Here are just of my favorite things from the July 28th Auction-
When a life long collector gives you a call and says they want to sell a few items, you say “YES!!!” And that is just how our July 28, 2018 Antiques & Collectibles Auction started. A few weeks later, they delivered the boxes and furniture. As my husband and Harry Lahr Auction’s Auctioneer Matt was unpacking, he texted me some pictures. And I started to excited. I’m always so jealous when he gets to unpack for auctions like this one.
The day of the auction it was beautiful. As customers started to come in and register, I always am interested to hear how they find out about our auctions and why they buy what they do. That Saturday was no different. We had customers from as far away as Florida, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois and from all corners of Iowa. There was a nice mix of items- antiques, collectibles, furniture, choice lots, stoneware and toys. As customers checked out that day some of them told me of items that they had been looking for and were able to add to their collections that day, items that they missed out on and wished they would be taking home and plans to set up at upcoming antique shows. Another successful auction.
Here are just of my favorite things from the July 28th Auction-
Lot #112 Bon Ami dovetailed box
Lot #149- Weeks, Akron, OH Moonshine Jug
Lot #170- Carbureter counter top cabinet
Lot #185- Hotel front counter
Lot #189- Baxter’s Wines advertising mini jug
Lot #190- W.R. Fields, Tipton, IA advertising stoneware rolling pin
Lot #193- Michigan-Minnesota Red Wing mini jug
Lot #194- The Thompson Store, Gilbert, IA advertising stoneware rolling pin
Lot #197- Very early tramp art box, dated 1846 (I wish this could talk!!!!)
Lot #200- Stained glass window in frame (Can you image the house that this came out of? I can!!!)
Lot #203- Colonial Bread counter string holder
Lot #205- Red Wing birch leaf 5 gal. crock jug
Lot #214- Pepsi bottle machine
Lot #227- GE Mazda Lamps display glass signs
Lot #228- Wooden chandelier- WOW!!!!
And that is the behind the auction scoop!!! We hope to see you again at our August 25th James "Jim" Opitz Estate Auction.
The March 24, 2018 auction started not unlike most of our auctions. At an auction one day, a good auction customer of ours and I were talking. He started to tell me that he had a friend that was thinking about getting rid of some of his antiques. He said that his friend used to go to auctions all the time and buy similar items that he collects. He asked what he should do, and I told him to have his friend give my husband and Harry Lahr Auctions Auctioneer Matt Lahr a call and I handed him our business card. I knew if his friend collected similar things as him, it was going to be a great auction and I crossed my fingers that his friend would call.
A couple days later, the said friend gave Matt call. He explained that he was taking a different direction with his career and wanted to start getting rid of some stuff. He said that he had stuff at his house and in a couple of storage units. Since it was still the middle of winter he was unable to get into his storage units, but he was willing to bring some boxes down from his house and have an auction.
A couple of weeks later, he brought down a trailer load of boxes and told Matt that he wasn’t sure what was in most of the boxes and to have fun. I was super disappointed that I couldn’t be there to help Matt start unpacking. I love setting up for auctions, because it is like Christmas day as a kid all over again. As the day went on, Matt sent me some text messages with photos of what he was finding. With each text message I got even more jealous!!! As Matt was setting up and taking pictures I found a way to have to stop at the Auction Center, so I could check everything out in person.
There are two things when it comes to auctions you can’t control- the weather and if people will bid or not. As the auction drew closer the weather reports started talking about an early spring snow storm. The phone started ringing, the emails started to come in and auction customers started to ask, “If we get a snow storm, are you still going to have the auction?” As they say in show business the “show must go on” and in the auction business the auction must go on.
The day of the auction, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and looked outside to see a small covering of sparkling white snow. My heart dropped. But I was hopeful that we wouldn’t get any more and it wouldn’t affect the auction. As the morning went on and time for the auction drew closer, the snow started to fall. Our phones started ringing and we put posts on social media to let people know that that auction would go on as scheduled. By 8:00 a.m. our phones were ringing off the hook with bidders wanting to set up absentee and phone bids.
As we were talking to customers, getting customers that had made the trip to Earlville checked in, our computers decided that they didn’t like the snow either and they didn’t want to talk to each other. It was one of those mornings, that if something could go wrong- it went wrong. We got the computers talking again and with customers still trickling in we started the auction. Even after we started, we continued to receive phone calls, text and private messages to bid on items.
