On Monday, April 4, my wife and I went to Wilson’s Auction Sales in Lincoln, DE, for the semi-annual Delaware Special Auction. We have missed very few of these in the last 15 years. The Smyrna-Clayton Heritage Association had a similar auction the same night in Smyrna, DE. I wish these organizations would communicate better. However, the crowd at both auctions was close to normal. Some people managed to get to both.
I went to Wilson's because a dealer can usually buy for resale better there. Indeed, I bought a lot of good clean saleable old books. But this auction is changing. Much of the usual crowd was there: collectors, dealers, historical society people, and the like. However, there was one woman who I know only sells on the Internet. At least two couples and one individual were strangers, and I am guessing from their purchases they were eBay dealers as well.
Dave Wilson was in fine form. He was selling 130 lots an hour. It was sometimes hard to keep track of who had the bid. Most of the Delaware books were sold during the first two hours, and prices were low. Of course, the postcards did well. They always do. Later in the sale the majority of lots were miscellaneous paper ephemera: advertising, billheads, deeds, maps, bookplates, pamphlets, and posters. Some of us sat in awe of little Ziploc bags of brownish paper scraps going for hundreds of dollars.
Wilson's is still a folk rite. The diehard collectors sit all night for the one or two treasures they want. A lot of the old-timers are dead now. Even more are ailing and not up to a night out in a noisy, cold auction gallery. But they are being replaced by the new collectors and the emerging eBay dealers.