XENIA — A historic and eclectic Xenia collection of antiques and firearms is being sold over the course of numerous auctions throughout 2019.
The collections of the late William “Bill” Donges have been the source of local speculation for decades, especially following the deaths of Donges’ father, Dr. Ralph Donges, in 1970 and his mother, Katharine Carlile Donges, in 1998.
“This is one of the more varied collections of antiques that we have sold as it pertains to both quality and quantity,” said Lead Auctioneer Bart Sheridan of Sheridan & Associates of Cedarville. “Bill had an excellent eye for many genres of collectibles and was a very difficult bidder to outbid. Several people have reminisced recently that if Bill wanted something that was being offered at an auction, you just knew that he would be the winning bidder.”
At a March 22 auction Sheridan & Associates began the liquidation of the Donges collection with the offering of high quality antique items. The event featured over 400 lots and drew more than 200 bidders to the company’s Cedarville location.
Born in 1940, Donges was a lifelong Xenia resident. During his teen years he exhibited a fondness for firearms that his father, a local optometrist and druggist, helped to foster. Following graduation from high school, Donges would travel to Colorado where he worked as a ranch hand and promptly enrolled at what is now Trinidad State Community College in their first-of-its-kind two-year gunsmith program.
“Dad had many varied interests, but he really knew and loved firearms. He had a deep understanding of how they worked,” said Debbie Quirk, Donges’ eldest daughter and the executor for his estate, later adding, “And as much as he enjoyed the guns, he really loved the history of firearms.”
That early love of guns was chronicled in a June 30, 1960 Dayton Daily News article titled “Xenians Really ‘Up In Arms’” penned by reporter Tom Teepen. The article began, “If you’re looking for a couple of men with more than 2,000 arrowheads, about 550 rifles and some 60 swords, then Xenia optometrist-druggist Ralph H. Donges, 56, and his son, Bill, 20, are your men.”
Their collection of Indian and war relics is among the most extensive private collections in the Miami Valley. Ralph Donges estimates its value at $25,000 – and that’s a conservative figure.
“’We really started the collection in earnest about four years ago,’ he said. ‘Oh, we’d collected a few items before then; but four years ago a woman in Indiana gave her collection of firearms and military relics to Bill. She had turned it over to Purdue University in 1921 but was unhappy with the way they displayed it … Most are … relics from American wars before 1876.’”
Sheridan & Associates will offer over 140 vintage black powder, flintlock, and musket loading guns from the collection along with other Civil War and American Revolution artifacts on Thursday, May 2. Bidding options will include the traditional live bidding for onsite bidders as well as a real time live internet bidding option for bidders who cannot attend the auction. The auction to liquidate the remainder of the firearm collection will be scheduled following Thursday’s auction. Future auctions will also feature Donges’ extensive book collection and other quality antiques and collectibles.
Quirk commented that her father’s gun collection was one of his prides and joys.
“He loved to purchase both contemporary and antique guns and work on them. He was so proud of this collection and, while in one way we hate to see it dispersed, we know that this is the best way to honor Dad and to showcase his great knowledge and work in assembling it,” she said.
Sheridan added, “After having the online portion of the auction posted for four days, we currently have bidders registered from throughout the United States, from coast to coast, and from Florida to Washington. We expect a strong bidding crowd next week both onsite and online. We look forward to a successful event for the family and for the bidders.”
Sheridan & Associates will host an auction preview 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 1. View a full auction catalog by calling their office at 937-766-2300 or by visiting them on the web at www.SheridanTeam.com.