During the auction, I had the opportunity to bid on several items for an absentee bidder that collects World War II memorabilia. It was fun to bid on things for him and I was able to deliver the items he purchased last week. They will become part of his collection, that I hope I will get to see one day.
At every auction, there are items that I have never seen before and may never see again. Here are a few of my favorite items from the March 24th Auction-
Lot #4- Bunte Chocolate Pumpkins Box
Lot #17-Ornate 5 drawer spice cabinet w/ flip top
Lot #26-Cardboard Dr. Lynas' Hair Grower sign
Lot #46- Crispo Lily Soda Crackers tin
Lot #75-Flat of skeleton keys
Lot #87- Louis Marx tin wind-up circus toy
Lot #100- Blue/white stoneware butter pail
Lot #112- Flat of porcelain bathroom items including shower head (Just imagine the house that these came out of!!!!)
Lot #183- 3" Wooden bowl & masher (Miniature!!! How Cute!!!)
Lot #277- Black & White Family photo with frame
Lot #279- Black & White Photo of barn raising
Lot #293- Lindstrom Mammy tin wind-up toy
Lot #333- Rare wooden egg case by J.G. Cherry Co., Cedar Rapids, IA advertising Hermann Bros., General Merchant, Guttenberg, IA
Lot #335- 2 Gal. salt glazed beehive jug w/ turkey droppings
Click here to view a video of the jug!
Lot #431- 1 Gal. stoneware jug adv. Churchill Drug Co., Burlington, IA
To all of the bidders that braved the weather from as far away as Idaho and South Dakota and as near as Petersburg, Manchester and Dyersville, and every where in between, thank you for coming. To the phone bidders from Illinois, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, we thank you for your bids and we hope that you love your items and enjoy them for many years to come. And finally, to the collector that trusted us to sell his items- you have a wonderful collection. It was wonderful to get to share them with others and it was great to get to know you and hear your incredible life story. If you get around to writing that book about your life, we can’t wait to read it. And that is the behind the auction scoop.
There is a saying, “one person’s trash, is another person’s treasure”. If you are a true antiquer this is true, and it also means you have probably dumpster dived once or twice too, ok, ok, more like a million times, but only once or twice when a police officer just happened to drive by. (True story, but that is another blog.) One of my favorite things about having auctions and going to antique shows is hearing the stories behind the pieces. This is the story behind one of my favorite pieces that I found on the side of the road…
It was a cold, gloomy Saturday morning and a friend and I were headed to an auction somewhere that I have long since forgotten. We were headed south on U.S. Highway 13 and drove into Strawberry Point, IA. As we came into town, we soon noticed that it was city wide clean up days, when unwanted items are set by the side of the road to be picked up and hauled off to be destroyed. We were chatting along when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a pie safe on the side of the road. It was painted white with punched tin sides laying on the ground. For a second, I wondered to myself if my eyes were playing tricks on me. Mid-sentence I interrupted my friend and said, “Turn around there is a pie safe back there on the side of the road.”
She quickly replied with, “A pie safe! No way, no one would throw a pie safe away.”
“It’s a pie safe, quick turn around,” I screamed.
Inside I feared that someone would snatch it up before we could get back. Looking back on it, I am pretty sure we were the only people driving through town at the time. So, right there is the middle of the four-way stop in the shadow of the World’s Famous Giant Strawberry she did an illegal U-turn. We headed back north and pulled over on the side of the road. Sure enough there it was- a pie safe laying on the side of the road. It had been misting most of the morning, as we stood there on the side of the road it started to rain and rain hard. We looked it over and saw that it was in pieces and needed to be loved again. A million thoughts were going through my head. “Will it fit in her SUV?” “What if she wants it?” “Where am I going to put it in my house?” “Will I ever be able to get it put back together?” When behind us came a voice, “You can have it if you want it.”
It was the owner of the house with his head sticking out the door not wanting to get wet in the rain. We asked him if it was a pie safe, which we knew that it was. He said that it was all there, it was just in pieces and needed to be put back together. By this time, he had walked out of the house and was standing next to us on the side of the road. My friend asked me if I thought it would fit in her SUV. I told her we would make it fit and if it didn’t we would tie it to the top. I am pretty sure she thought I was nuts by now. She said, “If we take it how are we ever going to haul everything we get at the auction?”
I told her, “We can get someone to haul our stuff home from the auction.” As I knew we were meeting some friends there.
