whirlwind epic procar weekend

Don't even know where to start.

There was a hearse meeting going on in NC yesterday that I'd been looking forward to for two months. This past Tuesday, a serious quandary surfaced. Rather hastily put together, a closed funeral home was being auctioned off - also Saturday! (I'd driven by this particular old funeral home about a year ago, got contact info from a neighbor, and left a few messages over several months that were never returned.) Several hour drive to hearse meet, likewise for auction...and there was no public auction preview previous to Saturday morning!

What would you have done?

I talked the auctioneer into giving a private walk through Friday morning. Turned out the property was in foreclosure, being repossessed, and needed to be cleared ASAP, hence virtually no sale notice. (Which technically bodes well keeping bidders from traveling long distance.) Friday couldn't come soon enough!

Then Wednesday night, yet another dilemma appeared. The same day, a second auction two hours from first! I calculated time frames and mileage before likewise scheduling a preview for that one. Why does this all have to be the same day????? Hearse show was cool enough. Either auction once a year would have been wonderful by itself.

On with pics.

Once I'd driven a couple hours Thursday evening, spotted this '72(?) Superior 200' off road behind a house. Nobody was home.

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Few more hours and I'd reached destination for night. Got a room and prepared for an early start. Barely slept, excited with anticipation. Picked a friend up and off we went.

Cunningham & Hughes was in business for 115 years, closed for at least 5 years, and was the oldest funeral home in the state of VA. Figured whatever the auctioneer had relayed, it need to be seen in person to grasp the depth of merchandise. The basement alone turned out being almost 6000 packed square feet of the three story building that included a 200 seat chapel to give an idea. Electricity had been off for quite some time and the foreboding funeral home was quite dark.

Ready to see some stuff as found?

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Two vehicles were pulled out of that vast basement. Of note was a '69 Miller Meteor Paramount endloader. The other was a '75 Cadillac Sedan DeVille family car. MM was in good shape, albeit dirty.

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En route to the first preview, I had spotted an older hearse behind a different funeral home. We backtracked after leaving first preview paying close attention to next auction preview appointment.

'86 S&S. VERY clean and well kept. Was used for service until beginning of this year.

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Replaced with a Masterpiece! Stunning.

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Matching Superior 6-door limo had just been acquired 3 days prior to our visit.

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Funeral director really warmed up to us after conversing about hearses for a few minutes (go figure - ha). He shot us a very reasonable price on it that was unexpected. Not that FWD hearses of this vintage are very 'popular' but this is an example that could be a great first low price hearse for an newer hobby enthusiast that's easier to drive (less blind spots).

My friend and I spend the next 2+ hour drive writing down all the vintage funeral stuff we saw at the funeral home that each of us had interest in before coordinating which of us wanted each item, then scribing what market value estimates and how much are max bids would be.

I wrote down about 25 items. He decided that the '69 needed to go home as part of his collection. I had contacted a PCS member to see who may be interested beforehand, so this was marginally disappointing, but his limit came into play. I didn't know how exactly it was going to go down. Better being prepared.

Had enough cash on me to cover what I thought hearse would go for but was more interested in many other items. :)
 
Less than a mile away from second auction preview. How rural you ask?

Not even paved. Ridiculous.

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Check this back story out~ General store built in 1870. Closed during Great Depression, 1935. The building sat unoccupied without being broken into, vandalized, or items being otherwise stolen until selling in 2004! 3 acre track of land, 1870s homestead, general store, and contents of general store were now being auctioned. Most of those items were pre-'35 (unless coming out of homestead)!

So why did we have to go look in person? Brand new children and infant coffins from 1880s-1920s, still in shipping crates found in attic. One was even left in original paper for display at auction. Even cooler? NOS coffin hardware - hinges, handles, nameplates, etc. Couple hundred pieces in total. Incredible. When does that ever come to market?

