Feb. 2, 2004 – A hushed and dignified crowd of about 300 people spent their Sunday afternoon thrusting numbered cards into the air as hearty youths trolleyed out treasure after treasure for their bidding delight at the 5th annual Antiques, Art and Collectibles Auction benefitting the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas.
Organizers said this year's event was a bargain hunter's bonanza, and as promised in their publicity there were finds for bidders with varying budgets. Even Gov. Charles W. Turnbull was on hand to scoop up a modest cache of items — on behalf of the V.I. government.
"I think it was successful because we sold almost everything," Katina Coulianos, congregation president, said. "Some things went for very good prices."
Among the high-end bargains: an antique four-poster bed with a curved ram's head headboard, which sold for $6,600. Antiques expert Philip Sturm said a similar bed sold last year for nearly $10,000.
On the more affordable end, a successful bidder cashed in on a twin recliner sofa set, which was not quite an antique and went for $200.
Among the objects drawing a lot of interest were a donkey cart, brought to the territory from Guyana, which sold for $2,300. There also was lively bidding on works by St. Thomas artists Camille Pissarro, Albert Daniel and Eric Winter.
Turnbull sat in the front row, watching as a number of items for sale were trotted out for close-up viewing. He made the winning bids on some rare books, figurines, an oil painting and a marble-top mahogany table. The selections added up to $1,425. The governor said he was making those purchases because some artifacts have local historical significance.
"The important architecture as well as the furnishings of a country are part of the history," he said. "As many of those pieces — whether they are paintings or furniture or other objects of art that relate to the Virgin Islands — as many of those things as possible should remain in the Virgin Islands, either collected by the government or by local residents."
Coulianos said she was pleased by how popular the annual event has become and that plans already are being made for next year's auction. She said the proceeds from the weekend will be used in part for repairs to the roof of the 170-year-old St. Thomas synagogue building that are needed as a result of the heavy November rains.
Recognized as the oldest Jewish temple in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere, the synagogue has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Because of its importance as a visitor attraction, Coulianos said, the congregation raises funds to be able to keep it open to the public throughout the week, as well as on days of worship.
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