“If we don’t take it with us now, it will be gone by the time we get back after the auction.” Inside my heart was starting to break at the thought of driving away and leaving it behind. The kind gentleman that it belonged to offered to move it and keep it for us until we came back. I said, “Let’s just see if it fits first.”
We opened up the back of her new SUV, laid down the seats and the kind man said, “Oh yeah, it should fit in there.” My heart lept with joy! So, we picked it up, it was covered in drops of mud from sitting in the rain overnight, with a little pushing and pulling, it fit!!! Miraculously, the back door even shut. I offered to pay him some money for it and he kindly declined. He said, “No, you girls just enjoy it. It is a great piece.” I shook his hand and thanked him. I think he could tell how happy it made me that day so long ago.
We hopped back in the car and my friend and I looked at each other, both wet from the rain with mud on our hands. She said, “I can’t believe that just happened! That never happens!”
“It did today,” I said.
We headed back South, and we quickly realized that we were going to be late for the auction. When we arrived, we met up with our friends that had already arrived. They said that they were starting to get worried about us because we were running late. My friend turned to me and said, “Lisa found a pie safe on the side of the road and we had to stop and pick it up.” Both of our friends’ eyes got big and they said “What?!? You found a pie safe?”
“Yep, just laying on the side of the road in Strawberry Point. It’s in the car, so if we buy anything today you have to haul it home for us,” I explained.
They gave each other a glance, as if they didn’t believe us. So, after the auction, we walked back to her SUV and opened up the back. They both looked inside to check it out.
When we got back to my house that day, we unloaded it in the garage and for a couple of years it sat there waiting to be put back together. When it came time for me to move in with my husband Matt, he asked me if I wanted to move it. I told him that I did. I think he thought I was a little nuts too. So, we loaded it up and moved it into our storage building.
One day, I came home from work and Matt said that he knew someone that could put that old pie safe back together again for me. We talked about it a little awhile and he picked up the phone to give him a call. He said that he could do the best he could and to bring it over sometime. The next day, we loaded it up again and drove over to his woodworking workshop. I told him the story and he looked it over. He said that a couple of pieces were missing but that he could build new pieces and he would do the best he could to make it look primitive to match the rest of the piece. We told him to get to it whenever he could. A couple days later he called and said, “Tell Lisa, I got her cupboard done. “
We went back over to his workshop and loaded it up. This time we brought it to our house and put it in the barn. It would sit there for a couple more years as we were busy having two kids and building our auction business. Then this summer on a hot summer day I hauled that pie safe out in to the summer sun and started washing off the drops of mud from so many years ago and the saw dust. As the layers of dust and dirt were washed off, I fell more in love with that old pie safe. I painted the pieces that he had to rebuild and gave it a coat of polyurethane to seal in the cracks and chippy paint. Matt came home from work and moved it inside when it was dry. Here is what it looks like today-
So, to all the hardcore antiquers and wanna be fixer uppers- you never know what you are going to find on the side of the road…
The hustle and bustle of the Christmas season is behind us and 2018 has arrived. 2017 was a big year at Harry Lahr Auctions. Just over a year ago, we had our first auction in our new auction center. This year was full of auctions from 60-year antique collection, to an estate from New York, household sales and we started having Thursday night auctions. We sold antiques, primitives, stoneware, and more canning jars than we ever dreamed. We have celebrated personal milestones- our daughter, Mahala, started pre-school and proudly announced that she wanted to be an auctioneer when she grows up. Matt and I celebrated our fifth anniversary December 3rd. And our other future auctioneer Caleb turned 1 year old in March. We had new experiences- Matt and I attended the Red Wing Collector’s Society Midwinter Show together for the first time in February and we headed North for Matt’s first Oronoco Gold Rush Days in August. We ended the year getting our new auction software up and running. Along the way we have learned a lot, had some sleepless nights, and made new friends.
At the end of each year I always find myself reflecting on the year that has passed and look forward to the year that is ahead. This year is no different and if 2018 is anything like 2017, I can’t wait to see where 2018 takes us personally and professionally. Thank you to everyone that supported Matt and I and Harry Lahr Auctions over the past year. Thank you to all the consigners and families that have entrusted with your auctions. To all our wonderful customers that we have met that have attended our auctions in person, bid over the phone or checked our website or followed us on social media. To our friends, family and auction staff that have been right there with us over the past year- Thank you! We truly are living out our dream and we couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do it without you.
