Sunday, August 18, 2019

Orange County Regional History Center Auction

The Orange County Regional History Center is getting a major redesign in the next few years with modern digital interactive displays and is basically being overhauled from head to toe to improve the experience. Several months ago the large ceiling mounted display in the lobby was dismantled. Alligators, manatees, huge mosquitoes, and other Central Florida flora and fauna came down. The manatees were sitting in the loading bay for the longest time.

The History Center decided to hold an auction to sell off items from the old displays to help raise money for the multi-million dollar renovations and improvements they are planning. This was a sketch opportunity I could not miss. The room was packed when The History Center's chief curator, Pam Schwartz, and I arrived. I immediately tucked myself away behind some tables set up to hold items in the auction. To my right was a large steam engine train. To my left was a Conestoga wagon, some camping vehicles, a mermaid, some mastodon tusks, and a model of a theme park water slide.

I had seen this auctioneer in action before, he was highly polished and kept the action lively. The bidding was fast and furious. In the aisles were people who would yelp whenever someone bid. The guy closest to me had a thick New York accent and he was hilarious and gracious. The lots wold be sold as groupings, for instance, if you wanted a manatee you needed to buy three manatees. If you wanted a pink flamingo, you would have to buy 5 flamingos. The museum for some reason had quite a few antique toy robots. The cheapest item of the day was a set of golf clubs in a bag for only a dollar. Patty Sheehan bought a hilarious looking green frog wearing a crown modeled after a character at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Brendan O'Connor brought home an antique robot.

After the bidding on the larger items, everyone who was left gathered at a back table to bit on smaller items. It was fun to watch as people struggled to take home the large items purchased. A wife scolded her husband for trying to carry a five foot model space shuttle all on his own. The women who brought the manatees, gators, and some large metal leaves were planning to create a Florida themed back yard pool area. The leaves would function as decorative access block for an outdoor shower. She and her partner were just out running errands at 7-11 when they decided to go to the auction.  Having never been to an auction before they were surprised with all they brought home.

As a fundraiser the auction turned out to be a huge success. Pam pitched the idea as a joke at one of the meetings since they thought most of the items should have been thrown out. Now they are being tenderly refurbished by their new owners. Two large Corinthian columns and the 4 foot high flamingos remained behind as the auction space quieted down. People must have planned to pick these items up later when they had a large enough truck to transport them.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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