Only about 10 percent of items in the sale have four-figure presale estimates, including a Nakashima trestle dining table made in the 1960s from black walnut and rosewood that should bring $4,500 to $5,000. The others mostly will sell for three figures or less, such as a brass coal scuttle made around 1900 that has a presale estimate of $75 to $100 and a Lane pine occasional table with a presale estimate of $20 to $40.
The sale's modest prices are a major incentive for auction newcomers to learn about the fields that have become Rago specialties, from arts and crafts furniture, including about two dozen lots of Stickley, to art pottery, including Grueby, Moorcroft, and Rookwood.
In some cases, the sale is kind of a "rediscovery" auction, with works by artists and manufacturers more familiar 50 years ago than today. A bronze patinated metal desk lamp with a "cobra" neck that is expected to bring $500 to $700, for instance, was designed by Norman Bel Geddes.
There is a Baker coffee table (presale estimate $300 to $400) and, a couple of lots later, eight Baker catalogs plus brochures dating to around 1971 (presale estimate $100 to $200). Another once-popular piece of furniture for sale is a 1990s "marshmallow" sofa dating to the 1990s and designed after the original made in 1956 by George Nelson ($600 to $800).
And there is a pair of brass and iron andirons ($300 to $500) made by Donald Deskey, a modernist designer of the 1930s and '40s perhaps best known for another desk lamp, one with its lamp and shade suspended from a semicircular mount. Recently, it was reproduced by the U.S. Postal Service on one of a series of first-class stamps.
To be sure, the auction does offer some genuine discoveries - designs, designers, artists, and locales of varying degrees of obscurity. France and Scandinavia, for instance, are well-known hubs of art deco and modern design, exemplified by a lounge chair made in Finland in the 1960s using wool and gel-coated fiberglass that Rago expects to sell for $600 to $800.
Less common is Dutch art deco. Rago is offering more than half a dozen lots of Dutch art deco furniture, including a single lot of two pieces from around 1920 that used Macassar ebony, a display cabinet, and a lift-top sewing cabinet ($300 to $500).
Another comparatively obscure source in the auction is Roosevelt, N.J., the Monmouth County community that was established in the Depression as a cooperative farming and manufacturing project but later became something of an artists' colony that included Ben Shahn. The auction features a dozen lots of prints, lithographs, and other artwork from the collection of Shahn's wife, Bernarda Bryson Shahn; one lot includes more than 15 prints signed and numbered by her husband ($800 to $1,200).
Also for sale are several metal sculptures by, or in the style of, "C Jere." C Jere is a fictitious artist created in the late 1950s by two real artists, Curtis Freiler and Jerry Fels, founders of Artisan House, who were known for their metal wall sculptures. Typical of those in the auction is a signed C Jere brass and copper seaside village ($450 to $650).
Artwork in the auction includes a 20th-century Ecuadoran landscape with a volcano, purportedly once owned by Ecuador's president Gonzalo Segundo Cordova y Rivera ($400 to $600); a single lot of five water-washed color lithographs from John James Audubon's The Birds of America ($300 to $500); a chromolithograph copy of the famed Maxfield Parrish painting Day Break ($200 to $300); and a piece of illustration art by Michael Ramus featuring an ad for Saratoga cigarettes ($700 to $900).
Other lots of interest include a pair of untitled Alexander Calder lithographs ($700 to $900); an abstract bronze door handle made in 1994 by Albert Paley ($350 to $550); a stoneware figure done in the 1950s by Betty Davenport Ford titled Bobcat on Watch ($500 to $700); a miniature version of Pedro Friederberg's well-known chair in the shape of an outstretched palm, only 3 by 4 ½ by 6 inches in size ($800 to $1,000); and a single lot of three Roy Lichtenstein lithographs, As I Opened Fire ($500 to $700).
The auction also offers architectural elements; garden statuary, including a contemporary white metal fountain of a child holding a fish ($100 to $200); folk art; ethnic art; and a single lot of five pieces of taxidermy - three elephant footstools, an elephant umbrella stand, and a decorative elephant trunk ($600 to $800).
Previews are from noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 27 to Aug. 30 and noon to 7 p.m. Aug. 31. For further information, call 609-397-9374.
Contact David Iams at email@example.com.