Below are a few pictures from 2017. Our first auction for 2018 is this Saturday, January 6th, we hope to see you there. Happy New Year! Lisa
In the antique world there are people that have collections. And then there are people that have amazing collections. Over the years, I had heard about a collector that had an amazing collection of general store and tobacco items. For years I would have done anything to see it. I never would have guessed that one day we would get the honor of auctioning it off.
One day we received a message from said collector and our first reaction was disbelief. A couple of messages and phone calls later, we learned that everything was in boxes and if we wanted to do the auction we could come get it. I have to admit the day Matt went to pick everything up I was majorly jealous. So, when he started unloading I had to help. I couldn’t resist opening a couple of boxes just to see what was inside, I wasn’t disappointed.
Prior to the auction we had had interest in items as far away as Canada. The day of the auction there were bidders on the phone from Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. And bidders in house from Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin. The sale started strong from lot one all the way to the end of the sale.
Here are a few, ok a lot of my favorite items-
Lot #3- “Watt Pop” counter lollipop display
Lot #59- Salesman sample blue/white swirl enamel pan, Lava & Volcanic Enameled Ware
Lot #146- Mammie Roly Poly tobacco tin, Mayo’s Cut Plug, very good cond.
Lot #147-Child’s blue enamel tin tea set
Lot #152- Multi-colored “End of the Day” enamel tray, 12”x15”
Lot # 153- Singing Waiter/Opera Singer Roly Poly tobacco tin, Mayo’s Cut Plug
Lot #158- Tin litho Fairy Soap tray, 14”
Lot #159- Satisfied Customer/Business Man Roly Poly tin, Mayo’s Cut Plug
Lot #165- Store Keeper Roly Poly tobacco tin, U.S. Marine Cut Plug
Lot #180- Metal match holder advertising Garnavillo Hardware, Garnavillo, IA
Lot #194- Metal “Singing Man” cigar cutter, good paint
Lot #212- Palmer’s Chocolate Marshmallow store tin
Lot #280- Diamond Dyes counter display cabinet, original, good cond.
Lot #361- Wood dough bowl, 26”L
Lot #430- Store counter/display case on iron legs, 59”Lx39”Tx22”D, (2) glass shelves, sliding rear doors
Lot #471- Iron bed
Lot #480- Round rag rug, 75”
And of course, Advertising Stoneware. I am a Clayton County girl born and raised after all.
Lot #39- Red Wing Greek Key bowl adv. Wilke’s Store, St. Olaf, IA
Lot# 101- Stoneware bean pot adv. Grangaard’s, Monona, IA
Lot# 107- Red Wing bowl adv. Geo. Radloff, Farmersburg, IA
Lot #188- Stoneware bean pot adv. Geo. Radloff, Farmersburg, IA
Lot #196- Stoneware bowl adv. Grangaard’s, Monona, IA
And that is the behind the auction scoop. General Store Auction #2 will be held Saturday, October 21st at 9:30 a.m. Happy Bidding!
Last weekend, we had the honor of auctioning off the lifelong collection of Bill Lukan. Like most auctions it started with a phone call, but this one was a little different from the very beginning. I was home with the kids on a “normal” day when the phone rang, I answered and a member of the family handling the estate started explaining the situation and asked a few questions. She explained that Bill had lived in New York, then moved to Florida and they were interested in us doing his auction. Looking back on the phone call now, I remember thinking- “Is this for real?” and “How is the stuff ever going to get here?”
I passed along he message to Matt and he called them back. That night when he got home from work, we chatted about our days and he too was almost in a state of disbelief. Some phone calls and emails later, plans were made to have the items delivered to Dyersville. Matt arranged a time to meet up with the family and look things over. From the pictures that family had shared with us, we knew there was some really good stuff, but we quickly discovered there was some fabulous stuff that we may never see again. Matt took some photos and made arrangements for the auction.
