The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies' absorption into the Historical Society of Pennsylvania will go into its final phase Thursday, when Alderfer Auction Co. starts selling off the artifacts, memorabilia and clothing that came with the deal.

In its heyday, the Balch was a prominent civic institution celebrating the city's ethnic diversity. All told, Thursday's auction - beginning at 9 a.m. at 501 Fairgrounds Rd., Hatfield - will consist of 500 uncataloged lots of acquisitions and possessions not kept by the society or transferred to other ethnic museums and local institutions. The items represent 50 countries from Western Europe to the South Pacific.

About 200 lots will be in the vintage- and ethnic-clothing part of the sale. They include coats, dresses, skirts, shirts, blouses, pants, belts, shoes, sandals, slippers, hats, kimonos, aprons, ribbons and assorted linens.

Also offered will be 300 lots, including glassware, china, machinery, carts, wheelbarrows, kitchen and household utensils, tools, needlework, beadwork, wood carvings, urns, medallions and ribbons, musical instruments, dolls, and original artwork and prints.

Among the more unusual items are the painted Easter eggs called pysanki, straw dolls, a stringed instrument similar to a lute, and a Slovakian safe. Because of the lots' unique character, Alderfer officials are reluctant to offer presale estimates. "We have to see what the market bears," said Barbara L'Amoreaux, Alderfer's director of media relations.

The preview will be 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and 7 a.m. to sale time Thursday. For more information, go to

Decoys in Toms River. Another aspect of ethnicity will be provided by Frank & Frank at its spring Decoys, Art and Sporting Collectibles Auction on Sunday. Decoy carving has long been a folk art, believed by many to have gotten its American start, among European settlers at least, about 1850 in New Jersey, specifically near Bordentown.

Frank & Frank's auction, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Ritacco Center, 1245 Old Freehold Rd., will take place in conjunction with the 24th annual Decoy and Art Festival there. Offered will be more than 400 lots, many of them vintage working models.

Nearly a dozen of the decoys were made by the Shourds dynasty, notably an early-19th-century black duck done by H.M. Shourds of Ocean City that is expected to sell for $1,800 to $2,500. Nine are by Hurley Conklin of Manahawkin, and 11 are by R. Madison Mitchell of Havre de Grace, Md., to mention a few of the better-known names in decoy carving. They are expected to bring three-figure prices.

Four-figure prices are expected for several early decoys, notably a black duck attributed to John English of Florence (1852-1915) that is expected to bring $800 to $1,200. One attributed to Jess Heisler of Burlington (1891-1943) is expected to sell for $5,000 to $7,000.

The top presale estimate is for a contemporary decorative model, a black duck carved by New Jersey artisan John Scheeler with carved wings, dry-on-dry paint feathering, and a drop-style fluted tail; it is expected to sell for $6,000 to $8,000.

Previews will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow and 8 to 9:45 a.m. Sunday. For more information and directions, call 732-938-2988 or go to

At Freeman's. Beginning at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the gallery, 1808 Chestnut St., Freeman's will offer more than 570 lots of 20th- and 21st-century design, many of them by such prominent artisans as Tommi Parziger, Paul Evans, Florence Knoll, and Charles and Ray Eames, as well as such second-generation artists as Mira Nakashima and Val Bertoia.

The top names likely will bring the top prices. Among the four metal works by Samuel Yellin, for example, are two sets of staircase railings from the Hamptons estate Bayberry Land, expected to sell for $20,000 to $30,000 each.

A George Nakashima double pedestal desk is expected to bring $25,000 to $35,000, and a Venetian glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly should bring $24,000 to $26,000. The top presale estimate, $50,000 to $70,000, is for a sports car, a 1967 Crossle 12F.

Beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday, Freeman's will offer more than 260 lots of modern and contemporary art. The opening lot is a set of illustrations by David Hockney for six Grimm Brothers fairy tales ($6,000 to $10,000). A Paris cityscape by Jean Dufy has a presale estimate of $25,000 to $40,000; a 6-foot-high statue by Isamu Noguchi titled Undine is expected to sell for $40,000 to $60,000.

Among works by local artists is Life Boat by Bo Bartlett ($8,000 to $12,000).

The preview will be 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. today. Information: 215-563-9275; online catalogs: