- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - One of the great collections of North Dakota pottery will go on auction next month, but whether anyone still has an interest in special items from long ago remains to be seen.

Con and Sandy Short, formerly of Medora ranch country and Beach, will sell about 600 items of pottery and stoneware they collected as they haunted farm sales and secondhand stores across three states for more than four decades, the Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1pzZee1 ) reported.

“It’s time to lighten our load,” Sandy Short said last week, stopping by Antiques on Main in Bismarck, where she and owner Bernie Adams got into one of those intense conversations that only two people with the same compulsion can share.

Adams said the upcoming Short auction is generating a lot of buzz among antique dealers, who understand how rare it is for such a large and wide-ranging collection to leave private hands.

As Sandy Short unwraps a few of the pieces that will be sold, Adams reaches knowledgably for each and references catalogs that detail for how much similar pieces sold in the past.

Sandy Short says she hopes the April 2 auction at the Fargo Holiday Inn draws more than collectors because some of the pieces of advertising stoneware could have meaning to families and others who grew up in the small towns and might remember the names painted on the stoneware.

One example is the Red Wing-made crock advertising the Wilde Cash Store, General Merchandise, Wilton. Another is a Red Wing-made jug advertising the Sjoquist’s Store, Dwight. She loved that advertising stoneware and it was always something she searched for wherever she went. She could imagine the Red Wing, Minnesota, salesmen traveling up and down the railroad, jumping off at some little dirt-road town and making a sale to a store proprietor.

About 50 advertising pieces from small towns across the state and businesses long since lost to time will be sold. Other items include general Red Wing pieces, University of North Dakota pottery made in the early to mid-1900s, Rosemeade pottery, made in Wahpeton from the 1940s-1960s, Messer pottery made in Bowman and Works Progress Administration pottery from a studio established in Dickinson in 1936.

These are lovely, interesting pieces - some tiny and whimsical, some large and bold - but Sandy Short recognizes that the timing of the sale is off by perhaps a decade when antique pottery and stoneware was hot.

“We’re losing the collectors, the hardcore collectors,” Sandy Short said.

Adams said that overall interest in antiques is softening, as new generations move further from their roots and interesting items from the past are, well, just old.

“Antiques are less popular. Someone who got married in the ‘70s and got china for a wedding, now we can’t give it away. Kids in their 20s and 30s will buy it,” she said, pointing to a display case of Frankoma, the go-to stoneware of that era. “But they use it (rather than collect).”

“Kids now are into primitive stuff, cheese boxes that they use for storage, old Coca-Cola cases, trunks, suitcases for end tables, old windows and ladders,” Adams said. “My generation is real selective, and now collecting is a negative because it’s all about declutter and not hoarding.”

Sandy and Con Short were always interested in good representative pieces of regionally famous pottery and stoneware and it all started very innocently.

Their young kids were playing along the Little Missouri River and over the riverbank found a broken five-gallon Red Wing crock. Convinced it was a treasure, they hauled the pieces home, where their dad helped them glue it together.

“We were hooked after that,” Sandy Short says. “It could be called obsessive-compulsive, but we met the nicest people along the way and had the nicest trips.”

Eventually, they joined the Red Wing Collector’s Society and Con Short served as president of the North Dakota Pottery Collector’s Society, which still meets annually.

The couple retired to Marshalltown, Iowa, where Sandy Short is involved in the family business, Taylor’s Maid-Rite, one of those countertop dining joints that dates back to 1928, still famous for its “loose meat” sandwich and shakes. She calls the seasoned burger filling the sloppy joe, without the sloppy.

Con Short is dealing with health problems and patiently waits in the couple’s van while Sandy Short stops at the antique store.

He, too, is looking forward to the sale, for the chance to see old collector friends and to see their collection go out into the region, in new hands and new homes.

“It’s been a fun time, but I’m almost 80 and it’s just that simple. I loved being a collector and we collected things we loved,” he said. “I’ll cry a tear or two; we just loved all the parts of it. But this way, the pieces don’t go to a museum. They’ll go to people who love them, too.”

Anyone interested in the auction, can go to www.northstarauction.com to see pictures of the items and more information. The Shorts will be there, of course, with a story to go along with every single piece.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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