Wax Lincoln sells for $8,500 at auction in Gettysburg

Alyssa Pressler
  • The Hall of Presidents and First Ladies, located in Gettysburg, closed in November.
  • The auction was popular in the area, raising several hundred thousand dollars.

The Gettysburg Hall of Presidents and First Ladies held an auction Saturday and brought in a couple hundred thousand dollars, according to auctioneer Randy Dickensheets.

The historic museum, owned by the Gettysburg Tour Center, had operated at 789 Baltimore St. in Gettysburg since 1957 but had experienced declining attendance. It closed its doors Nov. 27 and on Saturday held an auction at 1863 Inn in Gettysburg. The items up for grabs included wax figures of every president through Barack Obama as well as figures of the first ladies dressed in their inauguration finest; a variety of memorabilia, photographs and paintings; and even the murals, railings and audio recordings from the museum's exhibits.

The presidential figures were life-sized, while the figures in the collection of first ladies each measured 3-feet, 10-inches tall.

Pennsylvania OnSite Auction Co. holds a public preview of the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies museum in Gettysburg on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. The museum closed  Nov. 27 after operating since 1957. The contents of the museum, including murals, life-size wax sculptures of the 44 presidents and smaller wax figures of first ladies will be auctioned off  Saturday, Jan. 14 at 1863 Inn of Gettysburg. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Abraham Lincoln was the most popular historical wax figure up for grabs, going for a bid of $8,500. Dickensheets, the co-owner of Pennsylvania Onsite Auction Co., said there was a 10 percent buyer's premium on all sales, so the figure actually brought in more than $9,300.

"It was expected," said Dickensheets, who auctioneered the event with his son Darren. "Lincoln is popular among Democrats and Republicans."

The figure of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln sold for $990, including the buyer's premium.

At one of two preview days for the auction items, Dickensheets had guessed that former President Dwight Eisenhower  would  be popular, given his ties to the area. The museum auctioned off several personal photographs from Eisenhower's collection that he expected would do well. Eisenhower retired to a farm in Adams County.

Gettysburg wax museum auctions off figures

Dickensheets was surprised when Eisenhower only went for a bid of $2,600. The photographs, however, sold for $100 to $800, he said, plus the added 10 percent.

The second most popular presidential figure sold Saturday was Theodore Roosevelt, whose winning bid was $8,000.

Some other notable figures sold for less. Including the buyer's premiums, the nation’s first president, George Washington, sold for $5,610, and Barack Obama, sold for $2,200. Their wives, Martha Washington and Michelle Obama, sold for $385 and $577.50, respectively.

The petite version of Hillary Clinton brought in $742.50.

Which presidents seemed to be the least desirable, according to their auction prices? James Madison and Franklin Pierce each sold for $1,430, and James Monroe brought just $1,100.

Dickensheets said the auction room was set up with seats for 265 people, and there were plenty of potential bidders left standing Saturday. The event drew  collectors, private citizens and even some distant relatives of the presidents themselves. Bids were accepted live during the auction, by absentee bids or via phone bidding. The auction garnered national media attention and even drew representatives from CBS's "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert," who bought some pieces for the show during the auction, Dickensheets said.

Dickensheets estimated the auction brought in a couple hundred thousand dollars, though he wasn't sure of the exact figure. He said he spoke with leaders in the Gettysburg Tour Center, who were  pleased with the auction's proceeds.

"Overall it was a successful auction," he said.