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Which wax president sold for the most?

Written by Dustin Levy/Hanover Evening Sun | Jan 16, 2017 4:06 AM
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Wax figures of First Ladies Bess Wallace Truman, left, and Mary Arthur McElroy are strapped into the back of a vehicle after an auction at the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies Museum in Gettysburg on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (Photo: Dan Rainville, The Evening Sun)

(Gettysburg) -- From George Washington to Barack Obama, the 44 presidents of the United States, and their miniature first lady counterparts, were auctioned off to the public on Saturday.

Hundreds of people bid on the wax likenesses of the commanders-in-chief, the main draw of the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies Museum in Gettysburg, which closed in November after about 60 years.

Pa. Onsite Auction Company held the auction at the 1863 Inn Of Gettysburg, just across the street from the museum, which will be repurposed into office space.

More than 300 people packed a room in the hotel that allowed seating for 225. Until President Abraham Lincoln's auction concluded, bidders and curious guests spilled out into the hallway.

Lincoln's wax statue topped the bids for the day at $8,500, while it is believed Hillary Clinton's figurine led among the first ladies at $675; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' replica went for $550. Theodore Roosevelt's wax figure brought in the second-highest amount at $8,000.

Scot Fisher, a self-described history buff from Villanova, spent more than $10,000 on the Lincoln and George Washington wax figures, among other items.

Fisher heard about the auction about a week ago and figured he would "come up and see what happens." He plans to display Lincoln in his office.

"It's a slice of American history," Fisher said. "It's a piece of Americana."

The auction included plenty of museum memorabilia outside of the presidents and first ladies, like Life magazine photographs, presidential artwork and renderings.

For a majority of the 7-hour auction, Randy Dickensheets and his son, Darren, took turns presenting the items, at times transforming the standard speed talking into dulcet dexterity. When it came to the presidents, Randy would chip in with interesting factoids, like John Quincy Adams' penchant for swimming in the Potomac "in the buff."

Randy Dickensheets responded that Saturday didn't come close to some of their longest days.

"Heavens, no," he said, citing 12-hour feats.

Where Saturday's auction did eclipse other similar auctions, like the ones held for the Solider's National Museum and the Civil War Wax Museum, was in national buzz. Many phone and absentee bids came in throughout the day, and people traveled as far as Canada.

A crew from "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" attended to film the event.

Randy Dickensheets was pleased with the proceedings. The prices for the presidents fell in line with his expectations, while he expected the first ladies to be a slightly bigger draw, he said.

He is confident the auction garnered a six-figure total for Gettysburg Heritage Enterprises, Inc., which owns the museum.

"I think it's because people were into the politics heavy this year," Dickensheets said. "I knew we were going to have a much broader base."

Nicole Murphy, from Los Angeles, acted as a "middleman" for an unnamed individual. On this person's behalf, she purchased the wax figures of Warren G. Harding, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

"It'll be fun to ship these, I'm sure," she said.

David Buckwash, of Dillsburg, claimed he "would have been happy with any one" of the presidents, and ended up winning the last one of the day -- Barack Obama for $2,000.

"How many other people can say they have a wax president in their house?" he asked.

Buckwash remembered visiting the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies as a child, and he brought his own children back about eight years ago.

Thomas Yingling, of Jefferson Borough in York County, remembered the museum fondly as well. He purchased the wax figure of Louisa Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams, because his mother designed and made the dress she is wearing.

"I just wanted something to remember," he said.

Yingling recalled seeing his mother create the first ladies' dresses, based on their inauguration outfits, when he was growing up. He still has the sketches his mother made of Adams' gown.

He plans to display the wax figure, but also preserve it so it can be passed down through his family.

The crowd for the auction was a mix of curiosity -- wondering how much money the American leaders would go for -- as well as sentimentality, as many mentioned they were saddened by the museum's closing.

"It's a piece of history that just isn't going to be anymore," Buckwash said.


This article is part of a partnership between WITF and the Hanover Evening Sun.

Published in Adams County, News

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