Harvey Stack submitted this item based on a recent exchange of emails with Alan V. Weinberg. Thanks! It is indeed a different world today.
Alan Weinberg and I thought E-Sylum readers might enjoy this reminiscence of our experience at the many Stack's sales over the decades in a pre-computer era. Nowadays, auction rooms are a wholly different experience with sparse physical audience attendance, and overwhelming action via the phone and Internet. Something is missing in the auction room atmosphere, in the thrill of attending and participating in such auctions and it is not replaced by sitting at a computer at home and monitoring it "live ".
We all remember the 20 or so sessions of the John J. Ford sales (2003-2007) that the "old" Stack's in NYC conducted with every seat taken and many bidders standing along the walls. There was pure electricity in the audience, a buzz in the air , and considerable applause. Along with much humor expressed at the podium. The Ford sales were perhaps one of the last such "oldtime" experiences , except perhaps the Stack's Baltimore Norweb sale in 2006.
There's nothing like "being there" at a substantial auction.
As an "old time auctioneer", who was fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct well over 700 sales, which had several thousand sessions, I too miss the interaction that occurred during the sales.
I loved to sell to the active bidders, try to encourage them to keep up the bidding, trying to control the room for those who only knew to be disruptive (see below) , standing for hours at a time conducting the sale, using mail bids as my starters, and taking bids from all parts of the room and the phone "bank", watching how some tried to hide their bidding , or whether they were bidding or stretching, others talking too loudly to try to create a distraction so THEY could capture a coin, seeing the excitement of acquisition, at times the audience applause, the disappointment of the underbidder (who at times stormed out of the auction room), hoping the mike doesn't die, hoping the food arrived on time and hot, and hoping that we were satisfying all who came, and just enjoying being with the collectors in the room is something that the Internet cannot replace.
It may help more to feel that they are present, but the total atmosphere of the room, with bidders' enthusiasm evident, is just not possible by wire.
As you [Alan] said "YOU HAD TO BE THERE TO APPRECIATE AND RELISH THE EXPERIENCE ". And as an auctioneer I saw it all happening - except when Don Partrick turned his chair around, back to the auction podium, and facing the audience to monitor his competition FIRST HAND at the later Ford sales .
I REALLY MISS THOSE DAYS !!
Alan and I fondly remember a Stack's auction session in the early 1960's at the old Park Sheraton Hotel up the street from Stack's on 57th Street. During the sale a particularly appealing rare Pioneer gold coin came up. John Ford was bidding against Max Kaplan in a fierce contest to the point where both deep- voiced, cigar-waving "gentlemen" stood up at opposite sides of the room and yelled at each other to back off, each feeling they alone were entitled to buy the coin. Someone had to physically intervene and convince them to sit down and stop shouting at each other and disrupting the auction ( many of us remember Ford's fist fight with collector Donald Miller years earlier ) .
On another occasion during a Bowers & Merena 1983-84 Virgil Brand estate auction, we recall John Ford avidly bidding on an 1850 San Francisco gold hand-engraved and hand-constructed unique gold medal. Ford was "annoyed" by the floor competition and yelled out in his well-remembered booming and intimidating deep voice : "Whaddya want this handmade cockamamie thing for?" ( directed at his unknown competition ) .
Well, that may have worked and Ford got it for $9,900. That medal almost 3 decades later resold in one of the final Stack's Ford auctions for $316,250, a record at that time for an American medal - later well surpassed by Stack's Nov 2006 Norweb Baltimore auction of the gold 1889 George Washington St-Gaudens medal at $391,000 and in the same Baltimore sale the Zachary Taylor gold Congressional medal for $460,000 in two fierce floor/phone bidder battles in auction rooms almost as crowded (but not quite) as the Ford sales.
These are the fond, vivid memories that can't be replaced or replicated any longer. THAT WAS WORK AND FUN AT THE SAME TIME.
Thanks for jogging my memory. It was Great !!!
Wayne Homren, Editor
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