Review by Madelia Hickman Ring
ALBANY, N.Y. – A single-owner sale – that’s auction house jargon for just one seller – offers the chance to see the breadth and depth of one focused collection. Often amassed over a lifetime, it gives viewers insights into the passions of the individual or family and can provide a unique buying opportunity for like-minded collectors.
On Saturday, August 28, Appraisers Roadshow founder Robert “Bob” Meringolo, who partnered with Albany Heirloom Estates and Mooney’s Auction, marched nearly 350 lots from the estate collection of Dr Hans Toch across the block. With all but ten lots finding new homes, the sale had a very respectable sell-through rate of 97 percent.
Meringolo was realistic when we caught up to him after the sale. “The sale was reflective of exactly what and where the market is today. The good things brought good prices; things that have seen better days struggled a bit. It’s disappointing that Americana is not what it used to be. I was interested to see increased interest and improved strength in the market for Republic period Chinese ceramics. I was also very pleased with the internet platform and global reach we had through LiveAuctioneers.” He noted they had about 2,600 registered bidders for the sale, with inquiries “from all over.” That interest translated into buyers from five or six international countries.
“I did know him,” Meringolo commented, saying that he had met Toch years before when he had a gallery in Albany. “We sold about one-quarter of what was in his house; we’re working out how and when to sell the rest of it. He collected and collected; in 40 years I’ve never seen so much stuff in one house. Some of his friends and colleagues bought some things – some of the Koci paintings, and some of his stoneware, too.”
Toch made a name for himself in several ways, among them being a member of the founding faculty at the School of Criminal Justice at the SUNY Albany. Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1930, Toch escaped the Holocaust by emigrating first to Cuba, then to the United States, where he attended Brooklyn College as an undergraduate. He earned his PhD in psychology at Princeton University in 1955 and served in the US Navy. SUNY Albany’s criminal justice program was the first to confer a doctorate in the field and Toch taught there until his retirement in 2008.
He penned more than 30 books and won the August Vollmer Award from the American Society of Criminology in 2001; in 2005, the International Society of Criminology awarded him the Prix DeGreff award. A memorial notice posted online by SUNY Albany remembered Toch as “an obsessional and expert collector of antiques and art, (who) enjoyed nothing more than death-defying drives (automotive skills were not among his strengths) to remote, country antique stores to browse for some Shaker furniture or porcelain dogs and have a good-naturedly haggle with the owner over ‘extortionate’ prices.”
Based on the collection as Meringolo offered it, Toch’s passions were eclectic and varied, but he seemed to have had an eye for Asian works that bidders particularly responded to. Leading the sale was a colored woodblock print by Japanese artist Kawase Hasui that sold for $10,440 to a buyer bidding online. The print, done in 1925, depicted the Zojo Temple at Shiba and was from Hasui’s “Twenty Views of Tokyo” series. Matted and framed, it measured 14¼ by 10 inches. Hiroshi Yoshida’s woodblock print of Niagara Falls was a favorite among upstate New York bidders and it topped off at $960. A more violent woodblock scene of one man stabbing another finished at $450.
A group of four antique Chinese porcelain snuff bottles, in various forms but largely with blue and white decoration, brought $2,040. The sheer number of Yixing teapots and tea caddies in the sale – a total of 40 – would suggest another passion, with prices ranging from $12 to $1,080 for a lobed example with character writing on the sides and a foo dog perched on its lid. Toch’s other Asian ceramics also included Guangxu painted bowls, Sumida Gawa pottery, famille rose, famille verte and Imari.
Americana was another of Toch’s passions. The first lot in the sale was a miniature tiger maple blanket chest or salesman’s sample that bore the brand “J.R. Courtney Penn” across the back edge of the lid. It had been used in much of the presale advertising for the auction and realized $1,020 from a buyer in Boston bidding on the phone. A red-painted primitive cupboard, cataloged as both Hepplewhite and Shaker no doubt because of its clean lines, was estimated to have been made in 1810 and closed out at $900. A stack of four oval lidded Shaker boxes made $390, the same price realized by a #7 Shaker rocking armchair.
Cobalt-decorated stoneware was in plentiful supply, with many pieces made in New York State. The group was led at $780 by a 2-gallon jug made by LW Edwards & Co., of Newburgh; two West Troy jugs, offered together, finished at $510, just ahead of a New York Stoneware Co., Fort Edward, N.Y., 2-gallon crock with bird decoration that flew to $480.
Bidders herded a painting of sheep grazing in a field by Charles T. Phelan (American, b 1840) to $3,480, the second highest price in the sale. The artist trained with Frederick Rondel (1826-1892) and is perhaps best known as one of Winslow Homer’s teachers. Landscapes were among Phelan’s specialties and the 17-by-13-inch example was considered a good one. An online buyer had the winning bid. Following the theme of sheep paintings was an example of a portrait of a ram by G.C. Davidson that went out for $660.
Toch apparently liked the work of Czechoslovakian Californian painter Frank Koci (1904-1983) and had acquired numerous examples of his works when he lived in San Francisco. The sale offered eight examples, most notably an oil on board portrait of a nude woman that sold for $330. All of the rest of Koci’s works sold from $24 to $300. Meringolo said that Toch’s estate had about 20 additional works by Koci that would be offered at a later time.
Quilts were the primary focus of Toch’s textile collecting. Eleven examples, offered in eight lots, ranged in prices from $23 for a quilt top with colored blocks of ladies with sunbonnets and parasols, to $546 for an example with diagonal rows of roses.
All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
The sale of the remainder of Toch’s estate will be announced as it is determined.
For more information, Robert Meringolo at 518-937-4976.