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Was able to place proxy bids given my situation the following day. This auctioneer was considerably more professional than the first. I placed strong bids on all 6 coffins (among others), going substantial on one of them and the hardware not wanting to lose those two particular lots.

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Neat general store, almost emptied entirely for auction.

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Amount of porcelain signage here was impressive. Coca-Cola, 1800s firearms, prewar neon clocks, and several other highly coveted items were abundant.
 

Darren Bedford

New member
UNREAL SITUATION ATTILA !!!!!

Did you pinch yourself to make sure you were not dreaming brother !!!

Incredible once in a lifetime find there my friend !


I hope you get what you want.


Darren


P.S. Maybe that stuff should have been moved and made into a local museum. Today even moving the building is quite easy.
 
Auction(s) and hearse meet day, Saturday has finally arrived!!! Sometimes there simply aren't enough seconds in the day. This was one of them.

First auction started at 10AM. I arrived @ 8:15 with a borrowed box truck after realizing driving a hearse there simply would provide enough space. I took seeing a dead bird hanging upside down from this funeral home's side porch light as a good omen for some reason, full of optimism.

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Very disappointed to see several items "missing" that I had just seen the previous day. Not cool. At all. Pieces that I had planned to bid on and had allocated funds for were just GONE. These included at least 8 church trucks, 6 gurneys, and a Vespa. Auctioneer was non-apologetic. He simply didn't care, stating that his online advertising had been modified to include "Items subject to change." before auction started so he was not legally liable.

Total bullsh*t!!!!! If it is advertised, it has to be there. He had a contract to sell those items with the funeral home family and as far as I was concerned, he must produce them. But what can you really do..?

I frankly don't think he did any backdoor cash dealings. More likely a family member sold them for scrap. (Later found out a family member sold church trucks and stretchers to another funeral home late Friday night. Too many people had keys to a business that had been closed for years.)

Only a couple items I missed that I very much wanted. Let's cover those first.

This cast cabinet was supposed to be a part of embalming room contents but was pulled and sold separately. Having not really viewed pricing as such earlier, figured I could go $200 without hurting other stuff later. When I realized that an opposing bidder was going to take that home regardless, I let him have it. Went for $220. He ended up being super nice and was ready to go $450, same as last one he saw cross an auction block that he missed.

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Many salesman sample vaults were in auction. After first one went much higher than I thought, I backed bidding off and let another have that one.

Thought this framed advert was really neat. Again, bidding went higher than I thought it would.

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^As a result of my bids though, a REAL ice casket lead came to me later. Of course I'll follow up...

This cast bronze sign in table floored me and I felt was one of the star pieces to acquire. $250 was my max. (Yes, I know it is worth twice that.) 3 bidders over $200. Hammer dropped at $280. Lucky winning bidder drove over 5 hours to get pretty much this piece, although he had interest in a couple other. Damn it.

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Hindsight always being 20/20, I should have gone higher. Ended up leaving auction with plenty of money left. This beautiful stand was also early in auction and I had to pace myself. :(
 
Over the next 4 hours I won 37 auction lots totaling several hundred items. Packing the box truck took awhile. I beelined 90 minutes to the hearse meet and spread out my first load before hearses showed back up (they had driven to a different property). Sadly, several had already left for the day.

Anyway, here's a partial first load of my cache (non-inclusive of Arlington national cemetery grave markers and a few other things). Between my friend and myself, there were 6 loads to retrieve!!! Yes, he bought '69 Paramount.

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^Note chapel pulpit and 3 lowering devices in background.

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Vintage of church truck..?

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Before anyone asks, I am not interested in reselling any funeral signs. Other duplicates are possible but not these.
 

Josh Horton

New member
I think I recognize a couple of them :D. It was great seeing most of his cars and great finally meeting you. We all had a wonderful time. Hope we can do it again one day.
 
Okay, going back to Saturday's funeral home absolute auction, more I neglected to mention late last night.

Among items that turned up "missing" for sale was a small white safe. It was found in tall grass behind funeral home day of sale erratically cut with a Sawzall and bashed open by someone who (obviously) didn't know what they were doing. Cash and firearms gone.

