The Next Chapter Of The Crocker Farm Story Includes An Historic Barn

September 24, 2010

Six years ago, Crocker Farm, Inc., entered the antiques auction arena with its inaugural sale of American stoneware and redware pottery. The company’s first auction, held live in Boonsboro, Maryland, drew strong interest from collectors and dealers alike, offering a number of important and fresh-to-the-market lots of antique ceramics. The top lot of that auction was a Baltimore stoneware water cooler with incised bird, which sold for $72,600 - setting a world record for Maryland pottery. Other highlights included a Remmey stoneware pitcher with incised bird, which sold for $35,200, and an Anna Pottery stoneware pig, which set a record for the form and maker at $23,100.
Anthony Zipp, a partner in Crocker Farm, Inc., along with his wife, Barbara, and three sons, Brandt, Luke, and Mark, recalls the initial auction. “When we first announced that we were starting an auction business, we were unsure of the response we would receive. I had been selling pottery for twenty-five years, but you never know the quality of consignments you are going to receive in a new venture like this. We were overwhelmed with what came our way for the first sale, and have been impressed with what's been consigned ever since.”
Over the past six years, the Zipps’ success has continued, with the auction generating numerous noteworthy sales in the American ceramics field. In 2009, the firm sold an Albany, New York, stoneware cooler with incised fish and bird decoration for $103,500, setting a world record price for any piece sold in a stoneware specialty auction. In 2006, the firm sold a Vermont stoneware water cooler decorated with a soldier and his wife for $88,000, which also set a record. Also selling that year was an extremely rare stoneware birdhouse by M. & T. Miller of Newport, Pennsylvania, which brought $71,500, setting a world auction record for signed Pennsylvania stoneware. In 2009, Crocker Farm also set an auction record for Western Pennsylvania stoneware, selling a canning jar with baseball player design for $65,550. Other highlights include $69,900 for an incised Remmey pitcher, $63,250 for a Manhattan stoneware jar with decoration of a man, and $41,800 for a John W. Bell redware whippet, a world auction record for Bell family pottery.
Zipp’s passion for pottery began in the mid 1970’s, when he started collecting American stoneware he discovered at local yard sales and auctions in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. When he had acquired too many pieces to keep, he began selling them. By the mid 1980’s, he was participating in a number of antiques shows up and down the east coast, advertising “seventy-five pieces for sale” at each venue. By 1990, Zipp retired from his job as assistant director of a rehabilitation hospital in Baltimore to pursue the antiques business full-time. All the while, Barbara, Brandt, Luke, and Mark, were involved, with Barbara buying and selling items along with her husband, and their young sons lugging boxes and helping with booth set-up.
In 2005, Crocker Farm contracted with noted online auction database and bidding venue, Artfact, to allow for live Internet bidding for those that could not attend the sale. In 2006, the Zipps moved their auctions to the York Fairgrounds in York, Pennsylvania, a more recognizable and centralized auction location. Several of their auctions have been held opposite Jim Burk’s York Antiques Show and Butch Arion's Original York Antiques Show, which naturally drew dealers and show attendees.
2010 has brought another milestone in the Zipp family’s auction business. The firm has recently purchased an historic stone wheat barn in Sparks, Maryland, and are in the process of converting it into a first-class auction facility. Located in the hunt country of Northern Baltimore County, it is just thirty minutes south of York, Pennsylvania, and less than five minutes off of Interstate 83. The local landmark was built in 1841 by wealthy landowner John M. Gorsuch, with tall stone walls decorated with hourglass-shaped brick vents in a “sheaf of wheat” pattern. This architectural wonder has been described as “the finest example in Maryland of brick louvers set in native stone.” The renovated interior includes much of the barn's original beauty, including random-width floors and hand-hewn beams, which have survived since its construction.
The site of the barn is rich in local and national history. It was the theft of wheat from the Gorsuch family farm that ultimately resulted in the famous Christiana Riot of 1851, in which the barn’s then-owner, Edward Gorsuch, was killed by a group of free blacks in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Gorsuch had attempted to reclaim fugitive slaves who had presumably stolen wheat from the corn crib behind his barn, but the bloodshed that resulted helped further divide the nation over the issue of slavery and fomented anger amongst Southerners, including Baltimorean John Wilkes Booth, a close friend and classmate of Gorsuch’s son. Though it took place almost a decade before the conflict of the same name, the Christiana Riot was described in one newspaper headline as “the first blow” of “Civil War.”
With their new location, the Zipps will now be conducting general antiques auctions as well as their stoneware specialty sales. “Our new auction house will provide bidders with a unique venue for viewing and buying antiques. What better place to bid on antiques than inside a piece of history itself?” notes Zipp. “Our interests are broader than ever now. Folk art, fine art, furniture - you name it, we will sell it; but we will still expect the same quality as we are known for with our ceramics sales. And, of course, stoneware and redware will always remain our staple and our passion. We will still conduct three or more pottery sales per year.” The Zipps are currently accepting stoneware and redware consignments for their inaugural sale scheduled for November 6, along with fine antiques, from individual pieces to entire collections, for their first antiques auction.
Zipp continues, “I think we offer a personal touch, which is lacking in some businesses today. When someone contacts us to sell their pottery, they will speak with one of the owners: me, my wife, or one of my sons. The same will hold true when we broaden our horizons into other collecting areas.”
Crocker Farm’s new address is 15900 York Road, Sparks, Maryland, 21152. They can be reached at (410) 337-5090, or via their website at


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