Saturday, August 21, 2010


There’s a big auction held in Allenstown twice a month all during the summer months, so a few weeks ago I decided to contact the auctioneer and put some of my things up for auction.

Art, the auctioneer, had been telling me about the crowds of bidders his auctions had been drawing, and the big bucks they’d been spending, so I was convinced I could make a small fortune.

It took me a whole week to gather the items I wanted to sell. I spent so much time searching through boxes in the basement, by the time I was through, I was on a first-name basis with every spider down there.

I finally selected 75 items for the auction. Among my treasures were trading cards, Barbie dolls, jewelry, Star Wars collectibles, comic books, coins, porcelain thimbles and Beatles collectibles. If they all sold for even close to what they were worth, I was sure I would make well over a thousand dollars.

The afternoon of the auction turned out to be about 150 degrees in the shade. I arrived early, picked a good seat and then anxiously waited for the throngs of bidders to arrive. A few people, looking hot, tired and as if they’d rather be at the beach, filtered in. By the time the auction began, there were only about 25 people on the bidding floor.

I told myself it didn’t matter how many people were there. What mattered was that the ones who were in attendance had come with rolls of $100 bills in their pockets.

As the evening progressed, it became pretty clear to me that all of the high bidders probably had gone to the beach.

“Who’ll give me $10 for this Working Woman Barbie doll, still new in the box?” the auctioneer asked, holding up my prized Barbie. When there was no response, he added, “How about $5?” Still no response. “Then what if I add this Ken doll to go with her? Now who’ll give me $5?”

By the time he was through, he’d added a tea set, Hallmark Barbie Christmas ornaments, some new videos, a couple candleholders and a game. Finally, before all of my items ended up selling in just one lot, someone took pity on me and bid the $5.

I cringed…visibly. I cringed even more when my husband’s crossbow, which he never used, along with his vintage electronic TV game in perfect working order, and his collection of old board games, such as Sorry and Monopoly, sold for a grand total of $10. I was afraid to go home and tell him…beause I really hate to see grown men cry.

Items other than mine didn’t do very well, either. When one beautiful piece of vintage furniture couldn’t get even a $2.50 bid, the auctioneer joked, “How much can I pay one of you to take it away?”

At the end of the evening, I’d earned a grand total of $264.50. After the auctioneer took his percentage, I was left with exactly $171.92.

The minute I got home, my husband eagerly asked how much I’d made. When I told him $172, he said, “That’s just for my stuff, right?”

“No, that’s for everything.”

He spent the next two days muttering about how he’d never be able to buy the new model-train set he’d had his eye on.

When the next auction rolled around, I came up with what I thought was a brilliant money-making idea. Seeing that most of the items at the last auction practically had been given away, I figured I’d go to this auction for the sole purpose of bidding. Then, after I won a bunch of items for only $2.50 or $5, I’d make a good profit reselling them on eBay.

I looked online at the items that were going to be auctioned off. There were hundreds of them, all highly collectible – old postcards, dolls, Hoodsie Cup lids with famous people’s photos on them, vintage coloring books, Lionel trains, office furniture, sterling flatware and more. My eyes widened as I imagined all of the collectibles I could get for just a few dollars.

The night of the auction, I didn’t even take my checkbook with me because I figured the cash I had in my wallet would be enough to bring home a trunk full of goodies.

I was in for a surprise when I arrived at the auction house. The place was packed, standing room only.

As soon as the auction began, it became clear to me that the high bidders, the ones with the rolls of $100 bills in their pockets, had returned from their vacations. I sat there for nearly four hours, watching thousands of dollars being bid. A walking stick sold for $450. A chandelier for $500. A small baggie of doll clothes for $100. Some old wooden sap buckets for $160. A punch bowl for $150.

Every time I even so much as thought about raising my hand to bid, someone outbid me.

I came home with absolutely nothing.

“Need help unloading the stuff from the trunk?” my husband asked the minute I got home.

The look I gave him plainly told him he never should have asked me that question, especially since I’d just spent four hours sitting on a rock-hard metal chair for no good reason.

But I think I’ve figured out how to constantly be the high bidder at future auctions and also get the items dirt cheap…bid on my own stuff.