The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

October 17, 2006

Antique wagons need new homes

Collector sells wooden-wheel wonders

STORY BY MARY WICOFF

GEORGETOWN — Hugo Zeiter is a Renaissance man — an expert in many areas, including the circus, Native Americans, coins and vintage films. But his collection of wooden-wheel farm wagons stands out.

“Out of everything he has, those wagons are his pride and joy,” said his daughter, Deanna Costanzo.

Those 11 wagons will be the highlight of an auction Saturday at Lenhart’s Auction Center in Georgetown. The two-ring auction will feature hundreds of items belonging to several consignors, including Zeiter. His wagons and two vehicles will be sold at noon.

People from across the country are expected to come in for the sale. Auctioneer Doyne Lenhart has received calls from Nebraska, North Carolina and Ohio about the wagons.

In his 43-year career, Lenhart has never seen so many wooden-wheel wagons in one place. Several years ago, he saw a similar wagon sell for $900.

On the Internet, some old farm wagons go for between $6,000 and $8,000.

“You very seldom see 11 wagons from one collection,” he said. “For as old as they are, I think they’re in good shape.”

Half are in excellent shape; half suffered damage while in storage.

Some are from the late 1800s or early 1900s; a couple are John Deere; and some came from Pennsylvania. The box and flare box wagons vary in size, with most of them being 38-by-127 inches. Some have hand brakes.

Other items from Zeiter’s three homes and storage areas will be on sale, as well, including 25 wooden wagon wheels, shaves, tongues and other wagon hardware; his 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier; his 1995 Dodge Sport van; and a couple chests of drawers.

Also on the sale list is a circus ring measuring about 15 to 20 feet across (the curved panels are not connected) and six 4-foot-tall fiberglass rabbit heads, possibly used in a circus, perhaps as a bag toss.

Lifetime of goods

Zeiter’s family has been trying to place his collections in good hands since he moved to Pleasant Meadows Nursing Home in Chrisman in June. Zeiter, 91, had lived in Ridge Farm.

Costanzo, who lives in Port Jefferson, N.Y., plans to fly in for the auction, and she will bring her father.

She has been overwhelmed with sorting through her father’s lifetime of collections. Over the summer, workers packed two semi-trucks with items, many of them museum-quality, and took them to a secure warehouse in New York.

Nothing of value will be destroyed or thrown out, she said.

Instead, Costanzo plans to put the items up for auction in New York, but details still are being worked out. His collections include original films from the 1920s and wooden carousel horses.

She plans to give Danville-related documents — such as maps, letters and pictures — to the city of Danville.

The grain wagons, however, were special to Zeiter.

“We need to preserve them. Some are very old,” she said. “They need to go to someone who appreciates them.”

The new owners will need to fix up the wagons with paint and linseed oil, she said.

When her father comes to the auction, he’ll be pleased to see the wagons going to good homes.

“As long as he knows it’s going to a good place, he can rest,” she said.

Zeiter once was a familiar face at auctions, Lenhart said, adding, “He hardly missed one when he was in good health.”

Zeiter would buy Indian books, electronics equipment and 16mm projectors.

“It was entertainment for him,” Lenhart said.

However, none of the wagons was bought at Lenhart’s auctions.

As for the other items being auctioned from other consignors, mounted animal heads are getting people’s attention. Among them are a wild boar and a bear.

“It’s going to be a fun day for everybody — for people watching and the auctioneer, too,” Lenhart said, adding he’s never auctioned off a wild boar head before.

COMING UP

An auction featuring a variety of unique items — including antiques, hunting goods, primitives and musical items — will start at 10 a.m. Saturday at Lenhart’s Auction Center at 302 Mill St., Georgetown. Eleven wooden-wheel wagons owned by Hugo Zeiter will be auctioned at noon. To preview the items, visit http://www.lenhartauction.com.