Gettysburg wax museum auctions off figures

Alyssa Pressler
  • The Hall of Presidents and First Ladies, located in Gettysburg, closed in November.
  • The museum is now auctioning off its figurines and other historic memorabilia to the public.
  • People traveled from all over Pennsylvania and Baltimore to see the museum one last time and preview the pieces.

Max Snyder, at 7 years old, gives a thumbs-up next to former President George W. Bush  while his parents, Kenny and Alecia Snyder, snap a few pictures.

If Kenny Snyder had his way, Bush would be hanging out in their home for the foreseeable future, but his wife isn't as big a fan. As long as Bush isn't in his room, Max is on board.

No, we're not talking about the real George W. Bush. The Snyder family is visiting the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies  in Gettysburg. The historic museum, owned by the Gettysburg Tour Center, closed  Nov. 27 and is now auctioning off all of its items, including wax figures of every president up to Barack Obama.

On Sunday, the museum held its first preview of the figures and other items up for auction. Bonnie Jacoby, in charge of marketing for the museum, said people were lined up outside the door before the museum opened at noon. She explained the museum had to close because of declining sales.

The museum was packed with people from all over Pennsylvania and Maryland who had traveled to pick out some items they'll be bidding on during Saturday's auction or just to see the wax figures one more time.

Memories: Kenny Snyder is from Enola, Cumberland County, and he came to reminisce. He recalled coming to the museum for years when he was a child, and now he's hoping to collect a few pieces for his own home. Though Alecia Snyder isn't budging on the Bush figurine any time soon, he is fine with settling for some of the small, hand-sized figurines of presidents and the audio that was played for the historic presentations.

"I was always more entertained by the sound program than the actual figurines and how they got it to line up every time there was a new president added," Kenny Snyder said.

His son wasn't as impressed with the audio portion, though. Max Snyder shyly said his favorite president was George Washington, before pulling Alecia Snyder away to continue looking at the wax figures of the first ladies, which are about one-third the size of the presidents.

Jane McNaughton, from New Bloomfield in Perry County, also remembers coming to the museum as a little girl. She had been looking into bringing her own children to the museum for a field trip in the spring because she home-schools them. When she saw it was closing, she knew she had to get 12-year-old John and 6-year-old Caisey in before everything was gone.

"You don't see museums like this anymore," McNaughton said. "It's all technology now."

Caisey interrupted her mother briefly to point out the details on a president's hand and take a photo with her digital camera. She said she likes seeing the wrinkles on the hands and so does her brother.

"My favorite part is the high detail, and how realistic the hair is," John said.

Bidders: While McNaughton won't be traveling back to bid on any of the pieces, Kim Yates, the owner of Kim's Krypt in Spring Grove, is very interested in purchasing several of the wax figures to go in her haunted house. She swears she won't deface them, put blood on them or make them look gory, but much of her haunted house is already historical.

"The classic-looking presidents, you're not going to see that in a store or something," Yates said. She points out former President James Madison and makes a note of him on her list that she has going.

What she'll do with the figures will depend on how many she gets. She might just have the figures sitting in the background, where people can't touch them, or she might dedicate a whole area to them. She's hoping to have real people dress up like the wax figures to move and scare people.

Yates said she would pay $2,000 max for a popular figure, such as  Abraham Lincoln, but she's really hoping they take a bunch of the lesser-known presidents and auction them off in one big group she can bid on.

Randy Dickensheets, the auctioneer and co-owner of Pennsylvania Onsite Auction Co., said he expects most of the figures will go for between $1,000 and $5,000. He said he believes museum artifacts related to Dwight Eisenhower will be the most popular, given his involvement in the area. The museum not only has a wax figure of Eisenhower but pictures from his personal collection as well.

For sale: Pretty much everything in the museum will be up for auction, from the detailed murals that sit behind the wax figures to the figures themselves, both the life-size presidential figures and the smaller first ladies. Even the plants are for sale.

Dickensheets thinks the auction will be very popular, and with how busy the museum was on Sunday, it's easy to see why. He said the most recent election might help.

"With this past election, more people got more involved in politics altogether," he said.

Interested buyers, or locals just looking to see the figures one more time before they're gone, can go to the second preview from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the museum, located at 789 Baltimore St., Gettysburg. There also will  be a showing at 10 a.m. Saturday, before the auction  The auction will take place in the Gettysburg Tour Center, across the street from the museum.

In order to purchase something from the auction, individuals will need to register beforehand. They can do so at the preview dates or by emailing Interested buyers also can  put in a bid at the preview dates or by phone if they cannot attend the auction.