‘Sale of a career’

Published 9:36 pm Monday, September 10, 2012

Barry Cole and the Mr. Peanut steel money bank he purchased from an estate auction as a memento of the sale of 204 Bank St. “I wanted to make sure it stayed here in Suffolk,” Cole said.

Even the auctioneer went home with a purchase

Suffolk auctioneer Barry Cole placed the winning bid Saturday on a charismatic little memento of an estate sale he declared “by far” the highlight of his 40-year career.

Standing barely a foot tall, the Planters Peanuts steel money bank, modeled on company mascot Mr. Peanut, has a slit in its head for coins.

It would normally be worth much less than the $335 — buyer’s premium and state sales tax included — the owner of A.B. Cole & Associates Auction and Realty LLC paid for it.

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“The reason I paid three times what it’s worth is that it represents Suffolk … more than any other thing we saw … (and) owning it was worth a whole lot more as a memento of the sale,” Cole said.

“I wanted to make sure it stayed here in Suffolk. I have never seen one just like it,” he added. “It had a special appeal, and the sentimental side of it will always remind me of the auction.”

The sale of the Viola “Billie” Annas estate, comprising a lavish Golden Age mansion at 204 Bank St. and its contents, was an exceedingly rare event, Cole said.

The classical-revival home, built in 1909 by lumber magnate George Truitt, was stocked with Victorian furnishings, rare books, and ornamental treasures from across the seas.

Including buyer’s premiums, the house fetched $440,000, and the personal property — 2,300 items were divided into 800 lots — brought north of $200,000, Cole said.

Five percent of the net proceeds of the house will be donated to the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, and 10 percent of the net proceeds of the property to the ALS Association, which fights Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“I’m thankful I was able to be captain on the bridge on this one,” Cole said in the aftermath of the sale Monday, overseeing a steady trickle into and out of the house of successful bidders collecting their prizes.

“It was the high point of my career in terms of an estate. It was a tremendous amount of work and logistics.”

More than 2,200 people inspected the property during a 12-hour showing, Cole said, and bidders came from across the country, including Maine, Florida and California.

Among sale highlights, a Russian cut-glass punchbowl brought $1,100, and an exquisite pair of Luster ruby lamps with hanging cut-glass prisms fetched $1,400.

“We were dealing with something that’s not typical to the time we’re in,” Cole said. “We’re probably not going to see it in a lifetime again.”

Tamara Tjepkema traveled to the house Monday from Virginia Beach to collect a turn-of-the-20th-century photo album and history books.

On her first such foray, the woman aged in her 50s said she wanted the full estate auction experience.

“I saw it advertised, and it was close enough for me to preview,” Tjepkema said. “This presented a very comprehensive experience for me.”