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SCOTCH GROVE, Iowa — For almost 50 years, more than a dozen century-old buildings in the farming community of Scotch Grove have guarded a time capsule. Recently, representatives from two auction companies opened the doors of these 16 buildings to find hundreds of thousands of retail, wholesale and service items still on shelves and floors — some still in their original packaging and store displays. The discoveries will be sold Sept. 15-17.
“It’s surreal,” said managing auctioneer Judd Grafe, president of Grafe Auction. “It’s like taking a time machine to a perfectly preserved, mid-1900s general store.”
In addition to the warehouses and store, the auction companies will be selling, literally, an entire town and all the contents of its 16 buildings.
“We’re talking multiple semi-trailer loads of antiques, collectibles, farm machinery parts, horse equipment, toys, hardware and pottery,” said John Schultz, one of the multiple auction managers, sifting through the rows of inventory. “We’re still exploring the warehouses and finding fascinating pieces from our country’s past.”
“It’s not just the sheer volume,” added Mike Schultz, president of Schultz Auctioneers. “We’re selling a renowned family brand. The Balster’s name was nationally known. For over a century, they proved the saying, ‘If you can’t find it anywhere else, go to Balster’s.’”
The Balsters’ array of enterprises — from the gas station and lumber yard to the implement dealer and grocery store — comprised a majority of Scotch Grove.
Starting with Arend Balster, a German immigrant from a ship-building family, Balster’s provided the commercial traffic and social functions that typified Midwest life through two World Wars and the Great Depression. It was Balster’s that brought the Model T to Scotch Grove and closed the street for dancing on weekend nights. At one point, Balster’s served as a distributor of farm machinery, parts, and implements — even moving into U.S. steel, household appliances and office equipment. “And now all that history is heading to the auction block,” said Mike Schultz.
Two semi-trailer loads of items have been shipped to Minnesota auction houses for online auctions. The real estate and the balance of the inventory will be sold Sept 15-17 during four simultaneous live auctions each day. Ring 1 (onsite and online) will be selling glassware, collectibles, jewelry, paper stock, displays and signage. Ring 2 will be selling wagon supplies, wagon parts, nuts, bolts, barbed wire, wire and implements. Ring 3 will cover petroliana memorabilia, gas and oil cans, hand tools, baling machinery and parts, plus hog and chicken waterers. Ring 4 is selling SK hand tools, Briggs & Stratton small engine parts, sickle and mower parts, as well as hay and binder machinery and parts. Rings two through four will be selling onsite only.
Iowa historians and Scotch Grove natives will be on site displaying images and stories from Balster’s — and Scotch Grove’s — glory years, as treasure seekers and reminiscing locals descend on 116th Avenue.
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