WILLOUGHBY, Ohio – The late Charlie Schalebaum needed no introduction at the renowned Hershey Car Show. He was a legend in the trade, known far and wide as the “King of Hershey” for his consistently high-quality displays of automobilia. On October 14, Milestone Auctions of suburban Cleveland, Ohio, conducted a 496-lot sale of Schalebaum’s fine automobiles, automotive art, and eclectic array of antiques that Milestone co-owner Chris Sammet described as “an absolutely unique collection of conversation starters.”
Not surprisingly, the big-ticket items of the day were Schalebaum’s beautifully maintained luxury cars. A West Coast-based LiveAuctioneers bidder secured the top lot, a 1982 Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible (shown above) with only 15,707 actual miles on its odometer. Finished in classic blue over silver with a black interior, the elegant automobile glided to $39,600 against a pre-sale estimate of $15,000-$25,000.
A four-wheeled flashback to 1972, the second-highest lot was a super-clean, all-original Volkswagen delivery van (above) that had clocked only 25,000 miles. “Charlie spent a lot of money on new parts and maintenance to keep the van in great condition,” Sammet commented. “It’s very unusual to see a VW delivery van in such great condition, so we knew there would be a lot of interest in it.” Estimated at $8,000-$12,000, it commanded a winning bid of $20,400.
Seafaring bidders recognized the rare opportunity that came in the form of a 1961 Chris-Craft Continental wood boat (above) with high-style jet-age tailfins. Fully loaded with all the most desirable options, the sleek 21-footer had undergone a complete cosmetic restoration, with no small detail overlooked. Complete with a tandem-axle trailer, it headed off to a new port for a within-estimate bid of $34,800.
Some of the curiosities in Schalebaum’s collection would have been quite at home in a historical museum, if not a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not attraction. “Charlie had a real curiosity for objects of the past. He loved historical memorabilia, antique advertising, folk art, nautical memorabilia, antiquities – you name it,” Sammet said. “If he saw something unusual that he thought he might never see again, he bought it.”
Many of the esoteric items Schalebaum acquired had a nautical theme, like the original canvas life preserver ring from the USS Maine (above). Accompanied by papers of provenance and previously auctioned by Skinner, it sold online for a buoyant $3,360.
A very large and impressive Chelsea-style brass ship’s clock (above) manufactured by Smith & Sons of London garnered $3,000, going six times over the high estimate; and a flag flown on the MS Stockholm (below) on the day in 1956 that it tragically collided with the TN Andrea Doria reached an above-estimate price of $1,380.
Perhaps the most unusual of all the maritime items was the authentic bronze spike (below) recovered from Christopher Columbus’ ship the Santiago de Palos, which sank in St Anne’s Bay, Jamaica, in 1504. Offered with a letter of authenticity, it exceeded pre-sale expectations, settling at $870.
In all, the sale was 98% sold (by lot) and grossed $341,000, inclusive of 18% buyer’s premium. There was heavy participation online, with 386 registrants signed up through LiveAuctioneers. Of that group, 199 participated live via the Internet during the sale. Also, 1,237 absentee bids were placed through LiveAuctioneers prior to the event. This synergy resulted in 37.5% of the auction lots selling through the online site and contributing $126,300 toward the bottom line.
“Most of the bidding came through the Internet and phones, but a nice crowd was present, as well,” said Sammet. “We were overwhelmed by the number of positive comments people made about Charlie. He was very well liked and respected by his fellow collectors. His name brought a lot of people to the sale, and they were spenders. If they knew a piece had come from Charlie’s collection, that was all the provenance they needed.”