Alderfer's, my local auction house here in Pennsylvania, recently offered four important daguerreotypes by William Mason, which depicted Philadelphia outdoor scenes from the Chestnut Street area and were estimated at a ridiculously low $4,000-6,000 and $9,000-11,000 each. There were three half plates and one quarter plate in the group.
In typical fashion for this house, they neglected to contact their one potential local bidder, namely me (I am only on the auction house's regular notification list for photography and have been one of their biggest buyers of such material, as well as Bucks county paintings). I found out about the sale the very next day as several people contacted me.
Suffice to say, the bidding made mince meat of the pathetic estimates.
"We knew there was going to be some excitement," understated Alderfer's after the sale.
The first lot, a view of Chestnut Street and Second Street sold at more than ten times the low estimate for $46,000. A view of Chestnut Street with houses and storefronts went for $48,875. The North side of Chestnut Street, depicting shops, realized $43,125, and another view of Chestnut Street shops sold at $46,000. The total for the four lots was $184,000. Prices included the 15% buyer's premium.
The winners? Reportedly, Keith Davis of Hallmark Cards and daguerreotype dealer Michael Lehr.