August 2012

The Price Is Right

At Kip Blanchard's annual Adirondack auction you can outfit your Great Camp or rustic hideaway or just take in the show

“Raise your hand if you like to get a good buy,” says Kip Blanchard, using a bit of auctioneer humor to prod the crowd of a couple hundred bidders during a lull. The joke sends a ripple of laughter through the tent at Mount Pisgah Lodge, in Saranac Lake, and then it’s back to the business of selling pieces of Adirondack history.

Like the antiques shows at the Adirondack Museum, in Blue Mountain Lake (August 11–12 this year), and in Indian Lake (September 12–16), Blanchard’s Auction Service’s annual Premier Adirondack Auction is a can’t-miss social function for summer residents with Great Camp–style homes to furnish. Everything from one-of-a-kind rustic furniture and taxidermy to guideboats and Navajo rugs is on the block.

“We’re looking for that ‘wow’ effect,” says 40-year-old Blanchard, who’s been in the business for 20 years. He and his wife, Sue, run a 7,000-square-foot facility in Potsdam, where they hold regular auctions plus another Adirondack sale the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That contains more common items, like pack baskets and fishing creels. For the August event, which is limited to 400 lots, only the rare and special pieces make the cut. “Each year it takes on a slightly different theme,” Blanchard says.

One year featured a collection of Currier & Ives lithographs belonging to the former owner of Follensby Park; another in­cluded 31 wooden boats—too many for a general audience, he discovered. Now he tries to keep a good mix of furniture, art, taxidermy and hot sellers, such as Tiffany lamps. In 2011 many of the items came from Camp Kwenogamac, in Long Lake, the early-1900s summer home of Dr. Arpad Gerster. The renowned New York City surgeon’s personal effects, including his leather mail bag and a set of whimsically carved chairs, were mixed in with an early dining table by Gustav Stickley, rustic Old Hickory beds, a cigar-store Indian and a Hudson River School painting by Clinton Loveridge, which sold for $70,000, a record for that artist. A daffodil-patterned Tiffany lamp fetched $40,000—far short of the most expensive piece Blanchard has sold, another Tiffany lamp for $155,000.

Many of Blanchard’s clients are in the area for only the month of August, he says, and have packed social calendars, so he’s found that the best time to schedule the auction is on a Friday afternoon. A preview event the night before the auction is a chance to ask questions, inspect the pieces and mingle; proceeds from the $10 admission are donated to a different local charity each year.

In contrast to his weekly auto auctions, the pace is a bit slower at the Sar­anac Lake sale. “The majority [of bidders] are not regular auction buyers,” Blanchard says. “If they don’t feel comfortable they just don’t bid.”

But you’ll still hear the trill of Blanchard’s signature chant—a series of filler words or syllables that are unique to each auctioneer and that give the im­pression of speed-talking. Mastering the art is a very small part of what a good auctioneer needs to learn, he says. “The number-one skill would have to be product knowledge and hands-on experience.”

Blanchard’s 2012 Premier Adi­rondack Auction happens August 10 at 11:00 a.m. at Mount Pisgah Lodge, in Saranac Lake. The preview is from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. on August 9. For details see or call (315) 265-5070.

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