Auctioneer Jerry Miller (bottom center) holds a plate up while fielding bids Friday on a set of dishes that had been owned by billionaire philanthropist David Rockefeller Sr., who passed away last year at age 101. Thousands of personal items owned by Rockefeller, who for decades summered in Seal Harbor on Mount Desert Island, were auctioned off at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor to raise money for the Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve and other nonprofit entities identified as beneficiaries in Rockefeller's will. Credit: Bill Trotter

MOUNT DESERT, Maine — Some came to buy on speculation, some to watch and others to take home a memento of a man who, despite his immense wealth and recognizable name, quietly supported the local community for decades.

Personal items that had belonged to David Rockefeller Sr., who died last year at the age of 101, were put up for auction Friday at the Neighborhood House in the local village of Northeast Harbor. Hundreds of people, more than 300 of which registered to bid, attended the auction.

Among the items auctioned Friday were African and Japanese artwork, furniture, and Rockefeller’s Hermes rigging knife, which is a type of knife sailors carry at sea. A Cadillac Seville sedan owned by the late billionaire was among the first items attendees bid on, along with rugs, Lunaform garden pots and patio furniture.

Credit: Bill Trotter

Other items being auctioned included paintings, a set of golf clubs, a microwave oven, a coffee maker, fireplace tools, household linens and dishes, baskets, and a host of other antiques and collectibles. Lists of the items can be found online on the website of the Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve, which is one of the nonprofits benefiting from the auction.

Some items sold for just a few dollars, while some sold in the thousands. Information about how much money was raised Friday at the auction was not disclosed.

The items at the Neighborhood House were not among more than 1,500 items auctioned off in May by Christie’s, which raised more than $832 million for 12 charities that Rockefeller identified as beneficiaries in his will. Three paintings sold at the May auction — one each by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet — together raised $280 million.

Bob Plante of Orland was at the local auction Friday to buy some items he plans to resell later for a profit. He had the winning bid on Rockefeller’s Hermes rigging knife, which he obtained for $55. He said he thinks he’ll be able to resell it for around $150.

Credit: Bill Trotter

“I think it was a pretty good deal,” Plante said. “I just buy and sell stuff. I’ll make a profit [on the knife].”

Edward Higgins, a Tremont antiques dealer, said many items were selling for more than expected.

“Everything is going like three times higher than it should, for us to resell. I’ve got other people asking me to bid on stuff, like $500, but it’s selling for $3,000. They’re bidding like it is a charity auction” — which it is, he acknowledged — “so they’re paying beyond retail.”

George Yagow, a Bangor antiques dealer, acquired an African elephant sculpture for $80 and a small stack of rugs for $75. But his best buy of the day perhaps — “just for the lark,” he said — was four small square rubber furniture pads that he secured for $3.

“So I can say ‘this used to be under David Rockefeller’s dining room table’ or something,” Yagow said.

It wasn’t just antiques dealers of collectors who were lured in by the temptation to bid.

Local resident Ellen DaCorte, a registered nurse who works at Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor, spent much of the afternoon watching the bidding in the building’s large hall from a second story gallery. She decided to bid on some items, and bought two miniature doll-sized chairs and a set of plates, all of which she planned to give away to family and friends.

“This is so fascinating,” she said. “I’m having the best time.”

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....