Rare items on block again in Hartselle
Estates yield treasures for annual auction
By Deangelo McDaniel
HARTSELLE — Sometime on Memorial Day, Sambo and Tootsie will probably separate.
The rare and Reconstruction-era porcelain clocks are part of the 35th annual auction and estate sale Jim Norman will have in Hartselle.
They were not manufactured as a pair, but to look at them you wouldn’t know it, said Norman, who believes that Tootsie will probably sell for a higher price.
“I’ve never had any like this,” he said, referring to the clocks. “They are very rare and will probably go in different directions.”
The clocks are in the auction because of the late Joe and Lilly Coffman of Huntsville. Joe was among the most renowned clock collectors in the world.
Items in the Coffman estate and antiques in the Charles and Ruth Apperson estate will go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. in Norman’s auction building near Main, Railroad and Chestnut streets.
“This is some of the best stuff we have ever had,” said Norman, whose annual Memorial Day auctions have attracted thousands of visitors to Hartselle. “If I had to guess, I’d say we’ve probably had visitors from just about every state,” he said.
The Coffmans and Appersons were buyers at previous Memorial Day sales. They kept detailed log records of some of their pieces. The records show that several items they purchased in previous Hartselle auctions will be sold Monday.
For example, there is a French desk more than 200 years old that Coffman paid $1,150 for at a Norman auction in 1971. Vertical saw marks are visible on the wood because the desk was made before circular saws. “I expect it to sell for between $5,000 and $10,000,” Norman said.
There are a couple of grandfather clocks, one made for a jeweler in Portland, Maine, and the other in Philadelphia. Norman sold the clocks at previous estate sales for about $6,000 each.
One of the English clocks was made for legendary American jewelers Joseph Bailey and Samuel Biddle. Norman expects it to sell for between $15,000 and $25,000.
While the clocks are expected to draw some of the highest bids, the majority of the auction includes furniture and glass.
Two of the unusual items are wake tables.
These tables, usually large enough for eight adults, had folding sides and were made of mahogany wood. They held coffins when families received guests at home.
Norman has two that were made between 1880 and 1890. He expects them to sell for between $2,500 and $5,000.
“I would doubt if anyone around here has one of them,” he said.
Norman said he has received the most calls about a wooden trunk that was made between 1860 and 1880. He first sold the truck to the Apperson family in 1976 for $160.
“It will probably bring between $1,000 and $1,500,” Norman said.
One of his favorite items in the auction is a bronze piece that Ferdinand Barbedienne sculpted. There’s also a porcelain clock with dancers that Norman said is not that expensive, but “is rare and in good condition.”
Norman, a native of Cullman County, is as rare as some of the antiques he auctions.
He said he “staggered” into the business while living in Chicago. A friend persuaded him to buy a warehouse of tables and chairs that speak-easies used during prohibition.
“He told me I could make some money and I did,” he said.
In Hartselle, Norman has auctioned items for between $5 and $85,000 — the latter a diamond a man from South Africa purchased.
He deals mostly with estates and his biggest auctions are usually on Memorial Day.
“I had the first 15 of them in the National Guard Armory,” he said.
Monday’s auction has between 200 and 300 pieces and is expected to generate between $300,000 and $500,000.
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