A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
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Folk Fest, Inc.
SLOTIN AUCTION Folk, African art featured in collections
Some collectors were even a little giddy at what they'd managed to get from the cache of carved wooden figures and ceremonial objects.
Douglas and Brenda Collins of Stone Mountain, who'd been studying the 100-page full color catalog for a month to settle on some must-have items, thought the prices a welcome surprise. What's more, they said, the catalog, which graded artifacts on authenticity, quality and age, was an education unto itself.
David Roop of Greenville, S.C., said the prices were very reasonable for a collection this high-end. "You hardly ever see stuff like this on the market," he said, "except in large collections like this."
Slotin, who said he learns something new from every auction, was philosophical.
"You can look at it in one of two ways," he said, taking a break from his perch at stage right, where he sat throughout the sale. "Either those were great prices and we had really high estimates, or bad prices and we had great estimates."
Whichever, onlookers and buyers seemed to find what they came for.
An early object of feverish bidding was Lot No. 65, a Lwalwa Mask rated "1++" the highest in the catalog that eventually went for $2,100 and it was easy to see why.
Not much more than a foot tall, its dark, diamond-shaped face and square-slit eyes looked timeless ancient and modern.
It was the high price of the morning, the result of a hard-fought battle between those present, referred to as "in the house," and those bidding from cyberspace, referred to collectively as Bidder 1,000. (At first, buyers asked each other what one person could be grabbing up so much of the good stuff. Auctioneer Larry Troutman eventually clarified that Bidder 1,000 was not any one person, just the horde who were bidding by mouse clicks instead of waving yellow bid cards in the air.)
Troutman was not only fast "13, will it go 13, will it go 13," he said, scanning the room for a taker but funny. Another carved wooden mask, also graded 1++, was up for grabs. But this one was nearly 5 feet tall.
"You can put that one in the car to take the HOV lane when you drive down 85," he joked to the winning buyer, who got it for $1,200.
If you're manning a gavel for a day this long with 821 lots going up for bid before closing time, you'd better be good at the banter.
"You're really getting a bargain, folks," he declaimed early on, from his perch above the heads of the bid-catchers (those who watch the crowd for a stray raised arm or eyebrow) and two tables of staffers taking bids by phone. Two women monitoring the eBay action manned laptops nearby. "Buy it even if you don't know anything about it."
When an initiation mask fringed in straw was brought to the block, he quipped, "Don't light a cigarette while you're wearing that!"
Anything to keep things moving.
Paintings, quilts, pottery and furniture were displayed on (and along) the walls of the old grocery store in the same order they were listed in the catalog. This way, Slotin said, buyers didn't have to sit through all 14 hours, but could time their arrival to coincide with when their lots of interest say, Native American art or antiques were due to hit the block.
A bar was set up in the corner to keep long-term buyers fueled for the fray (fuzzy navels and spiked coffee were the hits of the early shift) and a large buffet by the door served up sandwiches, salads and desserts.
Slotin occasionally grabbed a microphone to add comments.
"This maternity carving is worn by young men to honor women," he said when Lot 86, the carved Makonde Belly Mask went on the block. "How often does that happen?" (It was one of the few to bring in more than the catalog's estimated value, finally going to one of the Internet buyers for $1,700, to a round of applause from the house.)
By dinner time, when the day wasn't quite halfway over, Slotin said people still were calling for directions. Between online, phone and in-house bidders, they'd already had about 1,500 participate.
He expected a healthy turnout for the Margaret Mitchell collection, which wasn't due up till late. An auction house from New York or California he said he couldn't remember which had secured an absentee bid of $100,000.
So her belongings, estimated to be worth $85,000 to $100,000 before the auction, looked to be priced exactly right.
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