Another Day, Another Tag Sale
Usually, if I haven’t produced a blog post before Thursday, I wake up early and start writing. This morning, I awakened earlier than usual, at about 5 a.m., but instead of sitting at my desk, I drove out to a tag sale on Long Island. Years ago, I did this regularly, but not so much any more. I was lured this time by a description that read “rare Herman Miller, Nelson, Rohde,” including a 4634L end table. I didn’t know offhand what a 4634 end table looked like, but the 46 prefix denotes 1946, right around the time Gilbert Rohde died and George Nelson succeeded him. I was fairly certain what the dining set would look like, and approximately what the bedroom set would look like, and I was pretty sure the condition would not be good, as these mid-priced, veneered pieces tended not to hold up well.
The address of the sale in New Hyde Park implied a relatively modest house on a well-maintained block, so not tons of stuff, but maybe a well-edited selection. I was thrown a bit by the reference to a Silas Seandel volcano table, since this could be contemporary, and did not fit with the picture of forties furniture in its original venue.
In all, I was intrigued by the end table, and the mystery of the Seandel table, and the ad was enough to get me out of my apartment and into my van at 5:30, and onto the modest but well-maintained residential block it turned out to be by 6 a.m. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, I picked up number 17 from the dealer handing out numbers, the first ten numbers, and pick of the litter, being reserved for friends and paying business associates. Still, this being a three-day sale, I figured the prices would be fairly high, and I’d get a shot at something.
As it turned out, I was right about the dining set and the bedroom pieces. The chests of drawers were simple but nice Rohde, stripped down deco, in rough condition, and they sold quickly, though for less than the list price, to a New York dealer who would refinish them before showing them. The dining set, just what I pictured, was actually in pretty good condition, but was way over-priced, and it did not sell while I was there. The 4634 end table, a nice piece indeed, with metal legs and a laminate top, was also in rugged condition, but sold right away to the same New York dealer.
This left me with the Silas Seandel table. Seandel is a New York artisan, who has been producing unique sculptured metal furniture and metal sculptures since 1963. Still active, his vintage work has been turning up at top auctions such as Rago, Wright, and Sotheby’s, and at galleries such as Todd Merrill. I can’t say I’ve been his biggest fan—I haven’t—but the volcano table with freeform plate glass top I was looking at was an impressive tour-de-force of welded, burnished and heat-hammered metal, a sort of topographical, multi- tiered, lava-encrusted map. I was told the table dated from 1974, which made sense in relation to the 70’s sofa, rugs, and ceramics in the house. So my suspicions were unfounded: everything in the house was original to the house, down to the deep grooves in the rug under the Seandel table.
Despite a relatively high price tag, I bought the Seandel table after a little haggling, and was rewarded for my faith and intuition by finding a signature and date on the base: “Silas Seandel, 1974”. For good measure, I also found a small Murano vase with murrine, possibly Seguso, a Just Andersen pewter budvase, and a wooden nutcracker carved as a fish, all for the price of an MTA toll. I see more tag sales in my future.
Photos by Larry Weinberg.