’s permission.

Robert Lerch’s fascination for Coney Island memorabilia, arcade machines and quirky figural folk art dates back to his 1960s childhood in New York City, when he was introduced to the vast archive of pioneer collector, author and historian Frederick Fried.

Mole & Thomas ‘Human Statue of Liberty’ photograph formed by 18,000 officers and enlisted men at Camp Dodge, Des Moines, Iowa. Ross Art Group image.

“I spent most of my youth living with my grandparents on West End Avenue. A kid I used to play with who lived two stories above us was Frederick Fried’s son. I spent endless time in that apartment, which was so full of stuff it was barely navigable. I remember it like it was yesterday,” Lerch recalled. “Being around so many fascinating curiosities – from carnival objects to cigar store figures – had a profound effect on me.”

In fact, the Fried collection not only inspired Lerch to set off on a 40-year quest for the offbeat, it also eventually ended up, in part, in his own personal collection. “When Mr. Fried died, his daughter inherited his collection. I later acquired a portion of his Coney Island archive, which was considered the ultimate of its type, through a person who knew his daughter,” Lerch explained.

Selected highlights from the 75-piece Sideshow exhibition include:

  • Coin-op machines, including “Witch,” a rare 1st-quarter 20th century 3-wheel slot
  • Cast-iron amusement park jester head and four clown shooting gallery targets
  • Three antique carved-wood contortionist figures on pedestals
  • Circa-1920 coin-op baseball trade stimulator, one of perhaps three known
  • Pair of 21in tall cast-iron Coke bottles, 1923, from Atlanta bottling plant’s fence
  • Game that creates figure of pig with successive rolls of dice
  • Rare French carnival knock-down figures
  • Circa-1920 electric trade stimulator of chirping, moving birds in formal wedding attire
  • 17 x 6in salesman’s sample of metal-trimmed glass coffin
  • Circus and other posters, including an original for the Belgian release of the

1932 film “Freaks”

  • Polychrome-painted convex carnival mirror
  • Carousel memorabilia and figures including carved camel
  • Unconventional vending machine that delivers a piece of pre-sealed cake
  • Anatomical aluminum model of pig with hinged opening for view of internal organs

Sideshow – Exhibition and Sale featuring the collection of Dr. Robert M. Lerch (email with other select additions will be held May 2-25 at the Ross Art Group’s gallery, 532 Madison Ave., 4th Floor (entry on 54th Street), New York, NY 10022.

Exhibition hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. May 2nd opening-night hours are 5-8 p.m., and as a

Animated, electric-powered store window display of birds in bridal attire. Ross Art Group image.

special added attraction, several performers from Coney Island USA’s Sideshows by the Seashore will be there at the gallery to entertain, pose for pictures and help raise awareness that Coney Island is back in business following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Dr. Robert Lerch has pledged to donate the sale proceeds from one of his rare Coney Island photographs to the nonprofit Coney Island Museum.

For additional information call 212-223-1525 or email Online:

About The Ross Art Group:

The Ross Art Group was founded 18 years ago by veteran textiles businessman Mickey Ross. His background in the design and creation of printed fabrics inspired Ross to collect vintage posters while traveling throughout Europe. What began as a hobby evolved over time into a thriving retail art gallery. The Ross Art Group’s current inventory of 2,500+ posters may be viewed in its entirety by visiting its full-service gallery at 532 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. (private appointments also available), or via a searchable, fully illustrated online database at

Superb saber-tooth tiger skeleton, massive gold nugget lead ancient fossils, minerals and gems in I.M. Chait Important Natural History Auction, May 4

April 17th, 2013 by

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – The finest known example of a saber-tooth tiger skeleton and a hefty Australian gold nugget are expected to reign over an imposing lineup of ancient fossils, meteorites and mineral specimens in I.M. Chait’s May 4 Important Natural History Auction in Beverly Hills.

Finest and most-complete extant example of a saber-tooth tiger skeleton, 67 inches long, origin White River Badlands, South Dakota. Estimate $250,000-$300,000. I.M. Chait image.

The 67-inch-long tiger skeleton (Lot 326) represents a fearsome predator that once menaced the animal kingdom of South Dakota’s White River Badlands. It heads the zoological portion of the sale with a $250,000-$300,000 estimate.

“The saber-tooth tiger’s reputation precedes him,” said Jake Chait, director of I.M. Chait’s Natural History department. “With one swipe, he could sever the arteries or windpipe of another animal, making it easy prey.”

