Thousands of Salvaged Artifacts Up for Auction in NYC

Guernsey’s auction house says this weekend it is offering collectors the chance to go back in time and own some of history’s great treasures. On Friday and Saturday, thousands of artifacts will be up for sale at Urban Archaeology’s office in New York City, with items from revered names like Edgar Brandt, Samuel Yellin and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann.

Urban Archeology owner Gil Shapiro built his collection for more than four decades, obtaining his first piece when he was in high school.

“I’ve been doing this for a lot of years, about 40-50 years, so it’s an accumulation of a lot of early work,” Gil Shapiro told “It’s a combination of trying to be a preservationist and also being in business.”

But times have changed, and over the past 20 years Urban Archaeology has transitioned its business from a salvage company to a manufacturer, producing vintage lighting and bathroom fixtures. Shapiro plans to consolidate his warehouse and factory into one building following the sale.

“Most of our new business is making products based on models of the salvage that we found,” Shapiro said.

From an Art Deco pendant light that once shined bright in the Chrysler building to a 15-foot Baptistery gate from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the auction is an opportunity for many designers and collectors.

“Collectors will have access to treasures that might have otherwise been discarded or forgotten,” said Arlan Ettinger, Guernsey’s president. “The items are remarkable. It’s truly a fabulous collection.”

Original lighting and furnishings from institutions such as the Plaza Hotel, Yale University Library and the St. Regis Hotel will be up for grabs.

And there's a story behind nearly every piece. The iron mermaid sculptures from the Place de la Concorde fountain in Paris and items from the city’s oldest department store Le Bon Marché are among the most coveted items in the auction.

A wrought iron grand staircase designed by Samuel Yellin that once adorned the Southampton estate of wealthy banker Charles H. Sabin could fetch up to $120,000.

“The staircase is made by Samuel Yellin, who to many is the most well-known revered name of metalsmithing,” Ettinger said. “Every element is handmade.”

Those who would like to participate in the auction but are unable to attend can bid live while the sale is taking place at