Somerset County News

Bodnar Auctions Unlocks Time Capsule of Museum-Quality New Jersey Americana Collected by Navy Seal

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Civil War-era map of Somerville. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Civil War-era map of Somerville. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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One of the highlights in the sale is a lot that includes the personal belongings of Demarest Gordon, a Civil War drummer from New Jersey. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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The Civil War drum of Demarest Gordon, a Civil War soldier from New Jersey. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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The discharge papers of Demarest Gordon, a Civil War drummer from New Jersey. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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The New Jersey state seal adorns this transferware pitcher from 1893. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Transferware pitcher from 1893. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Handmade quilt from Millstone, NJ is dated 1846. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Intricate castings and engravings characterize each of the 26 Civil War officer presentation swords that will be sold at the Dec. 3 auction. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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EDISON, NJ - A museum-quality sale of New Jersey Americana accumulated over a lifetime by a former Navy Seal will be sold at no reserve during Bodnar Auction’s Dec. 3 sale at the New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center.

Separate and apart from the Navy Seal’s collection are 46 vintage maps from a separate estate, including 19th-century maps of Somerville and Hillsborough.

More than 600 lots are included in the catalog sale,  including mint condition bank notes, engraved Civil War presentation swords, regimental Civil War flags carried in battle, backpacks, trunks, late 19th-century reunion ribbons, medals, discharge papers,  documents signed by Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison, a place setting of President Woodrow Wilson’s White House china, signed colonial-era silver with silversmith’s markings;  coins, pocket watches and transferware – teapots, soup tureens, water pitchers, wash pitchers and other pieces featuring iconic New Jersey sites and scenery.

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A California collector called auctioneer Joe Bodnar after scanning advertising for the auction and offered to pay six figures for the entire collection, an offer that could not be entertained because of legalities and Bodnar’s commitment to the Bill Kazar estate.

Items in the sale date from the 1750s through the early 20th century.

Kazar was a proud American and proud veteran, a US Navy Commander and member of the elite Navy Seals. He had an eye for top-quality items and was a regular at high-profile auctions in the metropolitan New York area. He was also a member of Bodnar’s staff for many years, acquiring his taste for antiques and respect for history from his parents, who owned an antiques store in New Brunswick.

He had a penchant for historically-significant artifacts made in or having to do with New Jersey – bank notes from 19th-century New Brunswick banks; bowls and pitchers depicting Passaic Falls and the Passaic River; stoneware jugs from Johnson&Johnson, headquartered in New Brunswick; sterling silver drinking cups and other silver items crafted by New Jersey silversmiths; a collection of 26 Civil War-era presentation swords, each one documented, with provenance and photos of the officers who owned the weapons, all of them from New Jersey; photographs and signed documents belonging to veterans of the Civil War, and more.

All items are well-documented. Some include pages from catalogs where he had purchased items in his collection.

His modest New Jersey home, not far from the auction site, was crammed and stacked to the ceilings, a suburban time capsule bursting at the seams; every room was brimming with artifacts deserving of display in a museum, according to Bodnar.

Adding to the value of each item in the sale is the story attached to the lot; Kazar was a meticulous record keeper.

One of the highlights in the sale is a lot that includes the personal belongings of Demarest Gordon, a Civil War drummer from New Jersey. It includes his drum, drumsticks, partial uniform, discharge papers and a charcoal drawing of Demarest wearing the uniform jacket that will be sold to the highest bidder.

The catalog description reads:

Estimate: $1,500 - $3,000

Description: Demarest Gordon was mustered in on Sept 3, 1862 and was mustered out on June 27, 1863. The snare drum is wood with D Gordon stenciled around the peephole and just above the J W Pepper & Sons, Phila label. Is in very good condition with replaced ropes but the tighteners are in good condition. The coatee is blue with black piping and has large CW eagle buttons. His name is written in the inside pocket. It is in very good condition with the piping coming loose around the collar and in one spot, and a few tears to the lining. There are no moth holes to the jacket. The charcoal picture shows him holding the drum and wearing the coatee. The record of service is an Eagle Monument Association lithograph and has split near the middle.

The sale will be Saturday, Dec. 3, beginning at 10 a.m. The Kazar catalog sale begins at 11 a.m.

Previews are Friday, Dec. 2, 1-6 p.m. and 9:30 a.m. the day of the sale.

The 600-lot Kazar collection can be viewed online, complete with photos and a full description with estimated values and opening bids at:

https://connect.invaluable.com/bodnar/auction-catalog/New-Jersey-Historical-Collection-of-William-Kazar_KO9ZCEH2WX/

The catalog can also be accessed through a link on Bodnar’s website:

http://www.bodnarsauction.com/preview-the-december-3-sale

The New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center is in Raritan Center at 97 Sunfield Blvd., accessible off the New Jersey Turnpike Exit 10 and Route 287. The main entrance to Raritan Center is off Woodbridge Avenue.

Further information is available online at www.bodnarauctions.com or by calling (732) 951-2100 or (866) 349-7378.

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