A few weeks later, we started moving things to our auction center and started photographing each item. I am always curious as why people collect what they do. It was evident from the very beginning that Bill was an interesting guy. As we set up for the auction, we felt like we got to know Bill through the stories that the family shared and the items that he collected. We learned the he loved to travel and purchase items on his travels around the world. We learned that he loved Christmas and would decorate his house each Christmas with a huge light display, so large in fact he earned the nickname Light Show Bill. We learned that he loved to have fun and spend time with his friends and family. We learned that he loved art of all kinds. We learned that he always loved Iowa and even though his life and his travels took him all around the world, he never forgot his childhood in Dyersville, IA. When I was unpacking a box of items for the auction, I came across a few personal photos. One of the photos was of Bill sitting in a chair with a huge smile on his face. As I held the photo, I thought of what it would be like to have met him. I would have loved to hear about his travels and all of the interesting places that he saw. I would have loved to hear stories about the people he met along the way and the fun times they shared. I never had the opportunity to meet Bill in life but through his auction, I felt like I got to know him a little. And he was indeed a very interesting guy.
Here are a few of my favorite items from the auction-
Lot #5- J. Chein tin wind-up roller coaster
Lot #140-Great River Road Iowa sign-(Lots of good memories for me on that road.)
Lot #196- Louis Phillipe brass 6 light chandelier
Lot #227- Mother’s Oats advertising framed print, Mother’s Boy
Lot # 262-“Portrait of a Gentleman”, pastel on paper, framed (Sir, I wish I knew who you were and could hear your story.)
Many of you have asked about the early wood carousel type wood horse from Ike’s Park, Dyersville, IA that was originally listed on the auction sale bill. As we were preparing for the auction, we discovered in Bill’s items that it was his wish that the carousel horse be returned to Dyersville and be donated to the Dyersville Area Historical Society. We, along with Bill’s family wanted to honor his wishes.
Thank you to everyone that attended Bill’s auction, I hope that you enjoy the items you purchased as much as Bill did. To the family of Bill Lukan, thank you for entrusting us with Bill’s auction and sharing your memories of him. It was an honor. Thank you!
If you haven’t figured out by now, I LOVE ANTIQUES!!! And I never pass up a good antique show. For many years, I planned my life around attending my favorite shows. Several years ago, I started working for an antique dealer and I got an education on the antique world. I worked at the shop while he did antique shows and bought and sold all over the country.
One of the very first antique shows I ever attended was in Oronoco, MN better known as Gold Rush Days. Oronoco is a town of around 1,400 people just north of Rochester, MN. The whole town comes together to put together three days of antiques, food and fun. People rent out their yards for dealers to set up their booths and for $5 you can get a great parking spot in someone’s backyard. The whole town smells like food with food trucks and the fire departments annual pancake breakfast.
When my husband Matt and I first started dating, I asked him if he ever goes to antique shows and he said that he did but he had never been to Oronoco, he had never even heard of it!!! I made a mental note that we needed to make the trip and go together. Flash forward five years, three moves, two babies and lot of auctions later we still had never made it to a Gold Rush Days.
This year, because he has been working so hard at building our auction business, sometimes working 7 days a week. (Ok, not sometimes, a lot.) I wanted to make Father’s Day and his birthday extra special. Months in advance I wrote in BIG letters to not schedule an auction the weekend of August 18th-20th on the calendar. A couple weeks later, he agreed to do an auction for another auctioneer that Saturday. So, technically he didn’t schedule an auction but this would throw a wrench into my plan. Luckily, I have fantastic friends that understood and were willing to change their plans to watch the kids. I wasn’t quite sure when to mention it to him, so the night of his birthday after presents and cake I asked him if he wanted to go on a date with me and finally go to Gold Rush Days.
The week of the show rolled around and I was getting excited- the food, the antiques and getting to hopefully see a lot of friends that I hadn’t seen in years. One important thing any antiquer must do prior to an outdoor show is check the weather. And the weather for that Friday when we planned to go didn’t look good, but we were determined to forge on. I got out my rubber chore boots that have gotten me through the mud at a few other antique shows, got ‘em cleaned up and put in the car. I packed some other essentials, an umbrella, comfortable shoes and a purse that is big enough to carry what you need but not big enough to knock something over you can’t afford or too big that your shoulder hurts by noon.
The next morning, we got the kids out of bed and put them in the car in their pajamas and headed north. After dropping the kids off, we forged on to Oronoco on US Highway 52. The drive to Oronoco is really pretty. I love driving through all the little towns along the way especially Harmony, Lanesboro and Preston.
When attending an antique show the earlier you arrive the better. We arrived just before 9:00 a.m. and the streets were packed with people. We found a place to park just a short walk to the show. It wasn’t raining but we took our umbrellas just in case. Gold Rush Days has a great mix of vendors and dealers. There really is something for everyone from high end antiques, new merchandise, crafts, direct sales representatives, and rusty junk.