The tiger skeleton is superbly preserved and 70-80% complete, rendering it in a class of its own. “There isn’t a more complete specimen of this type, either in a museum or private collection, anywhere in the world,” said Chait. “Not only does this skeleton present an extremely rare opportunity for scientific research, it is aesthetically second to none, with incredible 4-inch-long sabers and a beautiful patination that only comes as a result of the natural ageing process.”

An outstanding skeleton from a massive woolly rhinoceros (Lot 325) dates to the Pleistocene Epoch of the Quaternary Period. It is believed that giant woolly rhinos roamed the wilds of Siberia during the last Ice Age and developed their thick coats as a defense against the brutal climate. The impressive skeleton in Chait’s sale measures 177 inches long and 72 inches high, and is, in the truest sense of the word a “museum-class” specimen, having previously been part of the Kashiwagi Museum Collection in Japan. It carries a pre-sale estimate of $90,000-$120,000.

Another exciting auction highlight is the skull of an extremely rare giant dire wolf (Lot 324) from the Rancho La Brea Formation, ex George Lee Collection. Scientifically classified as Canis dirus, the now-extinct dire wolf once inhabited Kern County, California, where tar pits similar to those at the La Brea site in Los Angeles proved a fatal attraction to indigenous beasts. “The tar pits were covered in water and would trap unsuspecting animals who mistook them for benign ponds,” said Chait. “Skeletons of mastodons, mammoths, horses and bison have been found at California’s tar pits, but a dire wolf is an especially rare and desirable find.” The skull offered in the May 4 sale represents the largest end of the spectrum, size wise, for a dire wolf. It measures 12 inches long by 7 inches wide by 5¼ inches high, and is estimated at $60,000-$80,000.

Posed as though navigating the waters near its native Morocco, the skeleton of a marine reptile known as a Mosasaur (Lot 295), Late Cretaceous Period, exhibits an elongated, streamlined body and broad, flexible tail. Considered the closest ancient relative to today’s snakes, it grew to lengths of 10 to 60 feet. The skeleton is a first-class example that measures 59 inches long by 43 inches high. Estimate: $50,000-$60,000.

Lot 296 is a toothy tableau consisting of a Mosasaurus skull with a vividly colored 13¼-inch ammonite positioned in its jaws. The gaping mouth, with its array of spiky upper and lower teeth, provides a stark reminder of why the Mosasaurus species was so widely feared 65 million years ago. The 32-inch-long skull of a reptilian creature many times the size of a modern-day great white shark was “wired for intimidation,” Chait said. The double-fossil display of skull with ammonite could make $30,000-$38,000 at auction.

Other fascinating animal fossils include the rare skull of an ancient South American penguin (Lot 281), est. $2,500-$3,500; a baby Triceratops skull (Lot 311), est. $25,000-$35,000; and the large, powerful-looking tail of a Hadrosaur (Lot 303) in whip-like pose, est. $20,000-$25,000. An extraordinary fossilized Rhamphorhynchus muensteri, or pterodactyl (Lot 312), documents one of the first vertebrates to make the transformation to flight. Wings are clearly present on the form of its hollow-boned, lightweight body captured within a limestone slab. Estimate: $70,000-$80,000.

Many collectors jump at the chance to acquire distinctive parts from prehistoric animals. Several outstanding entries in the upcoming sale would fit the bill nicely, starting with the brow horn of a Triceratops horridus (Lot 306) from the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota. An immense 33 inches in length on an ebonized metal display stand, it is expected to attract a top bid of $10,000-$12,000. A well-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex tooth (Lot 307) is estimated at $10,000-$12,000; while a nicely delineated Raptor claw (Lot 310), 65-68 million years old, could scratch up $2,000-$2,500.

Gold nugget with natural quartz containing 3100g (99.67 ozt) of gold, origin central Victoria, Australia. Estimate $275,000-325,000. I.M. Chait image.

The precious gems section could not have a more regal centerpiece than the exquisite marine-life chess set (Lot 97) designed by gemologist and jewelry designer Sylvia Quispe, Idar-Oberstein, Germany. Truly the crème de la crème of chess sets, its 32 playing pieces replicate sea creatures crafted from rich purple Tanzanian rubies and royal blue Afghan lapis with solid 18K gold. The ruby pieces are mounted on Peruvian pink opal seashell and starfish bases, while those of lapis are raised on quartz. The playing board is, itself, a work of art, with alternating squares of quartz and black obsidian. The set is housed in a handsome mahogany box. Fit for a king – or modern-day kingmaker – this masterpiece of uncompromising quality is estimated at $150,000-$170,000.

