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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Trees fell, a “hot cop” was suspended and Gainesville recovery efforts are ongoing, but an auction of authentic alligator purses and Seminole Indian prints stops for no one — or hurricane aftermath.

Amidst cosmetic repairs in the wake of Hurricane Irma, the Matheson History Museum is set to reopen this Saturday for the Antique, Vintage Floridiana and Rare Book Sale.

The sale, which takes place on Sept. 23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is free and open to the public. Visitors can expect to look at and purchase an overwhelming array of one-of-a-kind products, ranging from antiques to rare 19th century books and vintage memorabilia.

Over 13 vendors will attend, including the museum.

All sellers are Floridiana experts, hand-picked and recruited from across the state. Most travel to Gainesville specifically for this event, rejoicing in the thrill their goods bring to collectors.

Last year, one item in particular drew the attention of many senior Gainesville residents in the room: a rare glass framed photo collage of Glen Springs, a local recreation area that closed in 1970.

Dewy-eyed visitors who had once swam in the spring began to shout out their offers, and soon the Matheson became equivalent to an adrenaline-filled bidding war.

The collage sold immediately.

As for Matheson executive director Peggy Macdonald, it was a first edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Palmetto Leaves” that caught her fancy.

This 1873 memoir, one of the first guide books written about Florida, also sold in record time — for only $75.

“I was really jealous,” Macdonald said. “But a lady came from Middleburg just to buy that book.”

Fanaticism runs high at the sale, so while the casual sightseer might stay for only half an hour, some avid collectors spend all day sifting through the small treasures.

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“Once they see something they like, they have to have it,” Macdonald said, who left one year’s sale with an alligator purse she had successfully bid on.

(In other words, arrive early and prepared if you want the best items.)

Concerning her favorite aspect of the Matheson sale, Macdonald couldn’t help but gush over the variety of unusual and historical artifacts for sale.

“It’s a real feast for the eyes,” Macdonald said. “When you walk in, you won’t know where to start. We have specialty bottles, old tins, old photographs, postcards dating back one hundred years, stereograph cards from the 1870s, and rare books with a regional, southern theme. There’s really something for every price range.”

Certainly, the sheer volume of vintage Floridiana leaves nothing to be desired. Not even cravings, as light food and drink will be sold to fund the museum’s maintenance and rotating exhibitions.

With such a wide range of collectibles on display, Macdonald believes that the sale is a wonderful opportunity to build a collection or add to a pre-existing one, and a fun one at that.

“It’s a great diversion after we’ve survived Hurricane Irma,” Macdonald said.

It may also bring in a new stream of regular museum visitors to the Matheson, many of whom would benefit from the Matheson library archives and in-house librarian.

One such possible recruit is Viviana Moreno, an 18-year-old UF English freshman who found the event on social media.

“When the Matheson Antique, Vintage Floridiana and Rare Book Sale popped up on my Facebook feed, I grew very excited,” Moreno said. “The event immediately drew me in. A Saturday spent thumbing through yellowed books and interesting antique finds sounds like heaven to me!”

So, is heaven really the Matheson on a Saturday? I’ll leave you to figure it out.

The Matheson History Museum is located on 513 East University Avenue.

The Antique, Vintage Floridiana and Rare Book Sale is on Sept. 23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

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