Auction offering impressive prehistoric Native American artifact collection

Red slate birdstone
  Red slate birdstone. Photo courtesy Antique Helper Auctions.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Dan Ripley is pleased to announce an important auction of Native American artifacts from the collection of the Late Earl Townsend Jr., to take place on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011 at Antique Helper Auctions, 2764 East 55th Place, in Indianapolis, Ind.

According to Artifact Consultant Larry Swann, the first session will feature approximately one quarter of Townsend’s collection. Among the nearly 400 lots will be a selection of 50-plus birdstones; an impressive array of quartz bannerstones; Midwestern flint; plummets; axes; cones; miniatures; slate; stone and a ferruginous quartz butterfly bannerstone, recognized as the finest example of its kind.

Townsend, who died in 2007, was a passionate collector and historian of Native American artifacts. His storied collection of prehistoric stone Indian artifacts remains one of the largest and best collections ever assembled. Hubert C. Wachtel, author of “Who’s Who in Indian Relics,” called Townsend’s collection “one of the finest in the United States.”

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Earl Townsend Jr. was a highly regarded attorney, philanthropist, patron of the arts, collector, author and historian. He was a pioneer in the early days of broadcasting as the original televised voice of the Indy 500. He was a graduate of DePauw University. He received his degree in Law from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor where he was roommates with late President Gerald Ford. There were many well deserved accolades received over the course of his lifetime. He was named to the Council of Sagamores of the Wabash in 1960, and inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1981.

Townsend started collecting artifacts in 1920. Over the decades, he actively sought out the finest examples of North American prehistoric artifacts, placing a special emphasis on birdstones. He is featured in Wachtel’s “Who’s Who in Indian Relics” No. 1, No. 5, No. 6, No. 7, and No. 9, as well as numerous archaeological publications. As an author and historian, he is widely recognized as the preeminent authority on Native American birdstones. At one time, Townsend had over 600 birdstones in his collection.

His landmark book, “Birdstones of the North American Indian,” originally published in 1959, remains the premier reference book for birdstone study among collectors. Eager to share his passion with fellow collectors, Townsend was a founding member of The Genuine Indian Relics Society and the first president of the Indiana Archaeological Society.

While birdstones were his particular passion, Townsend also counted outstanding examples of flints and bannerstones among his treasures. A highlight of the December 3 auction will be the large quartz butterfly bannerstone, listed in Watchel’s “Who’s Who in Indian Relics” No. 1 as the world’s finest bannerstone. Townsend purchased the piece from well-known Ohio artifact collector A.T. Wehrle. Wehrle had acquired it from the F. P. Hill collection in the 1930s. It was Hill who christened this prized quartz “Sunset Glory.”

Artifact Consultants on Board

Larry Swann and Ron Ammerman have joined Antique Helper as curators for this auction. Both express their pleasure at having the opportunity to work with this well-known collection.

According to Ammerman, the sheer number of birdstones in this auction is unheralded. He says, “I don’t think there’s ever been an auction with more than 20 birdstones. It’s a great honor to be part of it.”

Fine flint cave knife.
Nearly 400 fine Native American artifacts will be offered in Antique Helper’s Dec. 3 auction.

Swann explains that Townsend’s collection is outstanding on every level. He says, “Townsend was a truly dedicated collector. His is one of the biggest and best collections of North American artifacts ever assembled.” He goes on to point out that the variety of color found in Townsend’s collection sets it apart from other collections; Townsend’s trained eye inspired him to seek out and collect the best and most colorful examples. “Not only did he have the means to collect, he also had the artist’s sensibility,” says Swann. He points to the large, colorful Midwestern flints, measuring from 6 inches to 9 inches as some of the finest ever to come on the market.

Featured among the 50-plus birdstones will be three of the most exceptional porphyry granite birdstones ever to be offered to the public. The mystery of their purpose and the process that was used to create them, along with their beauty and rarity, adds to their mystique.

Preparations are being made to accommodate the large crowd expected for this event. Exhibition preview times will be available for two weeks prior to auction day. Arrangements for special rates have been made at local hotels. Visit Antique Helper Auctions for information, reserve seating and to purchase the professionally photographed, artist-designed catalog. Reservations will be required for those attending. Absentee, telephone and live Internet bidding with streaming audio/video will be available to those not in attendance.

Slate birdstone.
  An unprecedented number of birdstones will be offered in the Dec. 3 Native American artifact auction.

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