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News Article  
DeWitt auction included items unique even to Mel
By Nancy Kelly

DeWITT, Mich. — On a snowy morning in DeWitt, a large group of people gathered together in a rustic pole barn to examine the variety of interesting and unique items put out for the second sale of Joyce Hoover’s collections. After years of accumulating, Joyce and her husband had decided it was time to part with it all. There were rows and rows of boxed lots with stuffed animals, doll accessories and books, plus tables with American Girl, Our Generation, Barbie, and Turner dolls, shelves with useful kitchen items, huge pieces of antique furniture, jewelry, new Coca Cola merchandise, and many other great items.

Auctioneer Mel White said he has been in the auction business for 45 years, and some of the things for sale on this day he had never come across before.

One example was the large cast iron “School Zone” sign, which was claimed with a $240 high bid. The pole barn was filled, and Mel sold as fast as the words could come out of his mouth, but it still took eight hours to disperse it all. Assisted by able ring man Walter, clerk Teresa, cashier and wife Brenda and granddaughter Sophia, plus the rest of the crew, items were claimed by satisfied customers as they hauled them out the door. There was no buyer’s premium charged, so prices listed here are the actual selling prices.

There was a mix of antique and contemporary furniture segregated to one side of the building, and while the modern furniture drew modest bids, the antique wood furniture was much more popular. Topping out the bidding for the day were two very unusual pieces. First was a huge dry sink, measuring about 6 feet in length, with two cupboard doors below that was rehomed with a high bid of $600. The other was an unusual 8-foot-long wooden counter that looked like it belonged in a retail establishment because it contained 15 bins or drawers with glass fronts to show the grain or other substances inside. This massive piece generated an enthusiastic bidding volley before also finishing at $600.

An antique pie safe with two doors, four sturdy shelves and an ornate top decoration closed at $270; an impressive two-piece painted antique kitchen cabinet with hutch and numerous drawers went for $525; and an oak ice box with two doors in excellent condition also sold for $525.

Antique stepback cabinets also proved popular, with one that had cloth curtains in the windows of the cupboard doors faring the best with a final bid of $400. Large, imposing antique wardrobes were offered in a variety of sizes and styles, including one that had spoon-carved detail that cleared at $90 and one that had a hidden trap door compartment inside the base that finished at $110. Other unusual and functional antique furniture, including cabinets, chests, and shelves, were offered and quickly claimed.

Several people studied the antique Home Comfort model A1 wrought iron wood cook stove with its massive structure, but the general feeling was that it would be a real challenge to transport. In reasonably good condition, it did find a new owner with a high bid of $160. A beautifully ornate antique Oakland parlor stove by the Wehrle Company of Newark, Ohio, was taken away with a final bid of $75.

Some of the unique items were real puzzles. At one point, Mel said, “I don’t know what it does, but if you buy it, you get to decide.” Other pieces were appealing and delightful to consider.

A light cover or globe that was the size and shape of a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and also bore the logo and likeness of the Colonel, generated several comments and laughter. The high bidder eagerly claimed his prize with a bid of $150, and then jokingly said he was going to put it up in his bathroom.

A very large tin box with the logo for Boston Roasted Coffee was a surprise star when its bidding soared to a final price of $180. Two antique carriage-style lights whose make was thought to be Ford were carried off with a final bid of $80 for the pair, and a beautiful, ornate metal terrarium on a floor stand finished at $110. This illustrates the variety and unexpected turns that this auction took throughout the day.

Numerous stoneware crocks and jugs were offered, some antique and some contemporary. There was a Rockdale crock honoring Ingham County with a drawing in blue ink of the courthouse in Mason, Mich., and the date 1983. Although not an old item, it still proved popular with a final bid of $55.

Crocks for DeWitt and Fowlerville did not fare as well, with closing bids of $7.50-$10. A small crock with numerous characters on it that Mel felt dated it to the 1800s was claimed with a high bid of $70, and a butter churn was eagerly won with a $140 bid. A 5-gallon crock with handles closed at $75; a 5-gallon jug went for $45; and an attractive large stoneware bowl crossed the block with a final bid of $30. A few of the crocks had cracks, but most were in very good condition.

Enamelware and graniteware bowls, plates and pans were popular with the bidders, and there were a variety of items to choose from. The most unusual of the group was yet another piece that Mel White said he had never seen in all of his years of business. It was a graniteware small tub, about 24 inches long by 14 inches across, with what appeared to be a built-in soap holder at one end. He guessed that it might have been for giving baths to youngsters. After discussing the item, it was quickly claimed with a high bid of $60.

Dishes, bowls and pans were dispersed individually or in groups with bids ranging from $5-$22.50. A small soapstone foot warmer left with a high bid of $30.

Enamel-coated cast iron kitchen items were also sought after, with a turquoise-colored coffee pot finishing at $40, a matching turquoise cook pot at $27.50, and a colander at $35. When a similar iron was held up for bids, Mel commented that he remembered his mother using one on their clothes, which dated it back to the late 1940s. It finished with a high bid of $15.

A miniature washtub with a miniature wringer mounted on it along with a miniature washboard was debated as to whether it might be a salesman’s sample, but the consensus was that it was too big for that. The cute ensemble finished with a high bid of $110.

The homeowner seemed to enjoy stuffed donkeys and bears. Her collection of critters consisted of numerous examples, all in very good condition and ready for their new homes. A sizeable group of Raikes bears, which have faces and paws made of wood, were an eye-catching sight to see. Contemporary artist Robert Raikes created their designs, which were then produced, numbered and signed. Varying in size from 3” to about 14”, they were rehomed with bids ranging from $7.50 to $17 each. These unusual creatures are considered collectibles and are definitely not intended for young children to play with.

A 4-foot-tall stuffed bear designed by artist Joyce Ditz and produced by The Hen House was also labeled as “not a toy.” The soft fur and appealing face made it very attractive, and it was rescued with a high bid of $40. A stuffed toy donkey mounted on a rocking horse frame, complete with an actual child’s saddle, was rocked by folks as they walked by. It took a bid of $55 to bring it home to a new stable.

The Steiff brand stuffed animal collector in the audience was very happy when she was able to claim the Steiff donkey “Grissy” for $45, and she carried it around with her in the box for the duration of the auction. A small Steiff bear sold for $15. This is just a small sample of the merchandise that was sold on this very busy Saturday.

Mel White Auctioneer and Appraiser is based in Okemos, Mich. He handles a variety of auctions, from household and estate to farm and real estate. He has several auctions coming up this year. View them at or call Mel at (517) 394-3006.