March 25 might have marked the season opener for the 2012 Indy Car Series, but that wasn’t the only Indy Car- event that piqued the interest of auto racing fans that weekend; they were also keeping a watchful eye on Antique Helper’s March 24 Art & Antiques Auction, featuring racing memorabilia from the estate of Clarence Cagle.
This wasn’t the first time Antique Helper played host to an important auto racing memorabilia auction. In 2006, the company presented The Duesenberg Estate and in June of 2011, Antique Helper joined forces with retired racer Jigger Sirois to sell his family’s racing memorabilia as a fund raiser for Riley Hospital for Children. The Sirois Family Racing Memorabilia Auction placed Antique Helper front and center in the racing memorabilia world, with previews and pre auction events taking place at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and The Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Clarence Cagle Estate represented another opportunity for the staff from this Indianapolis auction house to celebrate the event that put their hometown on the map. This auction, like the others before it, was an event steeped in auto racing history.
Clarence Cagle’s relationship with Indianapolis Motor Speedway dates back to 1945, when Tony Hulman acquired the track from Eddie Rickenbacker. Cagle worked there for 30 years as Track Superintendent, later becoming Vice President of Speedway Corp.
Items offered in the March 24 auction included 500 and other race-related merchandise spanning Cagle’s career at the track. Bidders found pit badges, patches, belt buckles, books and programs, bolo ties, jewelry and Cagle’s own personalized Shriners Bell Helmet.
The crowning jewel of this collection was the 1909 poster from the inaugural auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Absentee, floor, Internet and telephone bidders were all on the throttle during an intense bidding session that quickly saw the price on this rare piece of auto racing history rise from its high estimate of $7,000 to a flat out bid of $24,000, from a telephone bidder.
For Dan Ripley, the inclusion of this poster in the auction catalog created a personal connection. He says, "As a fanatic admirer of Carl G. Fisher, an IMS founder, I could not imagine a more important piece of track memorabilia. I took a personal interest in marketing this poster and the final price illustrates that others found it just as appealing."
The majority of racing memorabilia sold within or above estimate. Pit badges fared especially well; low issue numbers and provenance both played a part in increasing auction value. Among the most offerings was a lot that included ten 2000’s Indianapolis 500 Silver and Bronze pit badges, including a Pagoda. It doubled high estimate of $200 with a hammer price of $400, selling to an Internet bidder.
Another group of ten Indianapolis 500 pit badges from the 1990s surpassed high estimate of $350 with a winning bid of $450, also selling to the Internet.
Other Indianapolis 500 pit badges that sold above estimate included a group of five 1961 silver badges (est. 150-$250), bringing a hammer price of $325.
A group of three 1954 metal badges (est. 100-$200) and a group of five 1960s era pit badges both realized $375. A pair of metal badges in driver’s helmet form (est. $100-$200) fared even better, bringing a hammer price of $425.
A collection of four 1920s Indianapolis Motor Speedway/Indy 500 programs (est. $100-$200) exceeded high estimate with a winning bid of $275 from a floor bidder. A successful floor bid also claimed a grouping of men’s accessories, including Indianapolis 500 bolo ties and a Firestone lapel pin (est. $25-$75), with a hammer price of $425.
A few unique buying opportunities were presented to collectors in this auction. Among the unusual items was an original brick from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, dated 1901 (est. $50-$100). It brought $275 from an Internet bidder.
An unusual 1946 Indy 500 pit badge, celebrating the 30th running of the famous race brought a hammer price of $450. “The 1946 casting even stumped the experts in the field,” says Antique Helper Vice President John Sabol. “It may be a salesmen’s sample or even an experimental prototype.”
Several personal items told the story of Cagle’s relationship with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the racing world, and with his employer, Tony Hullman. A small gilt and silver plate footed dish embossed with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway emblem and “Clarence from Tony” ($25-$75) exceeded expectations, bringing a hammer price of $475 from an Internet bidder.
Most impressive among these offerings was Clarence Cagle’s Murat Shriners Bell helmet, sold along with its original carrying case. It more than doubled its high estimate of $200, with a winning bid of $500, from an Internet bidder.
"The IMS is a part of all of our lives here in central Indiana," says Dan Ripley. "We love and admire the "spectacle" of it and hope to have many more opportunities to market the collections that document and highlight its history."
Antique Helper is currently accepting consignments upcoming Art and Antiques and Specialty Auctions, including The 20th Century Art & Design Auction on May 19, and a special Gem, Fossil, Artifact and Mineral Auction on June 24.
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