|By Nancy Kelly
LANSING, Mich. — “The Last Hurrah” was the term spoken by many participants as they entered the building, shook auctioneer Kelly McAllister’s hand, and told him that he would be missed. As the day proceeded, McAllister, his brother Greg, and cousin Shawn McAllister sounded like three boys on the school playground exchanging comments and tossing insults during this business liquidation sale. The mood was sometimes emotional, sometimes playful, and often just wanting to get the job done. The building that had housed K & M Auctions for six years had been sold, so the company needed to clear out the inventory and move.
About 50 people came to help empty the warehouse, with many interesting and unusual items being offered. McAllister said he had saved some of the best items for this sale. There was a 13 percent buyers premium that is not reflected in the prices listed here.
In 1979, the Dale Tiffany Company began specializing in reproducing leaded lamp designs that were first developed by Louis Comfort Tiffany in the late 1800s-early 1900s. The Dale Tiffany Company uses techniques and materials similar to the originals, making these reproductions some of the best on the market. There is no relationship between the two men who share the same last name. A signed Dale Tiffany floor lamp with a glass shade of blue and peach was the highest-earning item of the day, drawing a final bid of $115. Two Roseville Rozane yellow-going-orange table lamps finished at $35 and $30, and a beautiful Gone With The Wind electric lamp with rose decoration was carefully carried away with a final bid of $50. An unusual lamp offered as perfect for the office since one could stick tacks into the cork base to hold memos was claimed with a final bid of $10.
Original artwork collected over the years proved popular with those in attendance. A tender Carolyn Blish oil painting featuring a young girl in a windy field of daisies was claimed with a high bid of $70, while an oil painting of a mystical bearded fellow with planets and water swirling around drew a $60 final bid.
A somewhat abstract painting of a seated Asian woman dressed in pastel colors was gratefully claimed with a high bid of $75, while a large print of the original “The Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede” Dutch painting topped out at $85. Several other prints and paintings were also offered.
Various eclectic items dotted the room, drawing curious interest as the bidding proceeded. A very thick vintage album stuffed full of salesman samples of numerous prints including pets, war images, and children all featuring very appealing artwork was claimed with a final bid of $35. An interesting and ornate gold-colored pedestal with the letter G on the base and a purple velvet platform on top was used to offer Guerlain fragrance samples in luxury hotel lobbies. This unique structure was taken with a high bid of $25.
A brightly-colored vintage Goosie Gander metal children’s pull toy crossed the block with a high bid of $30 after the ring man had a chance to play with it. A Speedball calligraphy set with numerous pen tips, instructions, and the original wooden box finished at $20. A plastic Ideal Plain Board abacus complete with original box and numerous digit places closed at $17.50. Two 9-inch tall “angry teak wood guys” who had presided over McAllister auctions for many years were finally relieved of their duty as they left for $12.50. When asked how he could sell the McAllaster green metal milk wagon, the auctioneer replied that “they spelled the name wrong.” This vintage item closed at $15.
A very unusual-looking wooden structure was described as a compass chair. McAllister explained that it had been designed by the Herman Miller Company, but they then decided not to put it into production and another company did. This sparse piece of furniture with a curved back and only two minimal cross members for a seat was interesting to look at and was claimed with a final bid of $20. A rocking lawn chair with wooden oak frame and canvas seat was tried by many before leaving with a high bid of $10.
Numerous typical items crossed the block, including vases, jewelry, and auto parts. Many more items were claimed for possible resale as the auction progressed. Seven original thick cardboard beer cases for Drewrys, Pabst, Goebel and Miller were taken for a total of $70. A pair of “End of Trail” cast iron book ends closed at $10, a commercial Hobart scale finished at $40, and a Melodica with original box was demonstrated before leaving with a high bid of $17.50. A colorful box containing a commemorative Sgt. Pepper tee shirt and hat was eagerly claimed with a final bid of $22.50.
McAllister reflected on his years in the auction business, which started as a youngster alongside his father and uncle. He commented that it would be very difficult to be starting out in the auction trade today, as the business is evolving. He feels that the days of live, on-location auctions may be numbered as internet sales become more popular and plentiful. He personally enjoys selling items and interacting with the customers, but merchandise values are down, and it is getting harder to make a living at it. Primitives, mid-century merchandise (1950s-1980s), and original art work seem to be popular at the moment, but many old reliable categories just don’t have the return on investment any more. For now, McAllister plans to work the day job, settle into new surroundings, and then figure out what will come next. He plans to continue intermittently running auctions, and can be reached at (989) 666-8314 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.