|By Eric C. Rodenberg
FLINT, Mich. – On the third Wednesday of each month, the Harris Brothers — that’s Don and Dave — throw a party and open their 16,000-square-foot climate-controlled auction house to a night of fast-paced fun and bidding.
“About eight or 10 years ago, we began charging a buyer’s premium. It’s something we didn’t really want to do. It was solely a business decision,” lead auctioneer Don Harris, said. “It didn’t really affect our business dealing the higher-end stuff, but we did lose some of our base, and we were moving away from the “old school” style of auction we like.
“So, we decided to host an auction once a month…sometimes twice a month, where we dropped the buyer’s premium, provided our customers with free pizza and drinks, and began having a little fun.”
The local base took to the idea, like the proverbial duck to water.
The brothers, who have been in business since 2005, bring tens of thousands of good antiques and collectibles to the market each year. During the past 16 years, the brothers have been running close to 100 auctions a year.
“But now, at least during the summer, we began to slow down by choice,” Harris said. “We all have wives and kids, and we like to see them every once in a while, so we backed off a bit. But the Wednesday night auctions give us a lot more flexibility.”
On a typical Wednesday, there will be two auction rings running. One ring will be cataloged; the other ring will be inventory from estates, collections and other “pickings” from throughout the Midwest.
And, we’re not talking “junk auction.” The sales offer quality selection of antique advertising, signs, gas pumps, toys, dolls, sports memorabilia, coins, pop culture and more.
The monthly sale draws 50-200 bidders at each event. “They’re very well attended,” Don Harris says. “It’s a chance to relax in a comfortable area, have a good time and see old friends. It’s become a big social event, more than anything.”
The May auction was a typical event, “loaded with great stuff.” In ring one, selling at a brisk pace were 1960 GI Joe figures, advertising posters and signs, gold rings, silver coins, old Michigan license plates, lanterns, bronze statues, vintage transistor radios, and much more.
In ring two, a John Deere lawn tractor, costume jewelry, postcards, boxed dolls, primitive antiques and more.
Bidding in both rings was fast and furious, with a bidding base which has come to expect the unexpected.
Two 32-inch bronze statues from the Legends of the Wild West sold; one featuring U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp bringing $700, and one of Annie Oakley, selling for $425.
GI Joe figures from the 1960s, hit a popular stride with bidders, with four Soldiers of the World pieces bringing good money. The German soldier sold for $130; Japanese soldier, $125; and the Australian and Russian soldiers each netting $120.
A 1960s Marx 24-inch toy, The Great Garloo, in its original box commanded a $425 final bid; a 1934 Ingersol Big Bad Wolf pocket watch, $375; a vintage chalk King Kong statue, $350; and a framed 1930s Tarzan ice cream cup store poster, $325.
Several vintage movie posters were highly contested, including a vintage 1960 Battle in Outer Space one-sheet poster, $325; an original 1970s American Airlines “Royal Coachman Jets” travel poster, $225; and a 1950s Royal Crown Cola advertising calendar brought $160.
A rare 1954 Michigan “Water Wonderland” license plate — new, old stock, “absolutely mint” sold for $225; a 1927 Gilbert Erector set brought $250; and a Herman Munster cookie jar brought $225.
An antique Newhouse No. 4 wolf trap, with a 1911 patent date, brought $165; a 7-inch tall 1950s Japanese Evinrude big twin toy outboard motor and stand sold for $160; and an antique Gettelman Beer (Milwaukee) 3-D masonite sign, illustrating Canadian Geese, sold for $160.
The Harris Brothers open their gallery at G-4150 Van Slyke Road at 4 p.m. for most of these monthly auctions to permit bidders to inspect the inventory, with the sale beginning at 6 p.m.
Contact: (810) 234-7100