LOUIS COMFORT TIFFANY WINDOW SOLD FOR $3,000 IN 1896 — SELLS FOR PRICE OF 3,000 SQ. FT. LUXURY HOME IN 2017
[The orchestration of a historic Tiffany stained glass window sale at D.C. Riggott Inc as recounted by Joshua Tollefson, salesman/partner]
Had I known from the start of last Wednesday that I was about to add a record-breaking sale to D.C. Riggott Inc's 45 year history, I probably would have worn something a bit more formal than faded jeans and a flannel.
Ever since I started out in the packing room at D.C. Riggott Inc some 5 years ago, building "indestructible" crates that would temporarily house ancient stained glass windows as they traveled the globe, I dreamt of the day I would be lucky enough to even just SEE a Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass window in person... let alone TOUCH one. I had even traveled all the way to Chicago earlier this year in hopes to slake my lust by simply viewing an L.C. Tiffany window behind glass in Navy Pier's long-standing stained glass museum. As fate would have it, that gallery had closed down for good just a few days before I arrived. That fierce letdown, however, was recently met by something as equally intense.
Just yesterday, December 11th, 2017, I saw my 1st Tiffany window... AND touched it. This may sound a bit too ethereal, but it's hard to even describe what it is I saw. When it comes to color, movement, and vivacity, the multi-layered, opalescent drapery glass of a Tiffany stained glass window has no equal in the art world. None. "Captivatingly mesmerizing" is the only terminology I can conjure up. As you lean-in close to Lewis's work, the faucets of each custom-made, custom-cut piece of drapery glass jut out in all directions from the window, yet still roll smoothly like the billows of an ocean. As you back up you begin to see unbelievable color combinations, unmatched by anything short of a brilliant sunset. The scene is almost... fluid... and appears to be alive due to the changing color temperatures; vastly different hues are formed as the sun’s rays intensify and meld the 2 to 7 layers of signature Tiffany glass into one single amazing spectrum. All I can say is that those who have seen a Tiffany window in person know what it is I’m talking about; and those who haven’t seen one… need to.
Allow me to back up. Like any dealer in the business, locating, buying and ultimately selling a Tiffany window is a constant back-burner-priority, meaning that every day I come in to work I hope there’s an email or voicemail waiting for me with even the slightest mention of the Holy Grail [“Tiffany”] ...but not to the extreme where, if there's not, it won't disrupt my normal, everyday buy/sell routine. My boss, AKA uncle, AKA good-friend, AKA business partner Don Riggott has bought and sold at least two outstanding Tiffany windows thus far in his near-half-century career, which makes him a legend in my mind. What really makes him legendary, though, is that throughout the past 45+ years he has acquired and sold HUNDREDS of exceptional windows from some of the world’s most revered American and German stained glass artists; L.C. Tiffany, Frank Loyd Wright, Lamb Studios, Rudy Brothers, F.X. Zettler, Franz Mayer, and Tyrolese to name a few. I, personally, have had many-a Tiffany leads over the years, but never actually netted that elusive White Whale. Last Wednesday was different.
As like many times before, over the past few months I have been working on procuring and selling a Tiffany stained glass window. This particular “Christ’s Ascension” window was within days of being sold-off to a competitor of ours: a multi-millionaire who isn’t accustomed to having his bid beaten-out on items he really wants… and he really, REALLY wanted this window. It was very much a David and Goliath situation for us. Less than 48 hours were left on the clock last Monday night when one of my cold leads finally warmed up to the idea of increasing his bid after a month or so of being incommunicado. I immediately notified the [now previous] owner of the window that our name wasn't out of the running.
Tuesday morning I was up and at ‘em earlier than I have been in a long time, which was fitting given my inability to sleep very much the entire night. From morning ’til night on Tuesday my phone was basically glued to my ear. Typically I will pace the floor a bit while on the phone working a deal, but on this particular day I’m pretty sure I wore ruts straight into the floorboards. Every couple of hours I would pry the phone away from my face to have a crucial strategy session with the legend himself: D.C. The hours seemed to tick by so slowly, but my adrenaline was pumping so rapidly that I hardly cared. Tuesday was slowly turning into Wednesday and so, out of common decency, I decided to put negotiations on hold for the night. We had made progress that day, but there was still no guarantee from the owner that we would beat Goliath’s bid and end up with the window the following day.
Complications too complicated to explain here rose and fell right from the start on Wednesday. There were at least 2 or 3 times that day when I straight up told Don that our client was muddying the waters so badly that the deal was on its deathbed. It got so bad to the point where we were finally given an ultimatum. The following is a direct, un-fabricated, un-exaggerated quote straight from the owner’s mouth: “You have 15 minutes to wire the money in-full for the window or else it will go to the other bidder.” In 15 minutes or less I needed to convince my client to trust a company that he’s never met before [D.C. Riggott Inc] like he trusts his own family… to the point where he pays an amount UP-FRONT equivalent to that of a 3,000 square foot luxury home, all without him ever even seeing the window in person. Talk about pressure. My confidence level was at an all time low but I still found myself dialing his number one last time, bracing myself for the seemingly-inevitable outcome. It goes without saying that I was speechless when the gentleman simply replied, “Okay” and wired the money in-full, consummating our sale on one of the finest examples of stained glass craftsmanship in American history.
Within a week’s time, on December 11th, 2017, my roll switched from “Buyer/Seller” to “Artifact Removal Supervisor” as I flew to the East Coast and finally laid eyes [and hands] on my 1st-ever Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass window. As my team removed and crated the prize, such surreal thoughts ran through my head of how we had actually played a definitive role in the transplant and preservation of such a historically important stained glass artifact.
What a week...