An auction to bone up on


First Posted: 5/22/2008

LIMA -- Wednesday's auction at Sargent Auctioneers was a strange one, no bones about it.

Actually there were plenty of bones, an unnerving number of human skeletons scattered about the auction hall in various stages of assembly. The skeletons were just part of the macabre collection of a Lima man placed up for auction Wednesday afternoon. The large, eclectic gathering of items included coffins, biers, cooling beds (yes, they are what you think they are), antique funeral lamps and the real skeletons. It drew a large and rather eclectic gathering of bidders.

"It's some weird stuff. I've never seen anything like this. It's weird but it would be kind of cool to have," said Jim Shaffer as he looked over a glass-covered casket housing a bleached human skeleton strung together with wire and pins.

While Shaffer contemplated whether his wife would let him store the casket in his living room, Mike Goff cruised the collection in search of authentic adornments for his business, Harold's Haunted Cornfield. Down the line, Ben Warrick eyed a stack of old funeral home catalogs and a heavy wooden crate that once housed embalming fluid.

"This is really a great collection. For collectors, this is a gold mine. It's just trying to figure out if there are any collectors here," Warrick said.

There were no doubt collectors in the room. Auctioneer Don Sargent said the collection drew the interest of bidders from across the Midwest and beyond.

"I got a call from Oklahoma earlier. We've got people coming from Chicago and Pennsylvania and all over," Sargent said.

Sargent said he prefered not to name the collection's owner. He spent decades buying the items from the back of trade magazines and sales and stored it all in his home.

"I've known the guy for years. I had no idea he had it. He bought most of it out of trade magazines back in the '50s and '60s." Sargent said.

Sargent said he checked with authorities to make sure the sale of the skeletons was legal. Because of the age - Sargent said he believes the bones are from the 18th and 19th centuries - the sale is legal.

Allen County Prosecutor Jurgen Waldick said the legal issue of selling old skeletons hasn't come up in his office before.

"All I can say is that if they do go for sale, they'll cost an arm and a leg," Waldick said jokingly against his better judgment.

In truth, the caskets, skeletons and all, sold for less than Sargent expected. By auction's end they had all sold for between $300 and $800.

An auction to bone up on An auction to bone up on