It is really temping to rush as fast as you can to see everything, but at an antique show this size you won’t, so don’t even try. One of the things I love the most about antique shows, and Gold Rush Days is the perfect opportunity, is to experience the show and getting to meet new people. Take your time, walk around and visit every booth. Even if it doesn’t look like it has “your type” of antiques, take a look, you never know what you might find and don’t be afraid to talk to people. Strike up a conversation with the dealers, ask about what they are selling or if they have a shop back home. Believe me you will meet some really cool people. I know because many of them have become friends. And don’t be afraid to ask someone you don’t know if you can take a picture of his really cool top hat.
At any antique show, there is one guarantee- you will always see something that you have never seen before and may never see again. Once an antique is gone, it is lost forever and it can never be replaced. Find out what you like, collect what you love and enjoy the hunt. The people you will meet and the relationships and memories you make along the way will be just as special as what you buy. And there will always be something that gets away from you or you will fall in love with something that just doesn’t fit in your budget. For me at Oronoco this year it was a big, beautiful seed counter….I tried to convince Matt that we need to buy a new house to accommodate it, which he quickly replied, “No.” So I took a picture instead.
A few of my favorite things at this year’s show was-
Primitive bathtub with original wooden rim. I couldn’t understand why Matt wouldn’t let me buy this one, maybe because we already have a bathtub in our barn just in case we ever remodel….
Pie Lady Sign, everyone loves pie, right????
A sign of a dapper gentleman selling real estate. He is soooo cute!!!
Salesman sample suit.
Signs, signs and more signs. Can you tell that I love signs???
And of course, crocks!!! No collection is complete without some really cool crocks.
And I kinda have a fascination with weird, medically kinds of stuff. Like a skeleton in a box.
A head in a glass bubble.
Or this awesome primitive, metal dental cabinet.
Not to be outdone by an 1860 ledger from a Wisconsin State Prison.
And a couple of old favorites-
And fretwork and tin ceiling tiles. Just look at that chippy paint!
My husband’s favorite part of the day….. the Barbeque!
Mason jars have been all the rage on Pinterest and are must have for any bride’s rustic country wedding decor for a while now. Long before Pinterest was invented, I had been decorating with Mason jars. When my Grandma had to move out of her house and into assisted living, she had shelves and shelves full of clean, glistening canning jars of every size in her basement. The auctioneer that we had hired to do her auction told us that they weren’t worth anything and to keep them or get rid of them. No one else wanted them so I packed them up and took them home-three storage tubs full. I was a poor, non-traditional college student at the time and was living with my Dad. He just shook his head when I brought them inside and carried them upstairs to the storage room.
A couple years later, I had moved out and gotten an apartment and I was on a mission to decorate. One of my friends at school had a booth at an antique mall and her Dad made beautiful shelves out of barn boards, old wood, square nails and old hardware parts. I found a shelf in a magazine that I wanted but could never afford and I asked him if he could make me one. He said that he could. I hung the shelf in my horribly dated apartment kitchen- yellow linoleum flooring, yellow Formica counter tops and matching avocado green appliances. Not exactly the look I was going for with my country chic décor, but it was all that I had to work with at the time.
I went over to my Dad’s and carried those three storage totes of Mason jars downstairs and into my car. A family friend of ours, lives in a beautiful old house. Her house is so beautiful it is like walking into an issue of Country Living magazine. She has a beautiful old country store counter with glass front drawers as her kitchen island. Inside each drawer front is filled with items that would have been for sale in an old general store. I loved it and this was my inspiration for my Mason jar display, now it was time to find stuff to fill my Mason jars. I made a list and when it was time to go grocery shopping, I headed to the local Wal-Mart. I found the dried bean section and marveled at all the different kinds of beans-perfect for my Mason jars! But as I looked at the prices and quickly learned that I would need 3-4 bags of beans to fill just one of my Grandma’s Mason jars, it just wasn’t in my meager college student budget. So, it was back to the drawing board.
My oldest brother is a dairy farmer and each fall after he picked corn, we would go in the corn field behind my Dad’s house and pick up the ears of corn that had fallen to the ground. I knew my Dad always kept a bag of corn in his garage to feed the squires each winter. I knew if I asked, he would let me have a few ears of corn for my Mason jars. I asked my Dad if I could have a couple. He said I could and when I told him what I was going to do them, I foolishly thought that he would offer to shell them for me. Besides he was retired and had nothing better to do than help his daughter to decorate, right? Wrong, he handed them to me and walked away. One night while I watched television, I sat down on the floor and shelled corn into my Mason jar. One jar filled!
