by Nancy Kelly
Brooklyn, MI — An old farm house was the bucolic setting for a recent Merkel’s Auction Specialist event, and the main attraction was most definitely a six foot tall, upright floor model Criterion music box with 50 metal disks. When it came time to sell this amazing machine, auctioneer Joseph Merkel cranked it and demonstrated its magnificent sound. The competitive bidding volley commenced, and when it concluded, the music box found a new owner with a high bid of $4,750.
The contents of this estate sale were described by Merkel as a picker’s dream, but the house had not been “picked.” The elderly couple who lived in the farmhouse not only saved items from years past, but they had assimilated the belongings of their parents as well. The offerings were varied and fascinating, with many items that are not commonly found. They included vintage toys, many paper items such as books, calendars, post cards, and scrapbooks, and decades old household necessities and accessories. There were two rings running for part of the day, with Merkel being assisted by auctioneer John Frye. There was a 10 percent buyers premium charged, which is not reflected in the prices listed here.
Items from the a great aunt in the family, “Aunt May,” was also part of the auction; May Gibbons was a circus and Coney Island show performer with the stage name of “Jolly Fat Bonita.” She was active in performing from 1911 through the 1930s, and died in 1934. A stack of photographs, pins, a framed cabinet photo, and newspaper clippings that documented her life saw a high bid of $800. A vintage dome trunk that belonged to her, but whose contents were not guaranteed to be hers, left for $60.
An interesting musket was available for consideration. It was stamped R. Johnson 1833 and Merkel described it as a non-flintlock model. Because of its antique status, he also said that it did not require a background check to purchase this impressive firearm. The new owner was able to claim it with a high bid of $600.
Antique toys, a little rusty or dusty, were a high point of interest, with several to choose from. A large Steelcraft Graf Zeppelin with original decals from the late 1920s to early 1930s claimed a high bid of $425, while a Little Jim Steelcraft Scout plane with original wheels left for $250. A Sunny Andy World War II vintage tank with wooden wheels crossed the block with a high bid of $115. An interesting space-age looking metal 1935 Buck Rogers toy hand gun by Daisy Manufacturing Company of Plymouth, Mich., went home with a high bid of $95, and an American Flyer train set described as “pre-war” which included an engine, coal car, two other cars, a caboose, and a track was claimed by a high bid of $60.
Flat, glass top showcases at the auction housed a variety of interesting and valuable items. A selection of arrowheads and projectile points proved particularly fascinating. They were first offered choice out, and the top two left for $160 and $130 each. The selection dwindled, until the remaining 16 were grouped together and that lot drew a $105 high bid. A Hamilton pocket watch finished at $225, an Ingersoll pocket watch at $110, and an intricate, early Southwest turquoise pin at $75. Other watches, rings, and necklaces sold in the $25-65 range. An interesting set of bridle rosettes with horse heads on them were claimed with a bid of $65, and two Victorian-era ornate hat pins went for $45.
A small rectangular box containing numerous coins and paper bills appeared to be the family dumping place for loose change and pocket money. It drew close scrutiny, then proceeded to inspire an active bidding volley before closing at $200. There appeared to be a few Morgan dollars in the box, and otherwise, the high bidder smiled and said he was just speculating. Nearby, on the same tabletop, an intricately-detailed purse consisting of numerous hand-sewn colorful glass beads impressed the bidders, requiring a high bid of $175.
Antique household furnishings were removed from the house and offered for sale in the yard after existing undisturbed for decades. A large cuckoo clock was greatly admired before closing with a high bid of $125.
Several crocks were offered, but the highest drawing one was a 25 gallon Western stoneware crock with wooden lid and no cracks that finished at $85. Most of the furniture in the house was sold in place as the crowd strolled around the interior. An eye-catching wooden serving buffet with beautiful veneer was ready to head to a new dining room with a final bid of $95. Proving there are always bargains was a massive Hoosier cabinet with all of the doors, hinges, and drawers intact that was offered with a bonus. It still housed the original spices in their bottles, as well as paperwork that offered household and cooking tips. Few bidders were interested due to the size of the piece and it sold for only $20.