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Spenger Maritime Collection

Spenger Maritime Collection on Clars’ menu Jan. 19-20

Spenger Maritime Collection
Scale ship models will also be offered including this handmade example of the German bark Thekla. Clars Auction Gallery image

OAKLAND, Calif. – For over 125 years, Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley had been one of the most sought after destinations for seafood in the San Francisco Bay Area. Founded in 1890 as just a clam stand by Johann Spenger who emigrated to California from Bavaria, his son Frank Spenger expanded the stand to a full-service restaurant in the 1930s. Frank was a passionate collector of maritime antiques, art and artifacts and, over the years, the interior of this famous San Francisco Bay Area restaurant became a virtual maritime museum with more than 1,600 nautical artifacts and memorabilia lining the walls and shelves of the dining rooms and bars. Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto closed its doors in October 2018, and on Jan. 19 and 20 Clars Auction Gallery will present the first installment of this collection as part of their January Fine Art, Decorative Arts, Asian Antiques and Jewelry Auction. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.  

This will be a rare opportunity for both collectors as well as patrons, to own a piece of this historic collection that the Spenger Family amassed over 125 years. The second installment of this collection will be offered during Clars’ Feb. 16 and 17 sale.

Scale ship models will be offered including a handmade example of the four-masted German bark Thekla with all sails set (above).

Spenger Maritime Collection
An antique dive suit and helmet will be offered. Clars Auction Gallery image

Highlights of the collection to be offered include ships’ pilot wheels, one of which spans 8 feet in diameter. There will be diving helmets, ships’ name boards, lanterns and a carved ships’ figurehead from the 19th century

Spenger Maritime Collection
This ship’s figurehead will be among the Maritime Collection highlights at the January sale. Clars Auction Gallery image

Early ships’ bells will be offered as well as a very large selection of ships’ instruments including binnacle compasses, engine room telegraphs and a rangefinder from a U.S. destroyer.

Spenger Maritime Collection
The Sprenger Maritime Collection includes a selection of ships’ bells. Clars Auction Gallery image

Some of the mounted trophy fish that once graced the walls of the main room and bar will also be part of this sale. In addition, 16 ships’ knees made from old-growth Redwood salvaged from pre-1906 San Francisco ferryboats will be offered.

Spenger Maritime Collection
The mounted trophy fish that graced the dining room and bar will be presented in this sale. Clars Auction Gallery image

“Many in the Bay Area and the nation know of the restaurant and its collection, and we feel the sentimental attachment many have regarding the memories they shared with friends and loved ones at the restaurant will surely make the sale of this collection very exciting and highly successful for the Spenger family,” said Deric Torres, vice president of decorative arts and furniture for Clars.

Celebrities and locals alike packed the restaurant daily since the 1930s. By the 1950s, the restaurant was serving 3,500 pounds of fish each day, more than any restaurant west of the Mississippi. By the 1980s, it was serving 3,000 meals each day, staffed by 240 employees. By the 1980s, it had grown to be the fourth busiest restaurant in the country.

The Jan. 19-20 sale of the Spenger Maritime Collection will be held in conjunction with Clars’ Fine Art, Decorative Art, Furniture, Jewelry and Asian Art Auction. The sales will begin promptly at 9:30 a.m. Pacific time on Saturday and Sunday.

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Spenger Maritime Collection