Fast-talking lips are now quiet after seven days of selling artifacts in Harrisburg. City leaders tout the auction yielded some Wild West 'tin.'
Sweltering. Strange. Soggy. A week-long auction provided much in the way of entertainment, fascination and battling the elements—not to mention money. After the auctioneer microphone was turned off, Guernsey's Auction House estimated an overall profit of $3.8 million.
Harrisburg Chief Operating Officer Bob Philbin seemed to be satisfied.
"Great success," he said. "Really interesting."
After the $480,000 cut to the auction house and the buyer premiums, Harrisburg was left with around $2.7 million, according to Philbin. He said that was just enough cash to cover the loan tied to the relics.
"The bottom line of all this is the city is working itself towards fiscal recovery," said Philbin.
Looking on the positive side is needed. Although city residents know the money made is nowhere near what former Mayor Steve Reed spent. According to records, Reed took national tours and accumulated more than 10,000 artifacts costing taxpayers allegedly at least $8 million.
Despite that loss, Harrisburg did bring home a moral victory according to Philbin. He said getting rid of, yes, literally the city's skeletons in the closet was win.
"You can connect all kinds of symbolisms or analogies to it, but I think it does mark a turning point," said Philbin. "Where the city's come, from where it's been, and where it's moving to in the future."
Even if that future still is uncertain. Harrisburg continues to be knee-deep in its state-approved fiscal recovery plan. The profit generated by the auction sale is a disheartening .7-percent dent in the overall $370-plus million in debt. That does not include the $16 million structural deficit the city faces.
There is a silver lining, or in this case, a plastic one. Guernsey's found "thousands of historic documents" sealed and protected in boxes according to Philbin. He said the New York City-based auction house will sell them in the Big Apple in September. Selling those would help generate some much needed revenue, no matter what the end tally would be.
So Harrisburg must take this past week as another bittersweet bump in city history. Although it is not time to circle the wagons and celebrate just yet, sure thing, Philbin is prepared with an oddly appropriate artifact purchase.
"I ended up buying an oxen yoke that was used to transport people or family from Lancaster to out west in Santé Fe, New Mexico."