Indiana Auction House to Sell Native American Artifacts from Earl Townsend, Jr. Collection

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Archaic Native American artifacts from the collection of Earl Townsend, Jr. hit the auction market on December 3. Included are a bannerstone estimated at $120,000 and more than 50 birdstones, plus flints and axes.

Dan Ripley is pleased to announce an important auction of Native American artifacts from the collection of the Late Earl Townsend, Jr. to take place on Saturday, December 3, 2011 at Antique Helper Auctions. (

According to Artifact Specialist Larry Swann, the auction catalog will feature premium examples from Townsend’s collection. Among the approximately 450 lots will be a selection of 50-plus birdstones, an impressive array of quartz hourglass bannerstones, Michigan barbed axes, quartz axes, cones, miniature celts, birdstones and axes, a rare double bitted axe and Midwestern flint, as well as bottle bannerstones and a ferruginous quartz butterfly bannerstone, recognized as the finest example of its kind.

Featured among the 50-plus birdstones will be three of the most exceptional porphyry granite birdstones ever to be offered to the public. The beauty and rarity of these birdstones, along with the mystery of their purpose and the process that was used to create them, adds to their mystique. (

Townsend, who died in 2007, was a passionate collector and historian of Native American artifacts. His impressive collection of prehistoric stone Indian artifacts remains one of the largest and best collections of its kind. Hubert C. Wachtel, author of Who’s Who in Indian Relics called Townsend’s collection “one of the finest in the United States.”

Earl Townsend, Jr. was a widely-regarded attorney, philanthropist, patron of the arts, collector, author and historian from Indianapolis. He was the first radio voice of the Indianapolis 500, and a 1981 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. He was a graduate of De Pauw University, and received his degree in Law from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he was roommates with late President Gerald Ford. Among the many accolades he received over his lifetime, he was named to the Council of Sagamores of the Wabash in 1960, and inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1981.

Townsend starting collecting artifacts in 1920. Over the decades, he actively sought out the finest examples o f North American prehistoric artifacts, placing a special emphasis on birdstones. He is featured in 'Watchel’s Who’s Who in Indian Relics," No. 1, No. 5, No. 6, No. 7, and No. 9, as well as numerous archaeological publications. As an author and historian, he is widely recognized as the world authority on Native American birdstones. At one time, Townsend had over 600 birdstones in his collection.

His landmark book, Birdstones of the North American Indian, originally published in 1959, remains the premier reference book for birdstone study among collectors. Eager to share his passion with fellow collectors, he was the organizer and first president of The Indian Relics Collectors Society of Indiana (Indiana Archaeological Society).

While birdstones were his particular passion, Townsend also counted outstanding examples of flints and bannerstones among his treasures.

A highlight of the December 3 auction will be the large quartz butterfly bannerstone, listed in Watchel’s Who’s Who in Indian Relics No. 1 as the world’s finest bannerstone. ( Townsend purchased it from the collection of well-known artifact collector A.T. Wehrle of Ohio, who had acquired it from the F. P. Hill collection in the 1930s. It was Hill who christened this prized quartz “Sunset Glory.”

Artifact specialists Larry Swann and Ron Ammerman are working as curators and consultants for this auction. Both express their pleasure at having the opportunity to work with this well-known collection. (

According to Ammerman, the sheer number of birdstones in this auction is unheralded. He says, “I don’t think there’s ever been an auction with more than 20 birdstones. It’s a great honor to be part of it,”

Swann explains that Townsend’s collection is outstanding on every level. He says, “Townsend was a premier collector. His is one of the biggest and best collections of North American artifacts ever assembled.”

He goes on to point out that the variety of color found in Townsend’s collection sets it apart from other collections; Townsend’s aesthetic eye inspired him to seek out and collect the best and most colorful examples he could acquire. “Not only did he have the means to collect, he also had the artist’s eye,” says Swann. He points to the large, colorful Midwestern flints, measuring from 6”-9” as some of the finest ever to come on the market.

Besides offering more than 50 birdstones in the December 3 auction, there will be numerous other opportunities for buyers of every level to add to their collections. According to Swann, “There will be things available for beginners all the way up to advanced collectors.”

Founded in 2001, some of Dan Ripley’s Antique Helper Auctions most successful sales included Native American artifacts: The Walter Nelson Artifact Auction, the collection of Dr. Greg Woodham and the Burnworth Collection, each attracted bidders from across the United States.

Auction day and preview reservations will be required. (

Preparations are being made to accommodate what is expected to be a record-breaking crowd for this event. Auction goers will find a full weekend, including the opening reception for Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and a private preview reception at Antique Helper. Arrangements for special rates have been made at local hotels. Visit for information about the various auction packages and events registration.


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