Townsend artifact collection brings $1.2 million

Native American artifacts collected by the late Earl Townsend fetched $1.2 million at auction, making it the most successful sale to date for Indianapolis-based auction house Antique Helper Inc.

Antique Helper owner Dan Ripley said the total may have been the highest for any Native American artifact collection. The amount far exceeded Ripley's original high estimate of $800,000 for the Dec. 3 auction.

Townsend, an Indianapolis attorney who was also a broadcaster, basketball player and patron of the arts, was renowned for his collection of birdstones, which are prehistoric animal-like carvings. The sale included 55 birdstones.

One birdstone, a piece made of porphyry granite, brought $117,000 from a telephone bidder. Ripley said it was likely the highest price ever paid for a birdstone at a public auction.

The most expensive piece in the auction was a quartz bannerstone that sold for $245,700. Bannerstones are large symmetrical pieces that look like axe heads or other tools, but may have had a ceremonial use.

The auction represented only about one-third of Townsend's collection. Ripley is planning two more sales.

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