AUction draws internatinal attention, big money

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Hugh Fisher
For the Salisbury Post
CONCORD ó The Mariam Cannon Hayes estate auction drew more than 500 bidders to the Concord Convention Center at the Embassy Suites hotel on Saturday.
Still more bidders ó more than a thousand in all, according to auctioneers ó were able to take part over the Internet through e-Bay Live. A number of bids came from outside the United States.
And although Thomas McInnis, principal auctioneer and owner of Iron Horse Auction Company of Rockingham, said he didn’t have a tally, based on the number of bids alone, the auction raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Hayes family.
The auction began at 9:30 a.m. and didn’t end until after 6 p.m. Bob Hayes, grandson of the late Mariam Cannon Hayes and son of U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes (R ó N.C.), watched the first hours of the auction along with his mother, Barbara, from a table inside the hall.
“It’s different from what I thought it would be,” Bob Hayes said. “It’s very intense. It’s emotional.”
Hayes, the last surviving child of textile baron Charles Cannon of Cannon Mills Co., died last August at the age of 91.
The auction’s 585 lots included hundreds of items large and small from the family collection of art, antiques, silver and other memorabilia.
Bob Hayes said the process of determining which to pieces to auction and which to keep was difficult.
“My hopes would be that these (items) would go to people who appreciate them,” he said.
Rep. Hayes arrived almost unnoticed just after 11 a.m. and took a seat in the audience for a time, saying that the auction was a difficult experience.
“I kind of stayed away on purpose for that reason,” he said. “I’m sort of dealing with a mix of emotions. There are things here I identify with. But at the same time, how can you keep things stuffed away when people want to enjoy them?”
Among the most highly-anticipated items were two paintings: “Venice,” an oil painting by Elliott Daingerfield of Blowing Rock, sold for $72,000.
And an 1862 portrait of George Washington by Alvan Fisher sold for $60,000, after feverish bidding, to a man who was bidding in person, drawing applause from the crowd.
Washington’s autograph on a Revolutionary War military document sold to an Internet bidder for $9,500.
There were also some bargains to be had: a mahogany Steinway baby grand piano sold for only $3,500, although it was in need of repairs.
The large majority of items sold at prices in the thousands of dollars. McInnis said it would take until Monday to process payment information and come up with a more complete tally of the sale.
Dealers packed the ballroom where a giant screen showed pictures of the items up for bid. They raised their hands to bid at a feverish pace, often against proxy bidders on telephones or at computer terminals.
But no matter how brave they were in the heat of an auction, none of the buyers approached by the Post was willing to comment for the record on their purchases.
However, several individuals from the area who attended out of personal interest said they were disappointed.
“This stuff is ridiculous,” said Charles Ward of Indian Trail, who said he enjoys attending auctions and drove to this one because of the publicity surrounding it.
But the prices were far out of his reach.
“This old stuff interests me, but the Lord knows, at the prices they’re selling at, you’d have to have a bank behind you,” Ward said.
The auction was held as a joint venture between Iron Horse Auction Company and Leland Little Auction and Estate Sales.
McInnis, of Iron Horse, said open houses held on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were well-attended by people from Kannapolis and surrounding areas.
“We were pleasantly surprised in the number of local people who got to participate,” McInnis said. “We got a feel for the local flavor of the local community, what they were looking at and what their interests were.”
Rep. Hayes said the area Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCA would be among the beneficiaries of proceeds from the sale.
“It’s been a fascinating experience,” Rep. Hayes said of the auction.
Hayes, currently serving his fifth term in Congress, is seeking re-election to his U.S. House seat in November.
Contact Hugh Fisher at 704-797-4245 or