Field Trip: Salmagundi Club

Value (2015) | $5,300 Auction$12,400 Auction
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HOST: New York City is a hotspot for art today, but during the second half of the 19th century, Paris was the center of the art world. In New York, the 10th Street studios had been among the earliest spaces created specifically for artists, and places like the Brooklyn Institute and the Metropolitan Museum of Art helped elevate the city's art stature. In 1871, the Salmagundi Club began when a group of art students formed a sketch class to improve their skills. The club's membership has included important American artists such as William Merritt Chase, Thomas Moran and Louis Comfort Tiffany.

APPRAISER:
The walls here at Salmagundi are covered with the history of American art... HOST: Nicholas Dawes was excited to show off some one-of-a-kind mementos from the art club's past: hand-decorated beer mugs.

APPRAISER:
Welcome to the Salmagundi Club, the oldest arts club in New York City. We're in the library, which is perhaps my favorite room in Salmagundi Club. It looks pretty much the way it did 100 years ago. I've chosen to talk about one of my favorite aspects of the club: these beer mugs. A century ago, the members would have their own beer mug that they kept in the bar, and a tradition began in 1899 of painting the beer mugs and then offering them once a year at an auction that raised money to benefit specifically the library. It was called the library dinner. The one closest to you is 1905 by Corwin Knapp Linson, and it's very much in the style of the day, kind of in the taste of Dutch Delft, which was popular. In the center, we have Francis Luis Mora, who's known for a kind of romantic landscape style. That's from 1907. And then closest to me, it's William Fair Kline, who also was a landscape painter, and this one was sold in 1917. And the dinner that year was in honor of one of the founding members, William Henry Shelton, and his great friend J. Sanford Saltus, who was a very wealthy New York philanthropist and great benefactor of the club. At the auction, he paid $1,001. HOST: And would that be what we would consider an escalated cost for a mug at an auction at that time?

APPRAISER:
We would call that a triumph in the auction business. HOST: Yes.

APPRAISER:
This mug still holds the record for the most ever spent at Salmagundi on a mug. Typically, they would sell 24 mugs in total, and the total of the sale might be less than $500. HOST: These as collectibles come on the market, I would assume, there are so many, about 500 are created over the time that we talked about. What would be the value today?

APPRAISER:
When they come up at auction, of course, the value depends on who painted it and what the subject is. There were some very notable members of the club. There are mugs by Thomas Moran, the great landscape painter. There are mugs by a sort of list of the great American painters. And we feel that the values of those could certainly be well over $5,000 and perhaps over $10,000. But the typical mug is painted by less well-known American artists, and they tend to sell on the auction market for anything from the low hundreds, $300 or $400, up to about $2,000. All of these on the table would certainly fall into that range. HOST: However, at one point, this 1917 mug was worth $1,001 in 1917 dollars, so that might have been the height of that one's value, wouldn't you think?

APPRAISER:
I think so. I think if it came up at auction today, if Saltus wasn't present or someone like him, it would probably sell for a little less than that in a public auction. HOST: Well, it's right where it needs to be today, and I appreciate you sharing your club with us. Thank you.

APPRAISER:
You're very welcome. Thank you.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Heritage Auctions
Dallas, TX
Appraised value (2015)
$5,300 Auction$12,400 Auction
Event
New York, NY (August 09, 2014)

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