Rare firefighting memorabilia goes on auction block

Chicago Tribune
“Fire’s a big collecting field people don’t know about,” says George Glastris, director of Skinner Auctioneers’ Science & Technology department. Glastris is the specialist in charge of the first auction of firefighting memorabilia this house had conducted in 15 years, and likely the biggest one ever, both by numbers and quality, he says.

The Rare Fightfighting Memorabilia auction starts at 10 a.m. Nov. 10 at the Skinner Gallery in Bolton, Mass. Rare and one-of-a-kind items of memorabilia will go on the block. Most of the material comes from private collections.

Skinner had been planning the auction since January, but after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, considered postponing it. “Our friends and colleagues in the fire services were emphatic that we host the auction as planned,” says Glastris. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Uniformed Firefighters Association Widows’ and Children’s Fund in New York City, in honor of the firefighters who died in the World Trade Center tragedy. Read the full article here

ANTIQUES; Dalmatians Not for Sale

The New York Times
A bright red 1926 Ford Model T fire chief’s truck with the chief’s white helmet still on the seat, a collection of antique toy firetrucks, an 1890’s hose cart that required the brawn of 14 male pullers — these are just a few of the holdings in the Sag Harbor Firemen’s Museum on Long Island. They were assembled by Thomas W. Horn Sr., a former fire chief who this year celebrated his 50th anniversary on the 165-member Sag Harbor Fire Department. Chartered by the state Legislature in 1803, it is the oldest volunteer squad in New York.

The museum is in a handsome Federal-style building erected by the First Presbyterian Church of Sag Harbor as a lecture hall in 1833. The pale green shingled structure with brick-red trim is on Church Street in the center of this former whaling village and within a National Historic District. The building retains its original potbellied stove, and a bell tower with a bell that can still be rung by hand.

‘It’s a guy thing,” said George Glastris, the science and technology specialist at Skinner Inc., in Bolton, Mass., where the sale will be held. He said that the Skinner sale might be the largest auction of firefighting memorabilia ever held. ”I cannot remember anything, even sales in England, coming close to this,” he said. Read the full article here

Auctioning Off Digital History For Sale: A Key Element Of The First Computer.

A nearly four-foot-long gizmo bristling with vacuum tubes, wires and connectors that was the key element in the first digital electronic computer is up for auction tomorrow.

It is one of the “decade ring counters” that were placed in the innards of the 30-ton monster called ENIAC, short for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, that a team led by two men at the University of Pennsylvania built during World War II for the U.S. Army.

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington has several in its ENIAC display in the National Museum of American History, but this one is believed to be the only one in private hands.

How much money could the vintage device command? The published estimate is $8,000 to $12,000, but “who knows? – that’s my honest answer,” George Glastris, a Skinner official, said. Glastris said he expected most bidders to be private individuals rather than institutions. Has he contacted Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates? “We can’t discuss who we talk to,” he said. Read the full article here

ANTIQUES; Child’s Play The Way It Used to Be

The New York Times
R2D2, meet Barbie. Vintage toys and dolls are in, not that they ever went out. There are specialty auctions, Web sites, collector clubs, swap meets. There are sales four times a year in Gaithersburg, Md., as well as the twice yearly Atlantique Fairs, sales that attract tens of thousands to Atlantic City. There are more than 80 dealers on nadda.org, the Web site of the National Antique Doll Dealers Association.

”It’s a baby boomer thing,” said George Glastris, head of the toy and doll department at Skinner, the Boston auction house. ”It’s about nostalgia and recapturing our youth, even for 35-year-old yuppies like me. The robots are a guy thing. Dolls are for girls.”

He said tomorrow’s auction at Skinner, with 694 lots, is its biggest toy sale to date. The sale includes wind-up toys, lithographed tinplate vehicles, dolls, 18th-century Neapolitan creche figures, toy soldiers, cast iron banks, board games, puzzles and robots. Read the full article here

ARTS/ARTIFACTS; Prehistoric Relics Ride a Roller Coaster

The New York Times
SPURRED BY THE HOOPLA OVER “Jurassic Park,” the top grossing film of all time, fossil frenzy escalated to record levels last year. At trade shows and auctions here and abroad, exotica of all sorts, from dinosaur eggs to prehistoric skeletons, starred as the collectibles of the 1990’s. Then, suddenly, supplies exceeded demands for even the most spectacular of ancient remains and the market fizzled.

Two weeks ago, the majority of the costliest items offered at Bonham’s, the London house that has become the most aggressive in organizing such auctions, went unsold during the largest sale of natural history material in memory. Now the experts are wondering whether the phenomenal interest in some of Earth’s oldest and most esoteric objects was a fluke.

In the summer of 1992, dinosaur eggs began to command high prices: a seven-inch-long one was bought at Christie’s in London for $10,444, the highest price ever for this kind of relic. “That dinosaur egg had everything going for it,” says George Glastris, one of Christie’s natural-history specialists. Found in southern France, it was in good condition, free of earth and rock, and the first of its kind to come to auction in years.
Read the full article here

Baltimore dental museum acquires instruments fit for a queen’s cuspids

The Baltimore Sun 

LONDON — “They’re cheering in Baltimore,” said Christie’s specialist when the auctioneer knocked down Queen Victoria’s personal dental tools to Baltimore’s National Museum of Dentistry for 14,000 pounds.

They sure were. The dental museum in Baltimore had long coveted these royal picks, mirrors, scrapers and scalers.

“They rank in importance with George Washington’s teeth,” museum director Ben Z. Swanson said in Baltimore, where he and others participated in the bidding by telephone.

Mr. Glastris, Christie’s expert, reckoned the set was bought at a sale at Sotheby & Co. in 1966 for 200 or 250 pounds, something like $500 in those days. Read the full article here