In January 2013, one of those events occurred that causes the entire collecting world to catch its breath. In this case, an honest-to-God Heddon Jeanette Hawley "Jenny Mohawk" minnow in a wood slide top box came to market. Of interest was that the seller was 21st Century Antiques, a small family-owned auction house in New Jersey owned by Chris Doerner and his wife, and not one of the major sporting auction companies. Utilizing Auctionzip.com, the lure was accessible to on-line bidders, and after causing absolute chaos on some of the popular chat boards such as Joe's Old Lures, the hammer came down on this gem at an even $20,000.
But the story behind the lure is almost as remarkable as the final auction price. I recently spoke to Chris Doerner who gave me the story behind the lure. It was discovered in the attic of an old home by a pair of homeowners in their sixties. Believe it or not, they were planning on selling it at a garage sale -- and they were going to charge a whole $5.00 for it!
Fortunately, they never got around to having the garage sale, and the lure sat in its wooden box on a shelf in their garage. That's where Chris and his wife came in -- when he saw the lure, his first thought was that it was worth between $400 and $500. The owners were floored.
While Chris is not an expert in fishing tackle, he is an expert in collectables, and began to do his research as well as his promotion on line. He stumbled across Joe's Old Lure's message board, and posted a link to the catalog, which included the lure.
"Not 5 minutes after I posted, someone called and tried to buy it for $10,000," he said with a laugh. He knew then he had a screamer on his hands. He went back to the owners and did a little more sleuthing, and took a whole lot more photos. He discovered it was likely purchased in Bordentown, New Jersey, and never fished.
He received a lot of communication from collectors, about half of whom said they thought the box was original and half who did not. One thing he regrets is that the photos were not able to show that the wooden box top actually said "Dowagiac Minnow" on it, so he's convinced it is correct.
So was the final bidder. I asked Chris if he was surprised at the hammer price of $20,000. He laughed again. "Not really," he said, "but the owners were. It's hilarious to watch an older woman who can't stop giggling."
It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime finds that makes the auction business so much fun to work in. "In the auction business, items have a tendency to go on the auction merry go round," he concluded. "They go through antique stores, markets, and auctions. We have received items three years after we've sold before -- and we know this because they never took our auction stickers off! Whenever you get fresh to the market like the Heddon Jenny Mohawk, it's a real treat."
It was a real treat for the rest of us, as well, to witness this historic auction. Kudos to Chris and 21st Century Antiques!
-- Dr. Todd