|By Eric RodenbergBRONSON, Mich. – Nearly 1,000 bidders jammed into the 20,000 square-foot White Star Auction facility; for many, it was the sale they had been waiting for all year.
More than 5,000 lots were sold on Feb. 16 – both old and new items – during a fast-paced, “we’re here for business” auctioneer team, led by White Star third-generation auctioneer Brent Wilber. Four auction rings were manned by quick-moving auctioneers and ring personnel, running full-throttle from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wilber and auctioneer Randy Ludwick manned the Sportsman and Tool rings, while auctioneers Dennis Wilson, Heidi Brown and Burdette Wilber worked the other rings where an eclectic mix of hunting and fishing equipment, cabin and lodge furniture, Indian artifacts, wildlife photos and prints and much more.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of anticipation for this sale,” Wilber said. “This is the big one of the year. It was a nice day, about 40 degrees or more, and a lot of people just wanted to get out of the house.”
There were buyers from five surrounding states, buying items that came from sellers from three states, Wilber added.
The auction pulled in an appreciable number of car-racing fans – in particular Indianapolis 500 collectors – after news got out that the parents of local racing legend Scott Brayton were selling some of the late race car-driver’s racing gear and childhood memorabilia.
Brayton, from nearby Coldwater, competed in 14 Indianapolis 500s, beginning with the 1981 event. In 1996, the 37-year-old Brayton was killed in practice at Indianapolis after qualifying for the race’s pole position.
“He was always a ’favorite son’ of this area,” Wilber said.
Following his death, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced a new trophy for the Indianapolis 500, “dedicated to the driver who best exemplified the attitude, spirit and competitive drive of Brayton.”
One of Brayton’s racing helmets, blue in color, and accompanied by a picture of the driver wearing the helmet, sold for $800. An earlier racing helmet, said to be worn by Brayton during his teenage years, sold for $380.
All prices quoted are as hammered by White Star. The firm charges a 10 percent buyer’s premium.
An Indianapolis 500 racing suit worn by two-time winner Gordon Johncock (born in Hastings, Mich.), accompanied by a magazine publication of the driver photographed in the suit, sold for $900.
A wooden putter golf club, presented to Brayton from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, sold for $150. Several racing banners each sold for around the $160 mark, while racing photographs of Brayton ranged anywhere from $10 to $150 apiece.
A circa 1950s-1960s racing jacket worn by Scott’s father, Lee Brayton, who also was a formidable race driver in the Coldwater area, sold for $210.
Around 125 firearms, including 36 hand guns, many of them new were offered. A Browning .308 semi-automatic rifle sold for $700; a Winchester Model 94 Trapper brought $650; a Winchester Model 97, $450; a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle, $675; and a Ruger Mini 30 rifle sold for $700.
A Stoeger-Coach .410 double-barrel shotgun sold for $435, while a Browning Sweet 16 brought $700.
A tremendous amount of hand tools, sold for $10 to $20, while larger powered tools sold in the $100-$200 range. A metal lathe sold for $900, while a Honda Mini Bike from the 1970s brought $700.
“It was a good sale,” Wilber, who like his father, grew up in the auction business, said. “We have a lot of room to do these type of big sales … quantity-wise, this is our biggest sale of the year. There’s always a lot of anticipation for this one.”
Wilber’s grandfather Henry Wilber started working as an auctioneer in 1919. His father, Garth Wilbur, began working with his father after returning from World War II and starting White Star in 1948.
Garth Wilber, who died in 2016 at the age of 91, was elected to the Hall of Fame by both the Michigan Auctioneer’s Association and the National Auctioneer’s Association. The family-owned business is now in its “fourth generation” of auctioneers operating in Bronson – the town from which it was founded in 1919.
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