Potential bidders preview artifact auction in Harrisburg

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Ahead of next week’s auction of thousands of artifacts in Harrisburg, potential bidders got to take a closer look Thursday at the massive collection former Mayor Stephen Reed put together.

City officials estimate Reed spent about $8 million amassing various items for a planned Wild West museum that never materialized.

“When we walked into the D&D building the first time, you couldn’t walk into the D&D building,” said Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey’s Auctions, based in New York. “Things were piled far above my head, in no order whatsoever.”

The items are on display in the D&D building, though the auction will take place on City Island. Bidders present during the auction will see pictures of the items on a screen.

Ettinger said the auction has drawn interest from thousands of bidders all over the world.

“Make no mistake about it, this is one of the world’s largest auctions. I know that because Guernsey’s did the world’s largest auction,” said Ettinger.

He added any item someone bids on will be sold regardless of what the highest bid is.

“Everybody who’s watching this, whatever the top bid is on any item in this sale, it will be a successful bit. No one’s going to be turned away because their bid wasn’t enough to meet some artificial preset minimum,” said Ettinger.

Arnold Duke came from New Mexico to see the items firsthand.

“I had previewed a lot of it online. But, not until you get here and you realize how much it is. It’s just staggering. It’s an absolutely fantastic collection,” said Duke, who hopes to win some items to display in a museum in New Mexico.

The auction features a wide variety of items, such as documents said to be signed by George Washington and John Hancock. Ettinger said some are replicas that could serve as decorative pieces in someone’s home and likely won’t fetch much money for the city. But, he said others are “national treasures.”

Anyone interested can stop by the D&D building at 1690 S. 19th St. in Harrisburg Thursday through Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Items will stay on display through the auction from 9 a.m. to noon each day. The auction will take place on City Island from July 15-21. The final day is only for bidders present on City Island. There’s no charge to attend. People wishing to bid online during the other days can at http://www.proxibid.com and http://www.liveauctioneers.com.