Nevada history sold at Mapes family auction

SPARKS, Nev. -- Hundreds of rare items belonging to a pioneer Reno family -- including guns, furniture and Marilyn Monroe memorabilia -- were sold at auction Saturday.

Bidders paid a total of about $300,000 for the items during the auction at Lightning Auctions, said company spokesman John Chedester. More than 400 bidders from around the country participated.

Many of the more than 600 items belonged to the late Charles Mapes Jr., who built the former Mapes Hotel along the Truckee River in downtown Reno. He was an heir to his family's ranching and banking fortune.

Among other family heirlooms, a silver oyster plate used by Marilyn Monroe during filming of "The Misfits" fetched $1,000 and tusks of the second largest elephant ever bagged sold for $39,000.

Also auctioned off were a mahogany furniture set for $12,500, two Sevres table lamps for $8,000, a black rhino shoulder mount for $6,200, a silver sterling Tahoe Regatta trophy for $6,000, a Winchester 12-gauge shotgun for $2,800 and a 1930s Bell slot machine for $2,300.

"Where else can you find such a unique collection in one place?" asked Margaret Brindzak of Reno, who spent more than $1,000 on cut crystal bowls and Victorian furniture pieces.

"I love Nevada history and it's a way to buy a piece of Nevada history," said Mike Holland of Reno, who bought a Mapes Swing A Roo Golf Tournament trophy for $225 and a winged goddess bronze for $400.

The Monroe oyster plate was bought by Robert W. Otto, a Chicago human resources executive consultant. Monroe used it in 1960 at the Mapes Hotel, where she stayed during filming of "The Misfits."

Otto owns 500 other pieces of Monroe memorabilia, including a ring with an "MM" monogram on the inside once worn by Monroe and the first dress she wore to studio interviews at age 18.

"I flew in from Chicago just to bid on the oyster plate and I had no intent to lose," Otto said. "I had its worth pegged at $5,000 and I was prepared to go that high.

"The oyster plate is a prized piece of my collection. It will be placed in a lighted glass case in my home. It not only has a connection to Marilyn Monroe but to the Mapes Hotel," he said.

Charles Mapes Jr. was a big-game hunter, and several of his biggest animal trophies were auctioned off Saturday.

The huge elephant tusks were sold to an unidentified, absentee bidder from the Reno area. The $39,000 price also included a photograph of the elephant and tusks from a smaller elephant.

"People who spend that much money don't want people to know who they are," said David Daniel of Lightning Auctions. "He'll probably display it."

Among those in attendance was Gloria Mapes Walker of Reno, sister of Charles Mapes Jr. She said it was a tough decision to sell the heirlooms.

"There's so much emotion involved because of the family history," she said. "But there are just too many things to hang on to.

"It's wonderful that so many people want to have a piece of our family's history. I'm happy that they're happy," she said.

The Mapes family still wants to sell a 1902 gold leaf Steinway piano appraised at more than $100,000, but not at auction, she said.

The Mapes family came West by covered wagon and settled in Reno in the 1860s.

Charles Sr., a rancher and founder of the Reno Rodeo, died in 1937. Charles Jr., who owned the Mapes Hotel from 1947 to 1982, died in 1999.

The Mapes, which featured the famous Sky Room and the biggest stars of its time, was demolished on Super Bowl Sunday 2000. The Mapes also was the tallest building in Nevada at one time.


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