Harrisburg is literally getting rid of its skeletons in the closet. A week-long auction of the city's Wild West and other artifacts began Monday on City Island.
Roaring cooling fans or the blazing lips of auctioneer Joanne Grant; it was hard to tell which was spinning faster. Bids raced off the Gurnsey's Auction House pro's tongue; she knocked down more than 200 lots in the opening hour.
More than two-dozen people huddled around a podium inside the pavilion on City Island to become a part of history and own some in the same swipe. Charles Bernheisel from Summerdale made the trip over the river to check out some of the 3,500 lots up for bid. He explained he was more of an old crock or vintage glass collector.
"I saw a lot of interesting stuff," he said. "I like the old western-themed stuff, so it's a perfect set-up."
Bernheisel was impressed with Gurnsey's efficiency. Bids came in from all over the world via Internet, phone and, of course, in person. The first item sold around 10 a.m. was an antique wooden yarn winder, lot 1000.
Besides the fun of fun bidding, collectors talked shop - mainly the story behind all the stuff.
"That's a hot topic today," said Bernheisel. "He hasn't gone to jail yet, so I guess it wasn't illegal."
The "he" referred to former mayor Steve Reed. During his reign as city leader, Reed reportedly spent more than $8 million on 8,000 individual pieces of "historic artifacts." His purchasing practices have been widely questioned, but as Bernheisel pointed out, no legal action was ever taken.
More than 7,200 people are registered to bid, according to auction officials. People will fight over Reed's failed project and take home a piece of history – both Harrisburg's tainted one and whatever relics are left.
Each item comes with a warning about its authenticity. A sizeable percentage of Reed's relics were deemed fake.
That won't stop people like Darnell Pemberton to take a shot at owning some "really neat stuff." Pemberton eyed up some African art to be sold. Then, there's his crown jewel.
"My main draw is I want a wagon," he said. "I want one of those old wagons. And, if I gotta convince wifey to cut a tree out to put one in, I'm getting a wagon. AndI want one bad."
The auction will begin at 10 a.m. each day and last until 5 p.m. or until the final lot scheduled is sold. Items that will be sold the following day can be looked over inside the city's D&D building off S. 19th Street near the trash incinerator.