It was during the Case Antiques Auction on January 25th, 2014, that I saw these beautiful silver sauce boats. But I had no idea of their worth. The auction interested me mainly because friends of mine had submitted a Catherine Wiley painting to go up for bid to fund an exhibit at our local Ijams Nature Center. (Click here to read.)
The catalog description read as follows: Pair of 18th century American silver sauce boats or butter boats, mark of Lewis Fueter (New York, (1746-1784). Crafted in the Rococo style, each sauceboat has a scalloped rim, broad, extended spout, and cast double-scrolled handle with acanthus leaf thumbgrip, and rests on three cabriole legs with stylized shell patterns at each knee and triple pad feet supports. Matching stylized cypher monograms on both. Each marked on underside, “Fueter” (see matching circa 1770 mark pictured in Ensko’s American Silversmith’s and Their Marks , p. 265). 3-7/8″ H x 6- 3/4″L x 3- 7/8″ width. 16 oz troy.
When they came up for auction as Lot 274 with an estimated value of $3,000, my friends and I were surprised when the bidding reached $8,000, $9,000, $10,000 rather quickly. And right behind us, we heard a young man gasping, Agghhh! Ugghh! at every bidding increment. We looked back at the man (turning pale at the exorbitant bidding), and asked, Are you all right? He leaned forward and sheepishly whispered, Those are my sauce boats!
Well, what a treasure these were turning out to be as the bidding reached $20,000, then $25,000, then $30,000. I was afraid the man would faint. When the auctioneer gaveled down at $37,000, we all gasped and wondered how the original estimate could have been so low. And then we wondered what made these pretty-but-nothing-special-to-the-naked-eye so extraordinary. I walked to the case where purchased items were stored until pick-up and noted the silver mark on the bottom. One of the assistants frankly admitted, We may have underestimated this one.
Then I walked back to my seat. The owner (by now, he was the previous owner) of the sauce boats had gone to get iced tea, yet I dare say he might have taken to strong drink had the opportunity presented itself! His friend then leaned over and whispered to me, You have no idea of the whole story. He bought them in a box lot in a yard sale in Morristown, Tennessee, for only $25.00!
Quite the treasure indeed, I thought.
For more entries in the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure, click here.
(To access the information on the Lewis Fueter silver sauce boats, click here. The final price of $43,290 quoted on the site includes the buyer’s premium.)
2240 Sutherland Avenue, Suite 101
Knoxville, TN 37919