Archive for September, 2012


Asian Movie Memorabilia Stars in Michaan’s October Annex

This true story involving the Great Star Theatre holds so many twists and turns of fate that it’s almost as dizzying as the martial arts moves projected on the theater’s screen.  It all began with an entrepreneur with a broken heart.  Said businessman wanders the streets of North Beach into Chinatown, trying to make sense of the fight he had had with his girlfriend.  He stumbles upon an abandoned theater and being a real estate refurbisher, he begins to envision the theater’s potential.  He makes a couple of calls, including one to his friend Ken Montero.  Before you know it, the two have become business partners, about to embark on the renovation of San Francisco’s Great Star Theatre.

A promotional movie poster from "The Dragon Tamers."

A promotional movie poster from “The Dragon Tamers.”

Montero’s experience with the theater lead him to an unexpected discovery, which then lead him to Michaan’s Auctions.  The pair took over the theater in 2008.  It had been closed since 1989, along with many other single screen theaters that had fallen on hard times.  But the Great Star Theatre had something going for it that others may have been lacking: history.  After San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake, it became the first theater built in Chinatown, erected in 1925.  In 1950, the famed Shaw Brothers Studio took it over and renovated the movie house.  The Shaw Brothers production studio is well-known for kung fu and action classics such as “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin,” “Five Deadly Venoms” and “The One-Armed Swordsman.”  Their movies also launched the careers of stars like Jet Li, Ti Lung, David Chiang, Alexander Fu Sheng, Gordon Liu and Jimmy Wang Yu.  The Great Star Theatre remains important to this day, as it is the only remaining Chinese theater in any Chinatown in the United States.

Lobby cards featuring stills.

Lobby cards featuring stills from “The Prodigal Son,” “The Great Emporer’s Concubine,” and “A Day Without Policemen.”

Unfortunately, when Montero and his business partner acquired the historical gem, it was in shambles.  It was so filthy and moldy that their first year of ownership was spent cleaning it to the tune of around $10,000.  But, there was something salvageable amongst the rubble.  Montero recalled being in the basement of the theater by the fire equipment.  It was there that he uncovered lobby cards, movie posters and ticket stubs in prime condition from the promotion and sales of popular Asian films.  Montero did not think much of them at the time, but he decided to hold on to them nonetheless.  Lucky for him and Bay Area collectors and movie buffs that he did.  The uncovered collection will now be sold at Michaan’s October Annex Auction, providing a rare opportunity to own unique memorabilia from this Asian movie genre.


Please School Me on McClure

My name is Laura and I’m a writer here at Michaan’s Auctions.  I am fortunate to be able to see beautiful works of art on a daily basis when I come to work.  My appreciation runs deep, however my knowledge does not.  Some key phrases from me as I gaze upon works of art:

“Oh, that’s pretty.”

“How interesting.”

Mavis McClure sculpture heads and torsos

Mavis McClure sculpture heads and torsos

“That would look great in a kitchen.”

Alas, some art works require a bit more explanation.  I’d seen these body parts wandering around Michaan’s for about a week now.  First they were laying on the ground.  Then I saw some torsos and legs being photographed.  I decided to investigate.  I needed to talk to my friend Greg Favors, also known as Michaan’s Auctions 20th Century Modern Design Specialist.

“Greg, what’s up with these?  Where are the heads?”

“Look over there Laura.”

“Oh.  Why is this made in pieces like this?”

“The whole piece is quite large, too large for a kiln.  So, it must be fired in separate pieces and assembled afterward.”

“I see.  Can you tell me about the artist?”

Mavis McClure legs sculpture

Mavis McClure legs sculpture

“Mavis McClure has a signature style that I recognized when I saw these sculptures. She is known for her larger-than-life figures with exaggerated hands and feet.  I knew my hunch was right when I saw her first name stamped on the bottom of a foot of the statue.  Many in the art world consider her to be one of the most talented modern figurative artists of the decade.  She is also self taught which I admire.  I was really lucky to find these.”

“How would you use these in a living space?”

“They would work in a garden, living room or foyer.  I look at the pair as one piece and I believe this was also the intention of the artist.  But if you wanted to break them up or display the statue as pieces that might also be interesting.”

“The weirdo in me says display them in pieces.  When will these be up for auction?”

“In the fine auction on December the 7th.  We have both of the statues estimated at $8,000-10,000.”

“Thanks Greg.”

“No problem.”


Tip for Auction: Calculated Bidding

Arnette Terry, Office Manager:

Take a look at the lot you would like to bid on and ask yourself what you honestly think is a fair price for it.  Bid based upon this mentality and it will help you determine what you will be comfortable with.  Also, keep the buyers premium and sales tax in mind; some people forget to factor this in to their bottom line.  We always want to make sure our clients are happy and satisfied with their purchase.


