This antique peanut roaster sold for $2,900 during the Robbie Collins estate sale in Grants Pass Saturday. - Jamie Lusch

Going Once ...

GRANTS PASS — Pushing his Stetson back on his head, Max Valle leaned toward the microphone to begin his wind-up Saturday morning at the Josephine County Fairgrounds.

"Somebody give me a hundred-dollar bill to start," the young auctioneer said. "Hundred, hundred. Do I hear 75? Fifty?"

A white card flashed for the antique pickle jar, one of thousands of items from the estate of the late Robbie Collins, a well-known antique collector in Jacksonville.

"We got $50 here," Valle continued. "Do I hear $60? Give me $60. Come on. Don't be cheap."

The laughter spurred another round of bidding for the items being auctioned off by the precocious 9-year-old being trained by veteran auctioneer Wayne Liska, owner of Liska & Associates Inc., in Grants Pass.

"Sold for $85 to the gentleman right there," the youngster said with a flourish.

"Max rocks," said Eugene resident Julia Siporin, a niece of Collins. "Robbie would have loved Max. He worked a lot with kids when he came back to town. He would have been thrilled."

Half of the money raised by the day-long auction will go to the Southern Oregon Historical Society and the REC Foundation created in honor of Collins, who died in 2003 in Singapore at age 81. The foundation is dedicated to historic preservation and educational projects.

Family members declined to disclose how much was raised.

"But we think Robbie would be pleased that his collection will be helping to preserve local history," said nephew David Collins, who lives just south of San Francisco.

Noting that many of the items at auction came from his uncle's Jacksonville home, as well as a general antique store he owned there, David Collins said it was difficult parting with them.

"Today is kind of an emotional day for us," he said. "It has taken us five years to get to the point where we can do this. We grew up with these things. We have fond memories of all of them."

The family retained a large portion of the collection, which is being donated to the SOHS. The society plans to recreate a room from Collins' Jacksonville home inside the Jacksonville Museum, according to family members.

When Robbie Collins settled in Jacksonville in the 1960s, he immediately began working to preserve the history of the picturesque town. He spearheaded opposition to plans for a four-lane highway to bisect the old town in the 1960s. He later became vice chair of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

"The nature of his collection developed as he started to travel the world," said Barbara Heyerman, a niece living in Ashland. "Initially, the collection was all about Jacksonville. Some of the folk art from Alaska or Malaysia reflects his work in those parts of the world.

"During his travels, Robbie would often send a box to us or his friend Larry Smith and his kids in Jacksonville," she added. "It would always be something Robbie had picked up in another culture somewhere in the world. It was an effort to get kids to find out about another culture."

During Saturday's auction, she bought a little Punch and Judy box and a gold clock with a glass dome. Her brother bought a blue Western Union Telegram sign, paying $275.

"I'll be loaning that back to the historical society," he said.

Throughout the day, the bidding — which drew antique collectors from three different states, according to Wayne Liska — continued at a brisk pace.

Included in the eclectic collection was the receipt for three slaves who were sold for some $1,100 on Jan. 16, 1857, in West Virginia.

"It's a shame the damned thing ever happened, but it did and it's part of our history now," Liska observed of slavery before starting the bidding on the item.

The slave receipt, including a letter that accompanied it, sold for $500.

A peanut roasting machine, which Liska said looked like it could still roast peanuts, went for $2,900. A shoe-shine stand fetched $400. A World War I helmet brought $550.

"Robbie Collins had some really interesting antiques," said Liska, an auctioneer in Southwest Oregon for more than three decades. "He was a big factor in Jacksonville for a lot of years. He did a lot for that community."

For more information on the REC Foundation Fund, check out

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

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