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Capo Auction brings antique lovers to LIC

Michael Capo, who leads Capo Auction, is a third generation antiques dealer with a passion for the drama and excitement he says auctions bring. Photo by Ken Maldonado
TimesLedger Newspapers

Michael Capo, owner of Capo Auction in Long Island City, which runs monthly sales of fine antiques, furniture, paintings, silver and other collectibles, thinks Queens is the future.

“I like to tell people that I’m in the Bermuda Triangle of art,” he joked, referring to the cluster of other art galleries and museums nearby, including MoMA PS1, the Museum for African Art and Noguchi Museum.

And, indeed, Capo has carved out a place for his 6,000-square-foot auction house in the burgeoning neighborhood as possibly one of the only such businesses of its kind in the borough.

The second-market auction house, at 36-01 Queens Blvd., runs a general sale of collectibles that for various reasons the top-tier galleries, Christie’s and Sotheby’s, have passed over. The major New York galleries may refer Capo for items like a reproduction English desk or a good-quality 18th-century Georgian desk that a place like Sotheby’s does not care to handle.

And though there were perhaps 20 such second-market auction houses in the city two decades ago, Capo said they have since disappeared.

“Many of them went out because of the rents, the change in the economics of requiring such a space as I have here,” he said. “I felt it was a tremendous opening in the market for good-quality, well-priced, mid-level property.”

He opened the auction house two years ago, bolstered by his 40-year background in the acquisition, sale and appraisal of antiques and expertise in areas such as American furniture. He was born to a family of antique dealers, including his father, grandmother and great-uncle, and he himself was also a dealer and is a licensed appraiser and auctioneer.

He was also a past officer and executive board member of the Appraisers Association of America, and his expertise is so well regarded he is an admitted expert in six federal and six state courts.

He said he loves the excitement of the auction business.

“There’s an adventure to the hunt,” he said. “And there’s the drama to the gambling aspect behind what these things bring.”

Some of his more impressive sales have included items from the Steinway Mansion and Martha Graham estates. He also marveled at jewels formerly belonging to the Maharaja of Jaipur that Capo Auction sold in 2011, saying they were some of the most amazing items he ever saw in his life.

“There’s usually some surprise every month,” he said.

On Monday, Capo’s staff was busily preparing for the January sale by arranging the collectibles on the exhibit floor in appealing vignettes or placing them behind lighted glass cases for the three-day preview.

Starting Wednesday and running through Friday of this week, hopeful buyers can wander through the exhibit floor and formulate their desires. And on Saturday, Jan. 26, the floor will make room for the bidders and a podium from which two auctioneers will take turns running the show.

Michael Capo occasionally serves as the auctioneer himself for the more high-profile estates. About 800 items may be sold in any given month and people may bid from the floor, the phone or online.

The upcoming auction will also be for a cause. A portion of the proceeds will go to the families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy through the Newtown, Conn., Rotary Club’s Sandy Hook School Fund.

Capo Auction also sent a check to the Newtown Rotary Club after the December auction for the same cause and to the Boys’ Club of New York after the November auction to aid Hurricane Sandy victims.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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