Edgar Allan Poe poem, famous names draw high bids at auction

Jul 29, 2013

It might be hard to differentiate between a pack rat and a collector, but antique experts Frank McNamee and David Glynn aren’t looking to split hairs.

Friends since their teen years, McNamee and Glynn, of Marion Antique Auctions, team up a few times a year to sell their rare finds to the highest bidders.

“We sort of glean the fields and get the better things we can from the estates and bring them to auction,” said Glynn.

That’s getting harder to do, he said.

“It’s mathematics. The kids have kids and there’s grandkids. Stuff gets spread out all over the country,” Glynn explained. “People still have antiques, but they don’t have hundreds of antiques. That’s why we like to find hoarders with money.”

At the pair’s annual summer auction on Saturday, July 27, McNamee and Glynn had hundreds of finds from local estates and inividuals, some drawing bids in the tens of thousands.

“We put a strong emphasis on historical connection. That’s what kind of makes the whole things interesting,” said McNamee.

McNamee and Glynn collect as much back story on the pieces they sell as possible.

And with pieces coming from the collection of George Decas, a member of the cranberry growing dynasty, heirlooms from the estates of Charles S. Arms, of Marion, and other local folks, many of the items up for auction had special significance for South Coast residents.

A painting from Cecil Clark Davis, an artist who lived in Marion and studied with John Singer Sargent, was expected to sell for upwards of $5,000. There were also relics from the whaling industry and historic maps and photos from the area.

While such pieces drew a local crowd of interested onlookers, collectors, and auction houses, other items had national appeal.

“This is a high-end sale. This isn’t a country sale,” said McNamee. “There are many things that are going to go in the multiple thousands.”

Internet and phone bidders from across the country vied for a handwritten poem by Edgar Allen Poe titled “The Conqueror Worm.” In the end it went for a staggering $300,000 – hundreds of thousands more than the expected $10 to $20,000.

That happens sometimes, said Glynn, who once got a surprise at an auction he conducted in Florida when a small glass bird with a chip in its beak went for $44,000.

“I thought it was worth about $1,000,” he said.

The bird turned out to be one of only seven in existence.

“You can only have expertise in so much stuff,” Glynn said. “You can’t know everything.”

The auction also featured a pencil sketch drawn by a 16-year-old Queen Victoria, and documents signed by signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Since many of the pieces were new to the market, McNamee and Glynn expected some competition.

“Usually the stuff that comes fresh out of the estates does a little better,” Glynn said. “It creates a little more excitement.”

For one collector, who wished to remain anonymous, the prices at Saturday’s sale were higher than he expected.

“It’s unbelievable. This is bringing out the big players,” he said. “It tells me I have nice tastes, but I can’t afford them.”