Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Estate Sale": Newport

Two days ago, as I was driving to my temporary digs after work, a prominently posted white sign with black lettering caught my eye.

ESTATE SALE! Antiques! Military! Tomorrow!

Oh, my.

My mouth watering, I did a drive-by after dinner so I would be familiar with the neighborhood the following morning. The house looked a little shabby. White shingles, covered in green moss (not of the decorative variety). But I decided it was worth the short drive. You never know what you may find, and I was hoping for a good deal after coming home from Brimfield nearly empty-handed.

The sale was scheduled to open at 7:30AM. I debated whether I should stand around at 5AM, but I decided to take my chances since I needed to get enough sleep. And so, instead of reading the news yesterday morning before working, I hopped into my still dew-covered car and headed back to the estate sale house.

As I pulled up to the block I had visited the previous night, I spied two women putting an old-looking folding stool into their trunk, which angered me since it was prior to the time the sale was to open. As I approached the house, I was somewhat confused. No line, no numbers, and the house was opened before the advertised sale time. Where was the organized chaos to which I was accustomed in northern Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania? There are ground rules for such sales, but apparently no one in Newport adheres to them. Don't get me wrong, I hate standing in line for hours, but at least it gives me a chance to size-up the competition. I like to identify the real pickers ahead of time so I can scuttle in front of them.

Undeterred, I walked up the driveway. The front door and the garage were wide open. A grumbly woman emerged.

"Is this the location of the estate sale," I asked cheerily.

"Yeah...if you can call it that," she responded. "It's mostly junk."

Perfect, I thought.

Sure enough, the treasures were few and far between. The clientele appeared to be comprised mostly of middle class Newporters, and no one looked too crazed. As I creeped into the house, I walked past a chair busting at the seat, some veteran's WWII (?) gear and memorabilia, and a lot of glass whatnots from the twentieth century. Along a wall in the living room, a long table displayed most of the small goods. I spied two framed tintypes immediately. (I wrote about tintypes before. See this post and this post.) I picked up one full plate (about 6.5" by 8.5") tintype portrait of a man:

and was pleased to see what may be the original photographer's mark on the back. I do not have access to my usual library this summer, but a friend suggested that this gentleman's costume suggests that the photo dates to the 1850s or 1860s. I could not find too much information online about the photographer, but one web site noted that extant photographic images by the firm date from the 1870s-1880s. Of course, I cannot be sure that the Prior brothers produced this image just because their mark is on the back of the frame. Perhaps Tyler will take this apart later to see if he can find additional clues as to its origins.

I put it down, and picked-up an older woman nearby:

She came in a frame similar to that of the man, but the glass is broken. Because of that, I removed the full plate tintype and photographed it outside the frame. Her costume suggests that tintype may date to the 1860s. Is she wearing a wig?

As I examined the older woman, a fellow picker grabbed the man. I panicked, realizing that I should not have put him down (first rule of picking: never put anything down until you are certain you will not buy it!). For a few seconds, I cursed myself as she considered the find. Finally, she set the man back down on the table. I swiftly snagged him and cradled him--dirt, mold, and all--in my arms.

Unlike sales I have attended back home, nothing was priced (except a few Hummels--I suppose they have a price guide in their library).

"Can you tell me how much you would like for these please?" I asked the thin and pleasant woman who seemed to be running the sale with her husband and her teenage son.

I figured they couldn't be asking more than $20/each and was pleasantly surprised to learn that they were only $10/each.

"Great!" I said. I asked her to set them aside for me as I looked around once more.

Since the tintypes were a mere $20 investment, I decided to scoop-up a fading stereo view ($1) as well.

The underside reads "A.J. Davis/Slaughter House." It also bears the stamp "ALDEN PHOTO CO./503 WASHINGTON ST/BOSTON." Some information floating around the internet indicates that the Alden Photo Co. was in operation in the 1870s and 1880s.

At these prices, there was no reason to be too particular.

After the tag sale manager removed the spider nest from one of the frames, I paid and escaped with my treasures, pleased that, if anything, I got a deal.

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