Published: September 26, 2006
After nearly 40 years in the business, Absolute Auctions & Realty auctioneer Don Traver has decided to hang up his gavel. At 10:15 pm on September 9, he struck off his last lot, a group of three framed and matted lithographs of English towns, to an Internet bidder. As the lot closed and the end of the auction was announced, the crowd treated Don to a round of enthusiastic applause and good-luck wishes.
The status of his last transaction was an indication of how much the business has changed during his four-decade career. When Traver started selling in Pleasant Valley, clerking was done by hand on triplicate sales slips, and items were sold in random order with no catalog. Successful bidders sat in lawn chairs and gave only their last name (or their nickname or initials) to the ring men — no paddles or bidder numbers were used.
These days everything is digitally photographed and electronically cataloged well in advance of the auction. The lots are then sold in numerical order on a large video screen, with live Internet bidding available on at least half of the lots. Bidders provide their names, addresses and phone numbers at registration before receiving a numbered bid card, and all clerking and invoicing is processed via a network of a dozen or so desktop computers and laptops.
Traver began his career as a “runner” for legendary Dutchess County auctioneer Cal Smith when Lyndon Johnson was in the White House plotting his “Great Society.” A banjo-picker extraordinaire and local square-dance-calling legend, Don fronted his own country and western band for many years. He ably filled in when Cal Smith needed extra auctioneering help, and at the untimely death of renowned Sharon, Conn., auctioneer Milt Crosby on New Year’s Eve 1986, he stepped in and sold full-time with Smith for more than a decade. When the Pleasant Valley Auction Hall became the Absolute Auction Center, Traver was instrumental in establishing the collectibles ring of Absolute’s multiring auction format.
He got a real workout at his last auction, selling everything from a diamond ring for $649, to a gorilla-style fur coat for $27, to a set of Asa Cheffetz wood engravings for $351. Along the way, he achieved such prices as $173 for a Georg Jensen carving knife and fork, $243 for an American coin silver ladle by B.H. Tisdale, $378 for a set of Yale University Wedgwood plates, $1,081 for a set of International Sterling Trianon plates, $378 for a group of 20 large cents, $541 for a group of 64 Walking Liberty half dollars, $487 for a group of 35 Franklin half dollars, $270 for a Lionel Santa Fe train set, $162 for a Max Kuehne “Street in Marblehead” lithograph, $1,400 for a collection of 35 Majolica plates, $162 for Charity Willard’s framed cat pictures and $1,265 for ten lots of fancy cigarette lighters.
The highlight of the auction was a circa 1800–1820 maple chest with bird’s-eye accents, from the Charity Willard estate, which went for $2,108. Also from the Willard estate were a Sylvester Phelps Hodgdon (1830–1906) oil painting, which brought $919; a Hitchcock bedroom set, $676; an Empire dresser, $351; an 1828 Sarah Ropes sampler, $514; a Chippendale-style mirror, $216; a Regency-style bench, $141; a sailing ship painting, $378; a Queen Anne-style lowboy, $189; an Empire sofa, $135; and a labeled St. Louis circa 1850 dresser, $297.
Other consignments included an 1892 Winchester 44/40 for $1,027; a Greener’s “The Trap Gun” double barrel shotgun, $725; a carved mahogany altar table, $425; a French marble top sideboard, $351, an oak side-by-side, $324; a marquetry breakfast table, $405; a bird’s-eye maple dressing table, $351; and a Phyfe-style sofa, $324.
Absolute Auctions & Realty is at 45 South Avenue. For more information, www.AARauctions.com or 845-635-3169 ext. 104.
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