If there is one thing I have learned over the years working as a certified auctioneer, it’s that nothing will surprise me. I would tell you that I’ve seen it all, but the truth is that at some point soon, someone will walk into my auction house with some rare or unusual collectible that I have not seen before.
The other thing that I have learned is that we can’t avoid controversy, especially when items offend people. Keep in mind that as an auctioneer, I have a fiduciary responsibility to my clients to sell their collections. Sometimes that includes pieces of history that are ugly, like war memorabilia, or collections that others may view as inappropriate.
Each week, we sell hundreds of pieces of furniture, art and other common collectibles. But it’s the rare, unusual pieces that often cause a bidding frenzy. Here are three examples:
- Vintage Gay Interest Magazines: Back when this was a taboo topic, people would secretly collect magazines such as Trim, The Young Physique, Adonis Magazine and similar publications that are now scarce. In January, one of our auctions featured several dozen lots of these gay interest magazines and books. Because they were rare, they did well at auction. Examples include a group of Physique Pictorial Magazines that realized $225, a lot of Grecian Guild Pictorial Magazines that realized $300, and a group of gay interest male physique vintage photos that sold for $1,200.
- Taxidermy: The centuries-old craft of taxidermy continues to do well at auction. Deer, moose, birds, fish, alligators and even exotic animals, like lions and tigers, command high prices if they are in good condition. In February, we auctioned a male African lion Taxidermy full mount that realized $9,500. More common animals, like deer, typically sell for $300 to $500.
- Vintage and Antique Black and White Photographs: Now that our cell phones can take sharp digital photos, who would want these? You’d be surprised at what people pay for these old relics. Last June, we auctioned an antique historical Frontier Days photograph book from the early 1900s that realized $1,900. I have also seen single photos sell for as much as $1,000. I think people are collecting them because they are original snapshots of times gone by that bring back the excitement of what life may have been like back then. Photographs do deteriorate after time, so finding rare ones in good condition can be difficult.
From time to time I’ll hear people ask me why we don’t donate some of the controversial or historical items to a museum. That’s the owner’s decision, not ours. The good news is that if you find something offensive, you don’t have to bid on it. But I encourage you to open your mind regarding why people collect these items – you might be surprised with what you learn.