Halloween sees 19th century vampire killing kit sell for $8,800

PORT GIBSON, Miss. – An authentic 19th-century vampire killing kit – containing a pistol with silver bullets in a coffin-style case, holy water vials, a cleaver, a prayer book and a looking glass – sold for $8,800 at an estate sale held Oct. 31 by Stevens Auction Company, based in Aberdeen, Miss. A Victorian-era walnut casket (circa 1880s) also sold, for $522.

The coffin came up for bid right before the vampire killing kit and had a ghoulish plastic figure inside for fun and effect. “We told people the figure was a vampire and it was dead, proof that the killing kit worked,” said Dwight Stevens of Stevens Auction Company with a chuckle, adding, “I don’t believe in vampires and I’ve never believed in them. But somebody did. This is the fourth killing kit I’ve sold.”

The last one Stevens auctioned was a kit made around 1800. It came complete with stakes, mirrors, a gun with silver bullets, crosses, a Bible, holy water, candles and even garlic, all in a walnut case with a carved cross on top. It sold for $14,850 at an estate sale held Oct. 3-4, 2008, in Natchez, Miss. The one just sold, a much newer kit, was housed in a rosewood case with mother-of-pearl inlay.

The winning bidder was a lady from Pennsylvania (not Transylvania!) who drove all the way to Mississippi to bid on the prize. “She told me afterward she was prepared to go as high as $20,000,” Mr. Stevens said, “and when nobody topped her bid of $8,000, she got up and started doing a happy dance. She even sported fake vampire fangs for effect. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier winning bidder.”

Mr. Stevens said the vampire killing kit attracted interest from as far away as England prior to the sale. “People are fascinated by them,” he said. “They were pieces of Americana specific to a rather small area – from Vicksburg to New Orleans. It’s all tied into the whole voodoo-superstition side of the region’s character.”

The auction attracted a crowd of 600 people, a minor miracle in itself, considering it rained hard the entire day before. “We set up a sump pump and let it run all night,” Mr. Stevens said. “But the next day, it was as sunny and beautiful as could be. We had a great auction.” About 600 lots changed hands at the sale, which ran non-stop from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Phone and absentee bidding were both active.

Mr. Stevens said this was the first truly successful sale he’s had in a little while. “The last month or two were very slow,” he conceded, “but this auction gave us renewed hope. Much of that had to do with the provenance of the Person family, which dated back to 1750 in Mississippi and gave the items meaning. It also showed me that people are still interested in buying antiques and investing in antiques.”

The sale was an on-site event, held at the home of the late Miss Isabel Person, who lived nearly all of her 93 years on Church Street in Port Gibson, a gracious Southern town located 27 miles south of Vicksburg, on Highway 61. The home was built around 1880 in the late Victorian style. It had been bought by her father, J.W. Person II, and over the years became a repository for the family’s antiques.

Miss Person’s vast estate collections included period furniture, books, chests, clothes, silver, china, artifacts, papers and other timeless items, many of which had been stored in the 2,000-square-foot attic, though the entire house was adorned with fine antique objects from around the world. Most of these crossed the block Oct. 31. Also sold was the estate of a late doctor from Jackson.

Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include a 10 percent buyer’s premium.

The top lot of the sale was a rare walnut sugar cupboard (circa 1840), nearly 6 feet tall and with 7-inch legs ($14,300). Other furniture pieces that sold well included a mahogany Empire full tester plantation bed made about 1840 and majestic at 8 feet 8 inches tall ($12,100); a walnut plantation Jackson press (circa 1830), 7 feet tall ($7,700); and a circa 1840 Southern walnut hunt board ($7,150).

An acanthus carved base mahogany Empire banquet table (circa 1880), with 5 leaves, 9 feet 11 inches long, demanded $5,775; a walnut corner cabinet (circa 1830), with blind doors and 8-inch legs brought $5,500; a Southern country Empire cherry sugar bureau (circa 1830) hammered for $5,500; and a mahogany Empire secretary desk (circa 1835), over 7 feet tall, hit $5,500.

A British tall case mahogany clock (circa early 19th century) chimed on time for $3,300, despite needing repair; a Matthews & Slade rosewood grand piano with stool (circa 1860) played a sweet tune for $3,080; a Symphonion mahogany music box in good working order with 14-inch discs went for $1,980; and a banded stack of 100 1863 Mississippi Confederate $5 bills, uncirculated, made $1,760.

A Wells Fargo & Co. Express Model 1851 Colt Navy 6-shot pistol, made in 1861, scored a bull’s-eye for $5,500; a Colt Model 1860 Army .44 caliber percussion revolver (circa 1863) breezed to $2,200; a pair of Confederate unmarked cavalry sabers garnered $2,860 and $1,210; and a Civil War-era photograph album filled with images of Confederate generals and soldiers commanded $990.

Newcomb College pottery pieces were served up in abundance. A 6-inch teapot with roses went for $4,400; a 4-inch blue vase with leaf decoration topped out at $4,180; a 7-inch vase with night scene and a hairline crack on the rim still achieved $3,960; a 4-inch vase with leaf decoration brought $3,080; a 2 1/2-inch vase with floral decoration made $2,860; and a 5-inch trivet with swamp scene rose to $990.

Marble-top tables piqued the interest of the crowd. A mahogany Empire pier table attributed to J. & J.W. Meeks, 44 inches wide, sold for $3,740; A Classical crotch mahogany Empire foyer table (circa 1850) hit $3,520; and a walnut Victorian parlor table (circa 1860), attributed to Thomas Brooks, realized $2,860. Also, a gold Victorian cherub mirror, 5 feet tall by 3 feet wide, made $2,420.

A monogrammed sterling silver repousse 4-piece tea service with grapes climbed to $7,700, while a set of 10 sterling silver reticulated demitasse cups and saucers, monogrammed, with Willets Belleek inserts, topped out at $440. Also, a pair of cranberry cut to clear oil lamps, 25 inches tall, brought $1,210; and a selection of 19th century small portraits on ivory went for $330-$600 each.

Returning to furniture, a cherry butler’s drop-front whiskey press (circa 1840) earned $4,400; a mahogany Empire 2-door bookcase (circa 1830) fetched $4,180; a mahogany Empire china cabinet with claw feet (circa 1880), gaveled for $3,740; a primitive cherry 2-piece step-back cupboard (circa 1830) went for $3,080; and a rare Empire hall seat with wide scroll feet (circa 1840) garnered $3,080.

A walnut Southern sugar chest with divider and drawer (circa 1840) earned $3,080; a primitive poplar step-back cupboard (circa 1840), 85 inches tall, demanded $2,970; a flamed mahogany Federal sofa with red upholstery and great carved apron (circa 1830) reached $2,860; an early 24-tin Southern pie safe coasted to $2,860; and an unusual Gothic Empire mahogany dresser (circa 1830) hit $1,980.

Stevens Auction Company is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign an item, estate or collection, you may call them directly, at 662-369-2200, or you can e-mail them at stevensauction@bellsouth.net. To learn more about Stevens Auction Company and its upcoming sales, visit www.stevensauction.com.

Photos courtesy Stevens Auction Company.


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