Marbles play well at Braun and Helmer auction
by Barb VanLoo
Braun and Helmer Auction Service, based in Saline, Mich. recently held an estate auction at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds. A portion of the preview time at this auction was devoted to a pre-auction party to celebrate the induction of Jerry Helmer into the Michigan State Auctioneers Association Hall of Fame at the MSAA annual convention in early February. His partner for many years, Lloyd Braun, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
Jerry is a 1971 graduate of the Reisch World Wide College of Auctioneering located in Mason City, Iowa. Becoming an auctioneer was not something that he had planned; he met Lloyd Braun in the late 1960s and when Lloyd told him he was going to become an auctioneer he thought it was one of the funniest things he had heard of, but decided to go along for the adventure. That adventure turned into a lifetime profession and he has been involved in more than 3,000 auctions. He and Lloyd became partners, and when their first auction received coverage in the Detroit Free Press, their business took off like a meteor and he never looked back.
It is evident that Helmer thoroughly enjoys auctioneering. He has a smile for everyone and a warm handshake. He does his best to make every auction an enjoyable experience for everyone – the sellers, the buyers, and those who just want to see what an auction is like. He also has a large repertoire of jokes, which he likes to share with others at auctions, sometimes several times. The “retirement” word has come up occasionally but he is having too much fun to do this on a full-time basis. His son David, and Larry’s son Brian have followed in their fathers’ footsteps and are now integral parts of the auction company. They also attended auctioneering school at the same time, graduating from Missouri Auction School in 1996.
Auctions held by Braun and Helmer begin in a most unusual way – with two rings. It is not unusual to have two rings at the beginning of a large auction but they are not usually side-by-side; however, this is the Braun and Helmer method. If they are outside there is usually one auctioneer on each end of a large wagon and they begin calling for bids. At this one, they were next to each other. It might seem a little confusing at first but it works. It also allows the attendees to know what is being sold in each ring.
The initial item sold at this auction drew the interest of everyone, including a telephone bidder. It had also generated numerous calls prior to the auction. This desired item was a salesman’s sample box of Akro Agate marbles. The Akro Agate Co. formed in 1910. Initially, they merely repackaged marbles made by other manufacturers. In 1914, however, they began manufacturing their own marbles and by the 1920s became the leading manufacturer of marbles in the United States. The winning bid for this excellent example, which will remain in the Ann Arbor area, was $12,100.
A pair of large sulfide marbles, each with a chicken in them sold for $80 each. A large multi-color swirl marble known as a shooter saw a final bid of $175. Smaller swirl marbles sold for $40 each and a slag marble sold for $25. A State Fair marble game sold for $60.
A highly desirable majolica nut dish by George James drew interest and a final bid of $700. Other maiolica pieces included a plate with water lilies, which sold for $90 as did one with shells and feathers; a plate with maple leaves which sold for $80; and two others which sold for $70 each, one with fern leaves and the other with roses and shells.
A hand-painted pitcher by Fenton sold for $80; a Beatrix Potter Bunnykins baby dish signed Barbara Vernon saw $50; an orange Hall water pitcher crossed the block for $60; and a selection of pink Depression glassware sold for $55.
A bronze Art Nouveau dish with a maiden figurine earned $250; an early Beatrix Potter Bunnykins baby dish, $45; a head vase sold for $35.
Among the toy guns that crossed the block were a Daisy Superman Krypton Ray Gun that earned $170; a pair of Daisy squirt guns for $25 each; and a Daisy Exterminator gun saw $160.
A wood piccolo went to a local man for $45; a mandolin guitar in the original box sold for $80; and a German harmonica for $45.
An early framed picture of local men who appeared to be a threshing team sold for $150; an advertising poster for the Indiana Savings Bank dated 1930 saw $30; and lithograph of a milkmaid sold for $80. Cartes de Vistes of Civil War generals sold for $70 to $100.
A cast-iron dog nutcracker sold for $20; a cast-iron lion bank for $80; and a cast-iron horse sold for $30. Another cast iron piece a cannon, circa World War I, sold for $50. A bronze bust of a young girl sold for $150; and a Marine Corps insignia piece, which no one was quite sure just where it would be used sold for $30.
When the auction did break into two separate rings Jerry sold jewelry and coins in one while the remaining furniture and other items were sold in the other. There were many desirable pieces of jewelry there were many bidders eager to buy. This was also true for the coins. Examples of the jewelry items included: an opal ring which sold for $100; a cameo bracelet which saw $260; and a 14K gold bracelet which weighed 1.6 ounces and which sold for $400.
A selection of gold rings, most of which were class rings, sold for $270. Pocket watches sold for $200 and $110; and a lady’s sterling silver pocket watch sold for $65.
Two desirable gold $20 coins, one from 1908 and the other from 1925 sold for $1,000 each; a 1898 gold $10 coin sold for $375; and quarter dated 1838 sold for $55. A silver Olympic set sold for $325. Paper currency in the amounts of 10 and 25 cents sold for $40 each.
A tin magic lantern, complete with box and slides sold for $240; a papier-mache jack-o-lantern saw $60; and a Coke tray sold for $70.
Other items that crossed the block included: an early rubber Donald Duck in a car which sold for $80; a small mantel clock which saw $60; and Miller lamps with a hand-wrought stand which sold for $70.
A pair of parrot shelf-sitters, Pete and Polly, with their tails intact sold for $50; a windup pig sold for $25; and a Fire Chief pedal car for $70. An Erector set in its original box sold for $60; bound volumes of Harper’s Weekly, $50; and a jar marked Monarch Fine Foods sold for $25.
Jerry’s sense of humor was very evident when he held up a small wooden box, looked at one attendee and with a semi-serious face asked, “Sir, are you going to be cremated?” A bid of $15 bought the box.
A set of Community Plate flatware sold for $60; cherry pitter for $35; and an abalone shell plate for $50. A sterling silver basket sold for $50; and a pair of weighted candelabrums for $30. A three-piece sterling dresser set sold for $50; a pair of weighted sterling candlesticks saw $35; and a hallmarked salad set sold for $25.
Old powder flasks sold for $50 to $90 each; a three-piece cast iron train set crossed the block for $50; and a pair of opera glasses with mother-of-pearl earned $40.
Braun and Helmer conduct auctions for of all types including farm, estates, and benefit. Some are conducted on site and some in a venue such as the building on the Washtenaw County Farm Grounds - as this one was.