Marion Antiques holds first auction in Marconi building

Apr 26, 2021

MARION — Going...going...gone!

Marion Antique Auctions held its first event in its new Atlantis Drive warehouse on April 24, which saw more than 500 items from a single collector draw thousands of online bidders.

The new space at 13 Atlantis Dr. was once the famous Marconi Telegraph Station, one of the largest in the world when it was built in the early 20th century.

“This was [Marconi’s] main campus in the United States,” said Marion Antique Shop co-owner Frank McNamee. “This is where he sent the signals across the Atlantic...He had numerous towers 400 feet high.”

McNamee bought the building from the town last August so his auction company could have its own space.

They used to hold auctions at the music hall — and before that, they used the VFW, McNamee said.

“We used to have to move everything there,” he noted.

On April 24, the theme was toys, with antique trains, cars, and dolls galore.

There were also more unusual items up for auction, such as an assortment of props from the TV series Boardwalk Empire — including a giant fake birthday cake out of which the lead character’s mistress pops in one scene — as well as the entire oak-paneled interior of a West Virginia country store.

But none of the items reached the dizzying heights of last October’s auction, when a 17th century drawing by Jan Lievens sold for $514,000.

This time around, McNamee said the most surprising items included an unrestored pedal car that sold for $6,750 and a sign from Cape Cod that brought $1,800.

“A lot of the advertising signs surprised me,” he said. “I thought they might bring only a couple hundred dollars.”

And although bidders maintained social distancing with just around 20 people there in person, McNamee said, there were thousands placing bids online and over the phone.

“We’ve kind of tried to adapt to this new online thing, where we don’t have a lot of people [in person],” he explained, adding, “before covid, we’d sometimes have crowds of hundreds of people.”

McNamee said that the company still plans on using the music hall for larger events in the future — but perhaps keeping the actual items in the new warehouse.

“The music hall is the best building in Marion,” he said. “It can never compare to that. But from a functioning point of view, and making life easier — we used to have to move 500 things in and out of the music hall in a day!”

“Now this is my building, and we can take our time,” he added. “And people can pick things up at their leisure.”