One of the most significant assemblages of Hopewell Culture prehistoric art ever collected more than doubled its high estimate selling for $162,000 at Cowan’s Auctions during Part I of the Collection of Art Gerber: Ancient Art of the Eastern Woodlands. The cache was one of 382 lots offered in the July 28, 2018 auction from the estate of famed collector Art Gerber. Gerber was a giant in the prehistoric artifact world and collectors from across the region travelled to Cincinnati to get a glimpse at a portion of the legendary collection and vie for the chance to take home a piece of history. They competed with equally motivated collectors bidding over the phone and online sparking numerous bidding wars that pushed the auction above its high estimate.
“Art would have loved today,” said Danica Farnand, Cowan’s director of American Indian & Prehistoric Art. “Yes, he would have been pleased with the hammer prices, but I think what he would have really loved was seeing all these collectors marveling at his life’s work and sharing stories about him. The whole day was really a celebration of his life.”
The Collection of Art Gerber is a tangible 8,000-year historical record of human life along the Ohio River. Gerber’s entire life is inextricably linked to the Mighty Ohio. From his birth in Evansville, Ind., to his childhood home in Cannelton, Ind., to his professional career in Tell City, Ind., Gerber spent his entire life hunting the Ohio River Valley for his next great discovery.
The Hopewell Culture cache was Gerber’s crowned jewel. Discovered very near the Ohio River directly across from the city of Owensboro, Ky., it is arguably one of the most significant and finest Hopewell assemblages ever found in the state of Indiana. The cache features 19 items highlighted by a magnificent 11-inch Hopewell Ross blade from Mill Creek chert. Blades of this size are unusual for the region and none have been found in such remarkable condition.
“There’s no question that what initially draws collectors attention is this incredible blade,” said Farnand. “But all 19 pieces were found together and have remained together since the moment of their discovery. You just don’t see that in the prehistoric artifact world, which is why we saw that bidding war today.”
A rare steatite effigy boatstone, likely depicting a raptor with its wings folded against its body, was the second highest price of the day selling for $8,225. Effigy banner stones are a rare form in Hopewell Culture, a fact that clearly didn’t escape collectors as bidding sent the stone well past its high estimate of $3,000.
Of the multitude of forms offered during the sale, bannerstones were in the highest demand. An expanded center bottle bannerstone with associated antler atlatl hook was the top lot of the category selling for $7,050. Other highlights include a single faced white quartz bottle bannerstone, which sold for $5,875; a green bowenite saddle bannerstone, shell disc bead necklace with a cannel coal bead, and two large ear bobs for $5,287; and a diorite single faced bottle bannerstone for $3,055.
Other miscellaneous highlights from the auction include a banded slate Adena keyhole pendant that sold for $5,581; a rare copper Hopewell bowl for $3,819; a canine tooth necklace with pendant for $3,360; and a Hopewell copper breastplate with preserved fabric for $3,290.
The July 28 auction represented the first of three auctions of the unrivaled Collection of Art Gerber. Part II will occur on Saturday, December 8 at Cowan’s Cincinnati salesroom.
The Cache Includes: