Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Collection of Thomas A. Gray

Auction: March 29, 2010  10:00 A.M. Salem Academy and College Fine Arts Center * 601 Church Street, Winston-Salem,
North Carolina 27101 

This important Auction represents a fraction of Tom Gray's collection after, literally, 52 years of accumulation--he started at age 8, but doesn't want you to do the Math.

Lot # 0518, Antique R.J. Reynolds toy tobacco truck, cast metal, aluminum, and wood, given to Thomas Gray by his grandfather in 1952

A great deal of his family collection will always represent their generous donations to The Museum of South Eastern Decorative Arts, and The Toy Museum in Old Salem, a working historical museum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This pastoral setting, and scholarly locale—has been Tom’s life work.

Lot # 0229, Camel pull toy, felted wool, and wood with metal wheels, Sonneberg area, Germany, c. 1870.

The collection is largely American, from New England, Pennsylvania and the Southern U.S.  (1630-1830), and will sell significantly over high estimates, as there are many rare, documented, and coveted collectibles. Major collectors and museums will be bidding, so it will be fantastic fun for Winston-Salem to witness avid bidders competing to obtain the long standing oeuvre of a beloved connoisseur.  

Lot # 0145, Chippendale desk and bookcase, cherry with pine secondary, Colchester area, Connecticut, c. 1785-1795

This Colchester Connecticut Chippendale desk and bookcase is highly desirable, according to Tom, as it retains most of its original finish. We asked him why he had left the light cleaning to the lower desk, and his decision was based on the fact that the previous owners had maintained it in that condition for the past 100 years, adding to the unique history. The # 1 priority for collectors is to ferret out the best examples within their genre with original finish and minimal repairs. 

Lot # 0253, NC Chippendale cellaret, walnut with yellow pine secondary, single-board walnut top with astragal line inlay, attributed to Micajah Wilkes, c. 1780-1795

A cellaret is a moveable bar, with compartments for holding bottles of wine and other spirits.  Cellarets were constructed with sturdy, yet decorative, locks, implying the underlying value of its contents.

Lot # 0286, Oak leaf tin sconce, York County, Pennsylvania, 19th century

The "light devices" collection, the best private collection of its kind in the world, consists of several tole and tin, black finish lanterns, chandeliers, and sconces, dating mostly from the 19th century.

Lot # 0102, Westerwald “GR” jug, commemorating King George, German, 1730

The German salt-ware, royal commemorative jugs took Tom 35 years to assemble, and are very rare--ranging from 1690-1703, created for the British market.

Lot # 0029, Jeremiah Theus portrait “Amarinthia Elliott”, Charleston, South Carolina 1740

On a fun note, this portrait of a very homely girl, was purchased from Jim Williams, the Savannah antiques dealer (made even more famous by John Berendt in his novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) was sold to Tom from his prison “office.” We hate to be hard on a 7 year old, but would not have paid $21,000.00 to look at that "only a Mother could love" painting. However she's going off at $30,000.  Her little brother is hanging in The Gibbs Museum in Charleston. Tom said: “They wanted her and I wanted him”—possibly they will be reunited.  


  1. John Berendt commented via e-mail the following:
    I love your blog and I'm crazy about that ugly little girl. I remember sitting in Jim's living room and looking at the one Henrietta Johnston pastel he had left (out of nine before he had to raise money for his defense.) It was of a little boy, not as ugly as this Jeremiah Theus girl, but important too.


  2. Really enjoyed going through all your posts. The upstate NY house is great. Did you happen to see the post about the secretary I bought - would love to hear your comments on it.


We love your comments and hope you will join the conversation! Please do not use this forum for advertising.