WWII diaries and a smoking monkey highlight Marion Antique Auctions’ fall sale

Nov 14, 2021

MARION — Scrimshaw from a famous engraver, ornate Swiss music boxes, and a paper mache monkey that can smoke a cigarette were just some of the more than 500 items sold when Marion Antique Auctions held its Fall Auction on Saturday, Nov. 13.

The sale attracted a full house of in-person bidders as well as many others who placed bids online from around the world, according to Marion Antique Auctions owner Frank McNamee.

“The auction was very well-received locally and nationally,” said McNamee, who is also the owner of Marion Antiques and the curator of the Sippican Historical Society.

McNamee said the auction was “a most diversified sale that had items from every category” and explained that while some auctions contain items from just a few estates, this one was compiled from about 20.

One of the most widely sought after items sold at the auction was a footlocker that belonged to a WWII era Air Force Major. Among other diaries and photos from the period, the chest contained “a large collection of male erotica.”

“I don’t know if ‘erotica’ is the right word, but they depicted male physiques,” said McNamee, who explained that many of the items were works by notable artists and photographers of the day.

The footlocker was the most expensive item sold at the auction at $16,000 and garnered bids from as far away as France and Poland.

Another notable item was the smoking monkey, which was made in 1890. The French-made automaton lifts its glasses to its eyes, blinks and puffs a cigarette — although, the bellows that let it inhale weren’t working, according to the listing. The mechanical monkey sold for $5,500.

Of local relevance was a National Magazine Award or Ellie that was awarded to former Dartmouth resident Robert Manning during his time at the Atlantic Monthly in Boston. The bronze sculpture sold for $11,000.

The auction also featured several paintings by Fairhaven artist Charles Henry Gifford; various works of scrimshaw, including one by noted artist “the Banknote Engraver”; and hundreds of other pieces.

Marion Antique Auctions held the Fall Auction at its new facility on Atlantis Drive for the first time since purchasing the building for the Town of Marion last year. 

The property is something of an antique itself as it was once the site of an early wireless telegraph system developed by Italian physicist and Nobel Prize winner Guglielmo Marconi for his company Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co.