One day when I was at my brother’s farm there was a delivery truck delivering some cotton seed. I don’t think I had ever seen cotton seed before and I asked him what he used that for. He told me that he feed it to his cows as part of their ration. A few days later, it struck me. Cotton seed in a Mason jar would look really cool and very unique! My friend didn’t have cotton seed in her general store counter. I asked my Dad if I could have some and he said, “What for?”
“My Mason jars,” I told him.
“Well, you would have to ask your brother. You know, he has to pay for that right?” He said.
A couple days later I found the perfect Mason fruit jar and headed to my brother’s farm. I asked him if I could have some cotton seed. He was even more perplexed then my Dad as to why I would want some cotton seed. When I explained to him what I was doing, he just shook his head and said, “take what you want.”
I filled a couple more Mason jars with some of my Grandma’s old buttons and some cheap coffee beans that I found at the dollar store. My friend with the beautiful general store counter dried some orange slices for me and my Mason jars were complete. I have moved several times since that dated yellow and avocado green apartment kitchen but my Mason jars are still on display on that barn board shelf.
A couple of months ago, we got a phone call from a gentleman that had a Mason jar collection that he was interested is selling at one of our auctions. He explained that he had hundreds of them in all shapes, sizes and colors. I was instantly excited. A couple of weeks later, we got a phone call that they were all packed up and were on their way to drop off the jar collection. There were boxes and boxes and boxes of Mason jars. I will never forget when I first walked into the auction building to see tables and tables of beautiful old Mason jars, some which I had only seen in books.
When I came time to set up for the auction, Matt asked if I would help because I knew more about Mason jars then he did. I thought to myself, “I don’t really know that much about Mason jars.”
The day came to set up the auction and a couple of guys that help us just stood there and shook their heads. One asked me, “Have you ever seen so many Mason jars?” We started sorting like jars together- Mason, Mason Perfect, Ball Mason, Kerr, Atlas, Stanford, Drey, etc. A couple I was scared to touch because I had only seen them in antique reference books. Before we knew it, we had a trailer full of jars. As we sorted we joked about dreaming about Mason jars. I didn’t dream about Mason jars that night but I did learn what a pickle pusher is that day.
I still have three totes of Mason jars from my Grandma’s house in my attic. Today those Mason jars are merely decorative, but they remind me of my Grandma and all the hardworking women in my family that canned, froze and worked hard for everything they had in life. I wonder what they would think about the Mason jar decorating craze???
Here are a few of my favorite jars from our July 29th Auction.
Lucky Number #7
A couple of weeks ago, we received a call not unlike many calls we receive at the auction center. A son was calling for his Mom. She had recently had some health problems and was looking to down size a little and make some money to help with expenses once she returned home. He went on to explain that they had started cleaning out his childhood home and had found some crocks in the basement. We set up a time for him to deliver the crocks and we told him that we would get them on an auction as soon as we could as his Mom would soon be returning home.
A few days later, my husband and Harry Lahr Auctions Auctioneer, Matt came home from work. As we chatted about our day, mine at home with the kids and his at the auction center setting up the next auction he mentioned that phone call. He said, “I think this one crock is something special,” and he showed me a picture of a 4 gal. Western Stoneware beehive jug with a unique marking of a leaf with Plant 7 on it. He proceeded to share with me that in 1906 Western Stoneware Company purchased seven potteries- five in Illinois, one in Missouri and one in Iowa. Fort Dodge Stoneware of Fort Dodge, Iowa was founded in 1859 became Western Stoneware plant number seven (7) with that purchase. For a short time, they made crocks with a special mark and this jug was one of them. He asked me to put it on our website, Facebook page and to share it on a couple stoneware collector sites that we belong too.
Later that night, I uploaded the photos and put them on the internet. Sometimes I am still amazed at the power of the internet because literally within minutes, we started receiving phone calls and messages with possible bidders expressing interest in the jug. Over the next couple of days, we had made arrangements for absentee bids, phone bids and have recommended hotels for people making the drive to Earlville in hopes of purchasing the jug.