J.D. Strong Painting Journeys From Summer Appraisal to Winter Fine Sale

A summer appraisal event at Michaan’s Auctions unexpectedly unearthed an exceptional find for the winter fine sale season.  A woman from Dublin, California brought a painting she had inherited to Fine Art Specialist Thomas De Doncker for appraisal.  She went on to tell Thomas how both her and her sister inherited the painting after their father had passed away.  Their father had purchased the piece as well as another work by J.D. Strong at an unnamed auction in the early 1960s, because “he liked the subject.”  The sisters, unaware of the valuable art work they were in possession of, donated the smaller of the two paintings to the Goodwill over a decade ago.  Fortunately, they kept the larger piece and were thrilled to learn that they had quite a treasure on their hands.


JOSEPH DWIGHT STRONG JR (American 1852-1899) “Diamond Head, Hawaii – Launching the Outriggers, 1888,” Oil on canvas, 24 x 37 inches, Estimate: $60,000/90,000

J.D. Strong was one of the leading members of The Volcano School.  This was a group of non-native Hawaiian artists who painted dramatic nocturnal scenes of Hawaii’s erupting volcanoes.  Strong’s Hawaiian paintings are extremely rare and most of his works of this theme are relatively small.  Any work of his from this genre that is vintage or period Hawaiian, that is pre-1900, is even more rare due to the ravenous effect that the Hawaiian humidity had on the paintings.  Thomas’ awareness of the rarity of the piece caused him to reflect that, “Collectors of J.D. Strong’s work as well as period Hawaiian collectors will undoubtedly be thrilled that this painting will be up for auction on December first.  To my knowledge, a J.D. Strong of this size has never been offered at auction before.  I am delighted that it will now be a part of the fine sale at Michaan’s Auctions.”

The oil painting titled “Diamond Head, Hawaii – Launching the Outriggers, 1888” measures 24 x 37 inches.  The piece depicts a beautiful Hawaiian day in which natives in canoes are setting out to sea.  The painting will be offered at an estimate of $60,000-90,000 in the Fine Works of Art Auction on December 1, 2012.  For more information please call Michaan’s Auctions at (510) 740-0220 or visit us on the web at


Tip for Auction: Adding authenticity by saving boxes and paperwork

Jeff Lee, Photographer:

If you have original boxes or paperwork to accompany your property it can add a nice touch to the overall look of a photograph.  It can enhance the set up as well as add a validity and sense of authenticity to the image.

Jeff Lee, Photographer

Jeff Lee, Photographer


Calling All Consignors

EMERALD, DIAMOND, 18K WHITE GOLD BRACELET, Estimate: $25,000/30,000

EMERALD, DIAMOND, 18K WHITE GOLD BRACELET, Estimate: $25,000/30,000, To be offered December 7

Calling all consignors…well, actually I take that back.  Calling all consignors with especially exquisite, coveted, collector worthy property.  Michaan’s Auctions is actively seeking quality consignments for fine auctions to be held in December of 2012.  Fine auction property is considered to be high-end, top tier items, providing an excellent buying and selling opportunity for those versed in the finer things.  Whether it is fine art, modern or period furniture and decorations, jewelry or Asian artworks, Michaan’s is looking to find the best of the best.  So if your property has what it takes and you wish to consign it, please keep Michaan’s Auctions in mind.  It’s as simple as calling (510) 740-0220.  Just let our administrative team know what type of property you have and they can connect you with the appropriate specialist.

Michaan’s Auctions is committed to helping you achieve the maximum dollar amount for your property this winter fine sale season and beyond.  Please also visit us in December by attending our trio of fine auctions, open free of charge to the public at 2751 Todd Street in Alameda, California.


MILLARD SHEETS (American 1907-1989) Moua Puta from Across Drake Bay, 1979 Watercolor on paper, Estimate: $15,000/25,000, To be offered December 1

Fine Art
Auction: Saturday, December 1, 2012
Previews: November 30 through December 1

Modern and Period Furniture and Decorations/Jewelry
Auction: Friday, December 7, 2012
Previews: November 30 through December 2

Asian Works of Art
Auction: Monday, December 17, 2012
Previews: November 30 through December 2, December 15 and 16


Tip for Auction: Assistance for Chinese speaking clients

Mei Yee Ho, Asian Art Assistant:

For Chinese clients who are not fluent in English please do not let it discourage you from participating at auction.  There are Chinese speaking staff members, such as myself, who can help you with your questions and concerns throughout the auction process.

Mei Yee Ho, Asian Art Assistant

Mei Yee Ho, Asian Art Assistant