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Terry and Ralph Kovels’ “Life Collection” Heads to Auction Nov. 1

By 24th October 2023No Comments3 min read

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A curated 188-lot collection belonging to Terry and Ralph Kovel, the “duke and duchess of the antiques world,” including rare ceramics by George E. Ohr, paintings by pioneering female artist Rosa Bonheur, and American Renaissance Revival furniture by Alexander Roux, heads to auction Wednesday, Nov. 1, at Rago and Toomey & Co.

Terry Kovel and her late husband, Ralph, were passionate collectors. A cross-section of their collection heads to auction Nov. 1.

Courtesy Kovels

The Kovels are widely known throughout the antiques and collectibles world, establishing a beach head in the collecting space in 1953 with their first book together, Dictionary of Marks: Pottery and Porcelain. In the following 70 years, the Kovels name became synonymous with the antiques and collectibles hobby, thanks in large part to the more than 100 books they published, including Kovel’s Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide, which has sold more than four million copies as the bible in the collecting field. Through their work, antiques and collecting were made accessible to the masses.

An exceptional vase standing 8 3/4 inches tall by George EOhr.

Courtesy Rago and Toomey & Co.

The Kovels were incredibly diversified in their interests, collecting everything from banana stickers and textiles to furniture and American art pottery. Of all the work championed by the couple, they clearly had a close connection to George E. Ohr and the man who sold the potter’s work to the world, James Carpenter. The Kovels discovered Ohr pottery while researching in the basement warehouse of the Smithsonian Museum. Fascinated by his work, they wrote the first article to appear on Ohr, published May 1972 in The Western Collector magazine. As popular as Ohr is today, such radical work was a very hard sell back in the dark ages of pottery in 1972.

Billed as “The Life Collection of Terry & Ralph Kovel,” the auction represents a cross-section of many of the Kovels’ collecting interests, a compendium of what America was hunting once the baby boomers came of age. Still, as diversified a glimpse as this sale offers, at its heart it is mostly about the mad genius from Biloxi, Miss., George E. Ohr. These pieces are presented for the first time in half a century, and only the second time since they left the Ohr family in Biloxi.

A rare and exceptional glazed porcelain vase by Taxile Doat.

Courtesy Rago and Toomey & Co.

In addition to the more than 30 pieces by Ohr, the auction includes pottery from Taxile Doat, Martin Brothers, Fulper and others; furniture, silver, tableware, and even a whimsical collection of Pixieware from Holt-Howard.

You can preview the auction in person at Rago, 333 N Main St Ste 4, Lambertville, N.J., from now until the day of the auction, or view lots online at The auction begins at 11 a.m. EST, Nov. 1. For more information, call 609-397-9374 or email [email protected].

A fine Louis XVl Revival music-themed cabinet, c. 1865, attributed to Alexander Roux.

Courtesy of Rago and Toomey & Co.

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