The Jim Norman Annual Labor Day Antique Auction in Hartselle, Alabama was packed with people and a large collection of early American furniture and accessories. The highlight of the auction was a period two piece cherry Tennessee Jackson Press attributed to Maury County, Tennessee. Everything was original on the piece except the brass replacement handles on the center drawer and the unusual two side candle drawers. It brought the highest bid of the day, at $7,500, with no buyers premium at this auction. Most of the fine southern pieces came from the estate of life long Decatur residents, Lucille and Cecil McMillan.
There were several other featured furniture pieces from this collection. My favorite piece was the early (c 1800) pine two part corner cabinet with its original rat tail hinges, two six panel glass doors, with 3 drawers and single paneled door on the bottom section. The hammer price was $2250. A period Tennessee sugar chest of cherry and poplar brought $2,800. Another featured piece was a tall nine drawer cherry chest (c1800) with the characteristics of a Virginia chest which brought $4750. Again this piece had brass replacement handles. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century many pieces had the original wooden knobs replaced with the more fashionable for the times, brass handles.
An early 5-drawer cherry Tennessee chest with inlay on the posts and southern yellow pine on the back only brought $1300 because the legs had been lowered, drastically affecting its value. There was a period Chippendale bureau desk with fitted interior and four graduated doors in immaculate condition which fetched $1700. A surprise to me, was a period step back cupboard with three shelves which only garnered a $1000 bid coming late in the auction. The green paint that I call “Dr Pepper green” was not original, also lowering the bid price. There was a set of modern D.R. Dimes Windsor chairs that brought $4,100. Something happened during the bidding on these chairs that I had never seen before in my 30 years of attending antique auctions. I have heard many auctioneers jokingly say something like, “ Don’t worry, I will stop you if you are paying too much.” Jim Norman actually did this when the auction bid reached $3,600. He stopped the auctioneer and said “You have paid enough for these chairs.” He explained that his first obligation was to the consignee to get the most he could, but he also had an obligation to the people in attendance. You can see from the realized price that the bidders didn’t listen, bidding another $500 after his warning.
Beside the large pieces of furniture, there were several nice accent pieces. Among these was a fine three legged round table with round top and bronze mounts on the supports made by Paine Furniture of Boston which brought $600. A period child’s pull sleigh with original red paint brought $1100.
The featured collectibles were a large collection of butter molds , at least 50 pieces, and also many butter prints. Because there were so many pieces in this collection, only a couple were sold by themselves. One was a cow butter mold bringing $170. Then the large collection was offered with high bidder getting their choice. The high bid was $190 and there were seven of the molds taken at this price. A couple of these featured a swan and a wheat sheath. The next bid went for $130 when choice was again offered and three were taken. They kept offering them at choice until all were taken with the lowest bid being $55.
With all of the high prices in sterling silver, a 12 place setting of Towle Sterling flatware in the El Grande pattern brought $4000. It included at least six serving pieces. Some of the less expensive but interesting items included an early needlework American flag with 36 stars that brought $375. Two mason jars in unusual apple green color brought $80. An 1860 coverlet with bright red and blue designs was bought for $350. There was a cute fitted child’s pine trunk that went for $80.
Besides the great selection of furniture and collectibles, there was some good food that kept everyone satisfied. It was a rainy day and no one wanted to leave to get something to eat. The room was full and the crowd seemed very knowledgeable, knowing the values of the good pieces.
Jim Norman Auctions is located at 101 Main Street East, Hartselle, Alabama, 35640. Their phone numbers are (256) 751-1712 and (256) 345-1154. The auctioneers were Larry Conley and Ray Demonia. It recently celebrated their 42nd year in the antique auction business. You can find them on the web at www.auctionzip.com.