Bloomberg News

Pennsylvania Capital Taps Guernsey’s to Auction Wild West Relics

February 17, 2012

Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania capital under state receivership, picked Guernsey’s, a New York auction house, to sell more than 8,000 relics including items from the Wild West era.

“This is a wonderful collection, covering at least 10 categories of American history, and it will thrill collectors and historians,” Arlan Ettinger, Guernsey’s chief executive officer, said today in a statement from Mayor Linda Thompson.

A series of auctions will be held in coming months, Thompson said, without being more specific. She said a briefing to outline the process in more detail will be held soon.

The items, billed as the Harrisburg Historic Artifact Collection, will be marketed in New York, Harrisburg and on the Internet, according to the statement from Thompson. The city of about 49,500 residents was driven into insolvency by financing an overhaul and expansion of a municipal incinerator that doesn’t generate enough revenue to cover its debt.

Guernsey’s was selected after the city invited 25 firms, including Christie’s Inc. and Sotheby’s, to submit auction proposals last year.

Former Mayor Stephen Reed, 62, who served in the office for 28 years until 2010, collected the trove over decades at a cost of about $8 million. His plan for a museum to memorialize the American West never came to fruition.

In 2007, the city sold about 3,000 artifacts, bringing in about $2 million, said Robert Philbin, a Thompson spokesman.

The collection includes items from Colonial times to the Vietnam War, he said, such as a printing press and wanted posters featuring the outlaw Jesse James.

Harrisburg’s receiver, David Unkovic, has requested bids for the city’s parking system, the incinerator, and operations of the water and sewer utilities in his recovery plan, which will be reviewed by a state court on March 1. He also wants to raise taxes and fees and squeeze concessions from labor unions.

--Editors: Ted Bunker, Mark Tannenbaum.

To contact the reporter on this story: Romy Varghese in Philadelphia at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at

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