The day of the auction came and due to the interest in the Plant #7 jug we decided to set a time to sell it. When it was time for the jug to be sold we had three bidders on the phone, a stack of absentee bids and a crowd with their bidding numbers ready. The bidding started and quickly the price jumped higher than we expected. From my place at the cashier’s counter, I could tell that one phone bidder was out and just wanted to hear the final price. But in the front row sat a bidder holding up her number and she didn’t put it down. When the hammer came down she was the high bidder at $760.00.
A little while later, she walked over, told me her bidder number and gently sat the Plant #7 jug down on the counter. I pulled her ticket and realized that that was the only item she had purchased at the auction. We started chatting and I told her the story behind the jug and that the family was going to be very surprised and happy at the final price. She told me that she couldn’t wait to get home to get it cleaned up and was very happy that she was able to help the family bring their Mom home.
People have auctions for lots of reasons, but you just never know when that one special item you purchase over the phone or in person is helping someone stay in their home longer, send their kids to college, or move to another chapter of their life. Plant #7 was destroyed by fire in 1906, not long after it was purchased by Western Stoneware Company, but I wonder what the potter that turned and stamped that jug 111 years ago would have thought….How the jug that they made so long ago would be found in the basement by a family helping their Mom would make its way to our auction house in Earlville, IA and then on to a new home with one very happy bidder. To some the number 7 is lucky and to this family that Plant #7 jug certainly was.
Sources: Western Stoneware Company
University of Illinois Extension
Every once in a while, at an auction we get that one special item…..that one special item that becomes the talk of the sale. Last week, at our excellent antiques and collectibles auction that was lot #229- the Diamond Dyes tin lithography sign titled “A Busy Day in Dollville”. The sign depicts a little girl in a blue dress dying her doll’s clothes while her dollies look on.
When we started setting up for the auction it was like every other item, we unpacked it, cataloged it, took a picture and assigned a lot number. Then when the absentee bids started coming in and two veteran antique dealers told us that they had never seen one before, we started to realize we had something pretty special.
Then late one night, I received a message through Facebook from a man named Keith. He wrote that he was interested in bidding on the sign and was wondering if we did absentee bidding. I replied to his message and told him that my husband and Harry Lahr Auctions auctioneer, Matt, would be contacting him the next morning. After the usual questions about condition and terms of sale, Keith placed his bid. The next morning, Keith contacted us again and said that he was very interested in the sign and that he wanted to increase his maximum bid to ensure that he would be the top bidder.
Last Saturday, it was the day of the auction. I circled lot number 229 on my auction listing to remind myself to watch the sign sell. A couple hours later it was time. I stopped what I was working on and turned my attention to the auction block. Matt announced the item and that the opening bid was $1,000. I hear a collective exhale from the crowd in surprise. The bidding began and after some back and forth the bidding ended with a final bid of $1,600. I knew that Keith was the high bidder. One of our ring men brought the sign back to me and I put it on the shelf in the office to keep it safe. As people came up to the counter to check out, a few of them commented on the sign and asked where it was going.
After the auction, it was time to call the absentee bidders and let them know what they bought. Matt said, “I want you to call Keith and tell him that he got the sign.” We located Keith's information and I dialed his phone number. After a couple of rings Keith answered the phone-
Me: “Hi Keith?”
Me: “This is Lisa from Harry Lahr Auctions.”
I could almost hear him holding his breath over the phone.
Me: “I am calling to let you know that you were the high bidder today on the Diamond Dyes tin litho sign.”
And there was silence on the other end of the phone….
Keith: “O’ Lisa, if I was there right now I would hug you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you so much!”
I could hear the emotion in his voice. He proceeded to tell me that he was working today on a big order for a customer, otherwise he would have loved to attend our auction in person. He told me that he has been happily married for over thirty years and together him and his wife, Nancy, loved to collect general store items and that he planned to give the sign to her as a birthday present. We chatted for a few more minutes and made arrangements to ship the sign to him.
Keith and Nancy- I wish you many more years of happiness together. I wish you many wonderful days shopping for more general store items together that are just as special as the Diamond Dyes A Busy Day in Dollville sign. I wish you many more anniversaries together.
Nancy- I wish you a wonderful birthday and many, many more to come.
I thank you both for the memory of telling Keith about the Diamond Dyes sign, it is a moment that I hope I never forget.
That one special item….
Lisa Lahr, Author
Auction Wife! MOMMY to 2 Super Cute Kiddos! Antique Lover! Old House Obsessed!