By Haley Filhart
Clare, Mich., is not an unfamiliar destination for local or long distance auction-goers. Two highly attended semi-annual events, Yoder’s Quilt Auction & Flea Market and Yoder Brothers’ Equipment Consignment Auction, draw thousands to the area and are noted as part of a lengthy self-guided tour of the area’s numerous Amish-owned businesses.
Colonville Road, a key throughway on the tour, has recently gained another must-see auction destination that has not yet made it on the locally publicized map; however, its positive reception and unique finds will undoubtedly land itself a place on the map as a local “must see” event soon enough.
Most Friday nights after 5 p.m., the traffic on Colonville Road is light, but one Friday each month since January, the parking lot at Gateway Auctions has overflowed and the kerosene lamplights have burned late into the evening as auctioneer JR Hochstetler auctions off a variety of estates and items from private collections.
Having grown up less than a mile down the road as an integral part of the family business, Colonville Country Store, Hochstetler attended Reppert Auction School in 2015 and established his auction house with the goal of “creat[ing] a place where dealers and individuals can come together and buy antiques and primitives.” Indeed, this is precisely the blend reflected in those who are in attendance at the monthly auctions.
The variety of buyers mirrors the large variety of offerings that travel across the auction block. Each auction thus far has included a well-rounded mixture of furniture, household items, tools, outdoor items, and neatly sorted box lots of miscellaneous in addition to a unique selection of antiques and primitives. The items appeal to a variety of tastes as well as a variety of budgets, epitomizing the adage that the events offer “something for everyone.”
On Friday, March 24, it was standing room only within a half an hour of the first item crossing the auction block. After an hour of selling tools of all sorts, the auction gained momentum with an offering of a number of quality furniture pieces. Those looking for present-day home furnishings were not disappointed.
A cushy, oversized sofa in earthy greens and with a fir tree and pinecone accent pattern found a new home for $170, while a comfortable, blue La-Z-Boy recliner followed closely for $145. For bidders who favored décor more in the vein of classic, antique style, the offerings included a quarter-sawn oak, half-moon glass front china cabinet ($200) as well as a number of notable accent pieces.
The unique Victorian era Eastlake-style magazine rack that doubled as a lamp stand went to the bidder who gave the final nod at $85. Meanwhile, the bidder who paid $110 for the primitive wooden pigeonhole organizer plans to use its 18 compartments for quilting material storage.
Upon completion of the furniture, the auction’s offering of antiques and primitives – Hochstetler’s pride and joy – was next in the sale order. Bidders were warmed up with the presentation of numerous classic items such as a 2-pound wooden butter press with a botanical design ($35), a twisted handled monkey wrench ($25), a bottle carrier complete with four Midland Dairy Co. milk bottles ($30), an Armspear railroad lantern ($75), and a wooden Western Electric telephone set ($85).
In the midst of a selection of crocks of various shapes and sizes, the standout was a 5-gallon salt glazed crock with a Lazy Eight design that dates it as far back as the 1870s. The crowd’s response confirmed that it was the pick of the mix when it reached a selling price of $175. Similarly, it was the 4-quart Dazey butter churn with a tulip jar that won out over the crock model churns with a final bid of $175.
The quality of many of the items presented were impeccable despite their age. A primitive child’s wheelbarrow raced quickly to $80, while a miniature salesman sample-sized anvil that could fit nicely in one’s pocket reached $75 without a second thought. A bidder readily paid $190 for a fully 7-foot-long leather strap of heavy brass bells of increasing size. Another treasure, a large German Bible, was marked Grand Rapids and dated back to 1889. The excellent condition of its ornate cover and binding, and the inclusion of illustrations throughout, supported its selling price of $330.
Not a person in attendance would disagree that the highlight of the evening came with the appearance of a single oil painting that hung inconspicuously near the front of the room for most of the evening. An ornately carved gold frame underlined the age of the portrait, a facial profile of a young girl. The stark contrast of her fair complexion in the midst of a shroud of dark hair and dress accentuated her innocence.
Without a clearly identified artist, the painting’s value was contingent primarily on its condition for its age. With this in mind, the bidding started slow, but with the help of both in-house bidders and a phone bidder, the precious artwork reached its peak at $1,700 and kept everyone on the edge of their seats in the process.
It is just this kind of unpredictability and surprise that attracted Hochstetler to the business of buying and selling antiques in the first place.
“A painting like that could go anywhere from $300 to $2,000 depending on what it is,” he commented. “Having dabbled in antiques for many years, one thing I know is that you never know what you’re going to see.”
Hochstetler plans to continue to offer monthly auctions year-round with special consignment sales focused solely on antiques and primitives in the months of April and August. For more information about upcoming auctions, including details on the next event on May 5, contact JR Hochstetler at (989) 802-9443. Listings for gateway Auctions can also be found on AuctionZip.com (ID#45393).