John Kramer has been conducting auctions in Southwest Wisconsin for over four decades, but he'd never seen anything quite like what he encountered at the Donald Anderson home prior to Tuesday's auction on Wisconsin Avenue.
"I've been in this business for over 40 years, but this was a real doozy," Kramer said. "It was like walking through a time warp. There were literally just some paths through the house. The rest was filled with stuff from the floor to the ceiling. They were hoarders; nothing got thrown away."
Anderson was arguably one of the most colorful and eccentric characters ever to walk the streets of Boscobel, which he did often until his death at age 86 in June 2010. He was a child of privilege, born into one of Boscobel's early founding families-the Muffleys. A professional student, he earned several degrees and over 500 college credits.
And he was a collector. From Depression glassware to Civil War muskets and antique furniture, Anderson's auction drew collectors from throughout the Midwest and as far away as Nashville. But before Kramer could take his first bid, he and his crew had to separate the trash from the treasure.
"Many of these people who have gone through the Depression never threw anything away," Kramer said. "We started last week with five guys and three dumpsters, and we've filled them all."
Despite that, what was left over was impressive.
"We have three wagons of glassware alone, eight in total that we'll sell in three rings," Kramer said Monday. "We literally packed the garage to the ceiling with furniture, and have other stuff in a barn outside of town. We've had calls from all over the country already."
Proceeds from the auction went to Donald's grand niece, Holly Anderson, whose father was Don's nephew. She plans to use the proceeds from the auc-tion to fix up Don's Madi-son condo on Sherman Terrace. The house in Boscobel will be sold.
"It's a cute little house," she said. "It just needs someone to love it and care for it and restore it. I have no use for it," said the Lake Wisconsin resident.
As for the auction, well, Holly couldn't wait until it was over. "I've been working on this all summer," she said Monday. "It's and lot of work and I'll be happy when it's over."
After more than a week of perfect October weather with blue skies and warm temperatures, Tuesday dawned with sprinkles and the threat of rain. With the auction set to begin at 10 a.m., there were already people perusing the piles before 8:00.
"An auction like this only comes along every 50 or 60 years," said local collector Larry Larson, pointing out an 1856 poster advertising a speech by Abraham Lincoln at the DeSoto House in Galena. If authentic, it could go for six figures. That didn't prove to be the case, however.
Nevertheless, the auction was a huge success, except for next door neighbor Sharon Halverson, who had to put up with people and auction items in her yard all day.
"It's ridiculous," she said. "Who's going to replace my lawn?"
Holly Anderson probably could afford to, with Tiffany lamps going for $1,200, glass bowls for $600 and a Pacific Northwest Totem pole for $7,800. Kramer Auction Service handed out 400 bidding cards, but there were proba-bly twice that many people in attendance if not more.
"We had 1,200 auction items," John Kramer said. "Usually half that would be a big sale. People came from all over-Milwaukee, Winona, Chicago, Madison-we even had a guy in from Nashville."
As far as the auction action, Kramer called it "a barnbuster, just wild."
"I've never seen anything like it. It was an easy auction to run because everything went so high. All's well that ends well, and I'm glad it ended."