Mineral specimens are led by a sensational gold nugget with natural quartz (Lot 23) that was discovered in the Australian state of Victoria. The intense yellow color of the metal denotes an exceptionally high carat content, and its gold content, alone, weighs in at a robust 3100g (99.67 ozt). Exceptional by any standards, it could realize an auction price of $275,000-$325,000.

A premier example of a Canadian iridescent ammonite (Lot 271) from the Bearpaw Formation, Southern Alberta, Canada is a biogenic gemstone that would top many a collector’s wish list, this 17in ammonite gleams with electrifying colors and could fetch $38,000-$45,000 at auction. Another mineral highlight is a large, complete meteorite (Lot 220) from the famous fall at Campo del Cielo, Argentina. Weighing approximately 78.4kg, it is estimated at $18,000-$22,000.

Among the more curious items on offer are an ancient mummified foot from Middle Egypt (Lot 200), est. $5,000-$7,000; and a collection of naturally colored and fossilized dung (Lot 300) from the Wilkes Formation in Washington state. Consisting of five excellent dung specimens ranging in color from gray and woody brown to burnt umber, deep purple and red, the group lot is entered with expectations of making $2,500-$3,500.

From big cats to woolly rhinos, I.M. Chait’s 326-lot May 4 auction has the prehistoric category amply covered with an expertly cataloged selection of fossilized skeletons and skulls. With the addition of pulse-quickening minerals, gems and several natural oddities for good measure, it’s shaping up to be an event that will fascinate connoisseurs and evolving collectors, alike.

I.M. Chait’s Important Natural History Auction will take place at the Chait gallery on Saturday, May 4, commencing at 1 p.m. Pacific Time. The gallery is located at 9330 Civic Center Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through and

For additional information, call 1-800-775-5020 or 310-285-0182; or e-mail Visit the company online at

1930s collection of large-scale trains joins Sterling Associates’ April 24 auction lineup of antiques, Asian and other fine & decorative art

April 15th, 2013 by

CLOSTER, N.J. – Since the beginning of commercial American railroading, trains have had a significant presence in New Jersey. Since the 1830s, hundreds of now-defunct companies operated on rail lines within the Garden State, although their landmark terminals are now long gone or, in some fortunate cases, protected as historic places. However, few in New Jersey knew of the existence of one bustling railway hub located in the city of Maywood in the 1930s and ’40s. It operated behind closed doors in the home of the late Ray Hoelz, whose “railway yard” was built to accommodate a superb collection of oversize scale-model trains.

GE model train locomotive and tender manufactured by Icken. Ray Hoelz estate collection. Sterling Associates image.

On Wednesday, April 24, Ray Hoelz’s remarkable assemblage of antique and pre-World War II trains, which he began collecting in 1936, will make its public debut as the headliner in Sterling Associates’ Spring Auction.

“This is an exceptional estate collection, unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Sterling Associates’ owner, Steven D’Atri. “Although Ray Hoelz was an accountant and auditor by profession, he came from a family with close ties to the railroad. His father worked for the Erie Railroad, so that early exposure to trains undoubtedly inspired his interest in collecting toy versions of them. His emphasis seems to have been on acquiring very large, extremely well-detailed trains, which is what collectors love.” All pieces from the collection will be auctioned individually.

The collection consists of more than 60 “third rail” train engines and cars that were either commissioned, purchased, or hand-built by Ray Hoelz. All are extremely realistic, with even greater detail than one would see on expensive antique trains, D’Atri said.

“These are big trains. The Pullman cars are almost two feet long, and some have wooden floors. Even the seats and people in the cars are minutely detailed. The freight cars have the same sort of writing and brand logos you’d see on real trains,” D’Atri continued.

Most of the manufactured or custom-made trains were produced in the 1930s by such firms as Icken, Lobaugh, Westbrook and Miniature Locomotive Company. The majority are of metal, while a few were crafted of wood. The engines, chemical cars and many of the components were expertly machined from brass and steel.

Fine, decorative and Asian art, as well as estate jewelry and other antiques comprise the greater portion of the 500-lot auction. The 50-lot jewelry section is led by a sparkling 2-3/4 carat GIA-certified diamond and platinum engagement ring with matching wedding band. It is followed by various other jewelry designs and forms, mostly gold.

