Freeman’s Auctioneers & Appraisers – commonly referred to simply as Freeman’s – is a Philadelphia-based auction house founded in 1805.
In a typical year, Freeman’s – located in 1808 Chestnut Street – hold more than two dozen in-house auctions. Historically, this auction house has been especially strong in books, prints and Americana.
Examples of item types commonly sold at Freeman’s auctions:
- English & Continental Furniture
- American Furniture
- Folk & Decorative Art (American and European)
- European Art
- American Art (including Pennsylvania Impressionists)
- Asian Art
- Modern & Contemporary Art
- 20th century design
- Books, Maps & Manuscripts
- Posters & Other Graphics
- Silver & Objets de Vertu
- Fine jewelry & Watches
- Oriental rugs
After the death of Samuel M “Beau” Freeman II – the sixth generation of the Freeman family to run the company – Alasdair Nichol became Chairman of the company in 2007. A friendly management buy-out was completed in 2016, with the company’s controlling interest being transfered to then-VC Alasdair Nichol, President Paul Roberts and COO Hanna Dougher.
Examples of notable auctions
- In the 1880s, the Philadelphia Post Office building on Chestnut Street was auctioned out by Freeman’s and was sold for $425,000; setting a new record for any single piece of real estate in Philadelphia sold at auction.
- The 1922 liquidation of factory buildings, machinery and raw materials from Nitro, an American ammunition production facility built in West Virginia during World War I.
- In 1969, Freeman’s discovered an authentic first printing of the Declaration of Independence by John Dunlap of Philadelphia; one of 16 known copies at the time. This print was auctioned out for $404,000.
- In 1979, a Thomas Affleck chest-on-chest was sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for $92,000.
- In 1980, Edward Hicks’s “Peaceable Kingdom” was sold for $210,000.
- The Richard M. Scrushy Collection
- The Lehman Brothers Collection
- The Avon Collection of Photography
- Items from the Reed & Barton Archives
- The Collection of Historic USS Constitution Colors of H. Richard Dietrich, Jr.
- In 2005, a copy of the United States Constitution printed by Dunlap & Claypoole in September 1787 was sold for $207,225.
- A Jade seal was sold for $3.5 million in 2011. This broke the record for largest individual sale in the history of Freeman’s.
- The George D. Horst Collection of Fine Art (auctioned in March 2014)
- The 1,000 Years of Collecting Auction in April 2016, with items from Jeffrey M. Kaplan’s private Washington D.C. Collection.
- The Nancy and Andre Brewster Collection (auctioned in December 2016)
- Paintings and prints from the Stanley Bard Collection (auctioned in May 2017).
In 1795, the 32 year old Tristram Bamfylde Freeman moved from Great Britain to America and settled in Philadelphia. He was the son of an Angelican minister in Devonshire, England, and had been trained as a printer in London.
After failing to establish himself as a printer in his new home town, Freeman was appointed to the office of auctioneer in Philadelphia by Pennsylvania governor Thomas McKean in 1805, and this is how Freeman came to establish his company.
In addition to working as an auctioneer, Freeman began buying things himself and selling the goods to wholesale buyers. At the time, Philadelphia was a busy port and there was plenty of goods to purchase for anyone with an eye for profit. Eventually, Freeman also became involved in estate sales and real estate.
Throughout the years, Freeman’s grew and opened regional offices in various parts of the United States. In 2000, Freeman’s finally entered the European market, through a strategical alliance with the Scottish firm Lyon & Turnbull in 2000.