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Auctioneer's assistants (many, probably a dozen) shared the same careless attitude as their boss. Besides lacking basic organizational skills, they were not cautious when handling antiques. Many items had broken or otherwise sustained damage between Friday's preview and Saturday morning after being carried outside for auction. They split paired/set items into different lots then added other items to those lots that didn't belong.

There were 200 registered bidders. Auctioneer made presale announcement to keep track of all items won as he was not responsible for theft. Well, you couldn't pay for items until you were done bidding. Couldn't move items until they were paid for. Winning dozens of auctions...see the catch here? I had a rather large metal/glass vertical display cabinet disappear but gained a similar large wood/glass vertical display cabinet, and will assume it was an honest mistake when another bidder was loading up. Also had a beautiful painting stolen that came as part of one of my basement lots that I was quite excited about.

Other shady habits noticed: Bidders were carrying items out of funeral home/basement/house that were supposed to be left in place to be sold as rooms or lots, placing them in auction rows outside. On identical items, I noticed at least three instances with three different bidders winning an auction for x amount, then grabbing more than they bought thinking nobody would know difference.

Let me stop a select few reading this thinking I'm being negative or complaining. I'm not. I'm merely calling it like it is, preparing YOU for what to expect if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. Knowing in advance what may transpire can be beneficial defense!

Befriending competition bidders helps. Few lots I split with a local guy that was scarfing up scrap metal cheaply, rather than running bids up against each other. Then, on a couple rooms I let him have, he reasonably sold me funeral items in return that I missed seeing he knew I'd want. Even received a solid lead on a '56 hearse and another old closed funeral home that I'll try to buy.

And if you think I only turn up junk procars, you simply haven't a clue what I actually do. :)

Left house early yesterday with box truck and a rollback to retrieve contents of embalming rooms (yes, I won both) and unbury caskets in basement mainly. A pickup truck subsequently met us on site and likewise grabbed a load (#4).

Older embalming table's top weighed at least 400 pounds. Base was another 350 or so. Embalming table in background's top felt 75 pounds lighter but base was 150 pounds heavier!

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^Already resold disassembled embalming table shown above. Second one I had a friend in mind before even purchasing, then another funeral director made an offer on site. Darren, you're third on it and I can let you know what happens.

Took 7 hours going through and digging everything out of dark giant basement. Here we are packing loads #2 and #3.

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Hastily snapped this through windshield on way out after load #4 had already left. 18 additional caskets/military shipping crates on rollback as it passed between 2 those funeral home Cadillac.

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You can imagine deals were being made outside of auction. Another flaw noticed was several assistants holding items up but only one was being auctioned off at a time. Even standing a few feet away, with hammer dropping every 20-30 seconds, it was easy to miss items if not continually focused. I did as others no doubt did. Ended up buying them from winning bidders so they made profit.

One such deal my friend bought the '75 DeVille for a mere $35 profit over what winning bidder paid after fees and tax. We thought it best not to let those cars sit unattended in that neighborhood any longer, opting to hit the road late last night and retrieve them so we were done. Loads #5 and #6 made it back safely so we were DONE.

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'69 Paramount is also packed full on rollback. :p

18 hour day yesterday. Now starts unpacking/sorting/splitting up yesterday's box truck load. Look for more pics and updates later! I plan on also sharing gurney tags, etc. to learn about them/model/vintage. Steve, I appreciate you one already.

Fingers crossed for items won at second auction still. Will also find that out today.
 

Richard Vyse

Active member
Super Site Supporter
I simply have to say you enjoyed a couple days many of us dream about. There is nothing more exciting than to go through an old funeral home and being able to purchase these items and extremely jealous. Looks like the funeral home owner certainly kept just about everything he ever purchased.

Thanks for sharing. The gold casket with the fold out lid has always been a favorite of mine. I look forward to more of your shared adventures.
 
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