Harrisburg, Pa., plans to sell 8,000 wild-west artifacts ranging from horse-drawn carriages to firearms as part of its financial recovery effort.
A four-day preview begins Thursday and the auction itself will run from Monday through July 21 at city-owned City Island, on the Susquehanna River.
New York auction house Guernsey's is running the event and estimates the city will sell $3 million to $5 million worth of artifacts, according to Robert Philbin, chief of staff for Mayor Linda Thompson. Guernsey's will keep 18% of the proceeds.
"The market will determine the value," Philbin said. Guernsey's plans a further historic documents auction in New York in September.
Thompson's predecessor, Stephen Reed, who was mayor for 28 years, spent about $8 million in a failed attempt to open a Wild West museum. The city has previously sold $1.7 million worth of items. More than 20,000 Civil War artifacts are housed in the city's National Civil War Museum and are not part of the auction, according to Philbin.
Philbin said more than 500 bidders are already registered.
State-appointed receiver William Lynch is overseeing the city's recovery plan.
In a status report filed two weeks ago with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, Lynch said his office "continues to monitor cash flow." He estimated Harrisburg's cash balance at about $5.4 million as of June 30, citing the receipt of some real estate tax revenues and not paying some creditors -most recently SunTrust and Metro Bank.
Though Harrisburg for now has a positive cash-flow balance, "without a resolution of the credit issues, it will go negative during the fall," Lynch wrote.
Auction proceeds will fall way short of settling Harrisburg's debt. The city is staring at about $350 million in debt that it cannot pay, mostly from bond financing overruns to an incinerator retrofit project. Harrisburg has missed its last three general-obligation bond payments.
Thompson hopes Harrisburg can capitalize on the height of the tourist season and interest surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, which happened 40 miles southwest of Harrisburg.
Items for sale include original horse-drawn carriages, frontier clothing, saloon and gaming paraphernalia, American Indian and Spanish Colonial artifacts, firearms and swords, and memorabilia from the Revolutionary, Civil and Indian wars.
Bidding is also available online.