A wonderful array of bronzes includes 19th-century through contemporary works. Highlighting the group are a silvered Russian bronze after Lanceray titled “Don Cossacks Crossing the Balkans,” and a large hunting dog bronze by Auguste-Nicolas Cain (French, 1821-1894). The names of the dogs – Caron and Pompier – are branded in the ground. Also on offer is a well-executed life-size bronze torso by Greg Wyatt.

Among the paintings chosen for the sale are a George Morland (British, 1762-1804) oil-on-canvas winter landscape with horses, and an Italian masterpiece depicting the interior of a church with people. Both artworks are of “exceptional quality,” D’Atri said.

Sterling Associates is known for its ability to source fresh-to-market Asian art and antiques. The April 24 auction includes a varied selection of fresh works from an Asian collector in New Jersey who trusted his well-cultivated eye and always bought wisely. The consignment includes porcelains, including a pair of circa-1750 Chinese Qianlong famille rose vases, and a Chinese painting of a foggy mountain scape with calligraphy and seals on woven paper laid to silk.

An eclectic grouping of 19th- and 20th-century lighting and accessories will cross the auction block, as will a nicely blended offering of furniture from multiple sources. A top furniture piece is an American Renaissance Revival walnut cabinet attributed to Herter.

After Evgeny Alexandrovich Lanceray, Russian (1848-1886), ‘Don Cossacks Crossing The Balkans,’ silver over bronze. Sterling Associates image.

Diversity is evident in the assortment of items Stephen D’Atri has selected for his Spring Auction. At the fine-art end of the collecting spectrum there is an 1870s connoisseur’s book, French, with exquisitely engraved images and titled “Le Tresor Artistique de la Musee National de Louvre et Galerie d’Apollon,” Volume I. “A few years ago, Sotheby’s sold a similar book for $7,000-$8,000,” said D’Atri. “What makes this book especially unusual is its size – it’s two feet by 18 inches and probably 4 inches thick.”

On the vintage collectibles side, there are two Wurlitzer 1050 “bubbler” jukeboxes, and for the scientifically inclined, there’s an 1850s daguerreotype lens made by C.C. Harrison. It has a large brass cylinder encasing the lens and is marked with a serial number and the manufacturer’s name. “Photographic antiques are hot at the moment, and we already have multiple absentee bids on it. I think this lens is going to fly,” D’Atri said.

Sterling Associates’ Spring Auction will be held on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, starting at 5 p.m. Eastern Time. It is structured as a hybrid auction in which previewing is available at the physical gallery, but all bidding is exclusively absentee, by phone or live via the Internet through Artfact or LiveAuctioneers. The sale will be run exactly like a live auction, but without a live audience.

Gallery preview times are 10-5 on April 19 and 20; 10-7 on April 23, and 10-3 on auction day. The gallery is located at 70 Herbert Ave., Closter, NJ 07624. Inquiries: call 201-768-1140 or e-mail Visit Sterling Associates online at View the fully illustrated catalog at or

Jeanne Bertoia’s private doorstop collection to be featured at 23rd Street Armory Antiques Show, April 12-14 in Philadelphia

April 4th, 2013 by

PHILADELPHIA – Visitors entering Barn Star Productions’ 23rd Street Armory Antiques Show, April 12-14 at the First Troop Armory in historic downtown Philadelphia, will be greeted by a special exhibition titled “Opening Doors: The Private Doorstop Collection of Jeanne Bertoia.”

Popeye Doorstop

Doorstop expert Jeanne Bertoia with a rare figural cast-iron Popeye doorstop made by Hubley. Image courtesy of Jeanne Bertoia.

Jeanne Bertoia is a renowned expert on the subject of cast-iron figural doorstops and authored the groundbreaking reference book titled Doorstops – Identifications & Values. Over the past 35 years, she has bought, sold and collected some of the finest known antique and vintage doorstops. Aspects of her personal collection will be displayed in the armory foyer throughout the popular three-day antique show that many consider the opener for Philadelphia Antiques Week.

Approximately 75 doorstops have been chosen for the exhibit. Most are in mint or near-mint condition. Among the many rarities are a Littco Halloween Girl, large-size animal figurals by Bradley & Hubbard (including Turkey, Heron, Rabbit, Rooster), the complete Art Deco series designed by Fish, and many other favorites personally selected by Jeanne Bertoia for inclusion in the colorful display.


“I have known the armory show’s promoter, Frank Gaglio, for many years. He always produces a beautiful show, so I was especially pleased when he called up and asked if I would like to display pieces from my collection this year,” said Bertoia.

Show hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 12 and 13; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 14. The venue is located at 22 S. 23rd Street between Market and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, Pa.

For additional information, log on to