Anatomy of an auction
An antiques estate auction is an event in which a crowd shows up to purchase an entire family’s history in a few hours. When put in that light, it can seem like a very sad ordeal.
As an auctioneer, I prefer to think of an estate auction that I put together not as a last hurrah but a new chapter in that family’s story. Done right with respect, a well-built auction pays reverence to a family through its accumulated property.
Some family members stay away on auction day because the emotional attachment to the things being sold is just too much to deal with. Many times family members look upon the proceedings in delight as they witness a fresh enthusiasm for the wonderful things they grew up with.
Often times during preview you’ll hear things like, “I used to push my sister around in that wheelbarrow. I’m so glad someone else is going to enjoy it.”
Since not everyone is privy to such conversation, I thought it might be fun to re-create some of the daily uses and possible scenarios behind the antiques in an antique dairy farm auction I’ve been contracted to sell, that of theDuncklee Dairy Farm in Chelmsford MA.
The auction is to take place on Saturday afternoon, October 4th on the grounds of PC Myette’s Inc., a power equipment and landscaping outfit located at 120 Boston Rd. in Groton, MA.
Since the auction consists of the contents of a dairy farmstead, you can imagine there are several of the old galvanized milk cans that were used to store and transport milk. Back in the day they would be driven into town for distribution of the milk. Perhaps one would be set aside for the family’s consumption. Today, these cans adorn the doorsteps steps and porches of the U.S. There are thousands of them throughout the country painted with everything from seasonal scenes to the proud American Eagle.
Of course the dairy farmer would need a way to transport these heavy cans full of milk into town. On this farm they had a wonderful buckboard work wagon. This particular wagon which I’ll have the pleasure of selling is in 100% original condition. It is has been so well cared for that the only thing needed to use it today is a team of horses. (You’ll have to provide those if you win the bid, there is no livestock being sold at this auction.)
This particular wagon is in “the old blue” paint, and has a dump body and a locking tailgate. This was the pickup truck of the 1880s. Every pickup truck needs an emergency tool kit and this one is no different with such a toolbox built in under the driver’s seat. The wheels, being built around heavy duty Moline hubs indicate that this wagon was made for work!
This blue beauty likely served as a recreational vehicle as well, doubling as the family station wagon. I can just about hear Ma calling for the children to pile in for a picnic outing on a rare day off from chores.
But wait… this was a hard working family of some means, and we are happy to say that there are two buckboard wagons to be auctioned on this day without reserve! What was the other wagon used for?
At a distance you might mistake them for identical models, but up close, it’s plain to see that this second wagon is a “Sunday go to Church” vehicle. The lines are more elegant, and its original stenciled paint job, which it still proudly displays, indicates that this was a fancier mode of transportation, geared more for social visits.
The wheels of this wagon are a bit thinner and there are passenger rails alongside the bed. There are steps mounted under either side of the driver’s seat, and you can imagine the gentleman farmer taking his wife’s hand to guide her on board to take her place beside him.
Perhaps already in the back are children in their Sunday best, fighting down cowlicks and trying to hide a smuggled frog in need of redemption. Mother may remark on the glorious day, and Father might ponder how lucky he was to only have to work 12 hours a day to maintain such a fine life for his family. Things were good, thanks were in order.
Heading out of the drive we see on the side of the barn a large enamel sign for Cape Cod Cookies. The print on the bottom of the sign boasts, “48 cookies for 25 cents!” This enamel over steel sign is itself is a work of art. It was manufactured at the turn of the century by the Salto Enamel & Novelty co. It measures a whopping 2×8 feet!
I consider myself lucky to find one of these types of signs per year. We have at least 8 of them in this auction, and the consignor promises another 6 for the day of the sale. Apparently they’re buried in the barn somewhere. There are at least 3 different styles from the same company.
After Sunday church services the family of course would have taken the rest of the day off. This family, as so many of the time did, gathered around an upright piano as the musically adept sat in the talon and ball, spindle back Mahogany music chair with the adjustable seat. How many children dizzied themselves into an “illness” on such chairs to get out of piano class, may never be known.
Today, these music chairs are a staple in the antiques market, I think this one will do well as it has it’s original finish and is right and tight all the way around.
During intermission, Mother would serve some of those Cape Cod Cookies, and at a price of 25 cents per batch of 48, I’m sure there were plenty to go around!
If it was a hot summer day there’s a good chance that Iced tea was served in the stoneware dispenser embossed with the Salada Iced Tea logo. I’ve not seen one of these before, but we’ll have it pass the auction block on October 4th. Let’s see what it brings.
It’s Sunday and that means no “work”, but of course there are still daily chores that need to be completed to keep the household running. Animals need to be fed and watered, barn doors are to be buttoned up, and anything about loose in the yard would be tidied.
After the “light chores are completed” the family would sit down for supper and give thanks for having each other and enough to eat. This family sat at a large round solid wood table which we’ll be selling. After supper, things like pie plates and the iced tea dispenser would be tucked away in the beveled paneled, solid cherry cupboard that will cross our block. It’s 4ft tall and in excellent, original condition.
The children were likely wiped out by this time, and the little ones probably had to be carried off to bed as they were already asleep. A tall headboard Victorian Oak bed would comfortably hold Mother and Father, while an early cradle stood by their bed for the newest member of the family.
The other brothers and sisters were safely tucked away under handmade spreads, talking about Monday morning prospects, and adventures that surely lay ahead.
Of course, this is a fictional scenario, built on likely events of the times, so though we can’t be sure how much of them were carried out just like this, we know some of them were.
Here is what I do know for certain:
* All of the antiques I mentioned in this story are actually in this estate auction, as well as hundreds of other antiques lots.
* Almost everything in the sale is in original condition.
* Everything in the sale will be sold “absolute, without reserve!”
Won’t you come join us for an old fashioned Yankee Auction? They’re a lot of fun!
Click here for more details and pictures.