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Monday, October 25, 2010

Tales from an Estate Sale

The state fair is like grits, ACC basketball, and SEC football- if you didn't grow up with it, then you just can't understand the hype.  I never grew up going to the fair (Isn't Carowinds a summer-long fair that's bigger, cleaner, and has better rides?),  but my husband grew up in Columbia, SC and fondly remembers going to the fair every single year as a child.  So wanting to continue the tradition with our 10-month old, we headed down to Columbia Saturday morning.  As we turned onto my inlaws' street, I saw an all-too-familiar sign, the one that makes my heart skip a beat every time.  "Estate Sale Saturday:  10-4."  The state fair would have to wait...
The estate sale was three houses down from my inlaws, so they knew a lot about the seller.  He is a rare bird- a college English professor who has always lived alone in a big dark house, wearing only black clothing and keeping to himself.  He is still alive and well but is planning to downsize, so he hired a third party estate sale company to come in and conduct the sale.  As a buyer, there are advantages and disadvantages to these third party sales- generally the merchandise is organized and of high quality, but the downside is that you aren't as likely to get a great deal, because they generally know what they are selling. 

The items being sold were solely from the storage shed behind the professor's house- it did not include anything from inside his home.  There were probably 20 long tables and 15 shelving units set up, covered in silver, copper, brass, and wooden objects he had hoarded collected in his shed.  Saturday was the final day of the sale, with everyone saying all the "good stuff" sold Friday.  I truly cannot IMAGINE how much he must have stored in that shed. 

The "buzz" on the street was that if you knew what you were looking for, you could likely find museum-quality pieces at this sale.  The professor traveled extensively and bought high quality pieces.  I saw copper and brass pieces etched with Arabic words, huge pottery crocks too large for two people to pick up, silver serving pieces from Dutch cruise ships that serviced African tours, samurai swords, and heavy jade lamps.  The prices were fair, but generally they were not bargains.

The one real bargain I saw- this stack of vintage suitcases priced at $2.50 per suitcase.  They also had gray and black ones.  I love seeing vintage suitcases stacked and repurposed as a nightstand or end table, but I decided that I just don't have a place for them right now, so I passed.  Would you have bought them?

Admittedly, I am not much of a cook.  But a quick call to my culinary expert sister confirmed that copper cookware can be fantastic.  The professor had multiple shelves of it.

Carved wooden bowls and serving dishes covered these shelves. 

Unfortunately I couldn't buy everything I wanted to buy.  But here is what did make the trip back to Charlotte with us.

A pair of wrought-iron cow skillets for cooking steaks.  I need to clean them up first of course!  Does anyone know any tricks for cleaning rust off cast-iron?

6 copper sauce pans for my sister.

A hand-painted old soup tureen that I absolutely love.  It isn't marked with a pattern- only numbers.  Does anyone recognize the pattern?

I especially love the gold bow detailing on the lid.

A stack of old books- one is from 1871!

A really HEAVY large brass tray (I placed a fork on it for scale).  It would be so pretty to use as the top of a tray table!

Patterned brass tea set etched with words in Arabic.

A very old pillow cover with hand-embroidered detailing.  I would love to know where it came from.

A mounted brass deer head.

And lastly, an array of large brass objects, including lobsters and crayfish (just like the one atop a stack of books in Nick Olsen's living room here).  One or two of these fab crustaceans might make their way on to MoS Marketplace soon...
So after several hours at the sale, we made our way to the fair, and fun was had by all!  Sadly, after the estate sale there was no room in the car for any giant stuffed animals...


christine {bijouandboheme} said...

Oh how fun! I love the tureen and large brass tray- gorgeous! The brass lobsters are delightful and of course, loving the deer head. Great finds:)

MerciBlahBlah said...

YES to those suitcases. Sadly, I just put one of my vintage suitcases out for the garbage this weekend because it was crushed in a tragic suitcase accident. I LOVE those that you posted. The lobsters? Need to come live at my house.


kayce hughes said...


Julie said...

What great finds! I can't believe this guy had all this stuff just sitting in a shed.

The Mango Archives said...

Loved the suitcases! And for such a bargain I think I would have taken them (even though I have no space either.

kyla said...

If you wrap your cast iron in paper/newspaper (a bunch of layers) and then put into the campfire or a fire it will burnt loose all the rust and then you can easily scrape and oil them. My grandma told me about it and it worked great for our cast iron pans.

Kate {domestikatedlife} said...

Oh I would have scooped up one of those suitcases! I love the mounted brass deer head though!

Jenn @ Living Luxe for Less said...

What a fun adventure! The professor and this sale sounds so interesting! I wish I could have gone with you MOS!

MLB said...

What an awesome estate sale!!!! And your sister loves you for getting her those pots :) :) :)

Shelly said...

I am DYING over this estate sale! I'm an avid estate sale shopper and I have NEVER run across one as good as this. I just don't Southern California has the history that other parts of the country do. What a great find!!!

traci zeller designs said...

That estate sale is absolutely incredible!! That might have been a once-in-a-lifetime!!

Jenn @ Living Luxe for Less said...

Hi MOS! I wanted to let you know that I just referenced this post on my "free app of the week" post on LL4L. It's a special app for those of us that love estate and yard sales that I think you might like!

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