Going once … going twice … sold on auctions

When the traditional examples of summer activities such as swimming, golfing, camping, and hiking have run their course, here’s an idea that’s fun and as free as the breeze. Well, it can be free.If you have never attended an auction, give it a try. From now through the fall months, many auctions will be scheduled throughout the area.

They come in all sizes, are held outdoors and in buildings, and offer merchandise ranging from valuable collectibles to stuff some people may call junk.

Online, local, and national auctions also are held. Online auctions may be efficient, but they can’t be as much fun as a down-to-earth sale with a chanting auctioneer pushing bids higher and higher until “sold” is declared and the next item goes up for bid.


Doug and Joyce Shanks enjoy attending auctions and often buy things to give to charity. THE BLADE/MARY ALICE POWELL

The auctions that I find pure entertainment — and not too much money — are the household sales with a potpourri of things the owner has decided to get rid of. The sellers are often people who have finally decided to take the term “downsize” seriously and have thinned out their possessions for the public to see and hopefully buy.

They are social gatherings with a unique cross-section of people. Auction buffs get to know each other and pass on tips. One lesson everyone with experience offers: Don’t hold up the bidding number unless you really mean it.

Doug and Joyce Shanks are definitely auction buffs. The Sylvania couple attend an average of two sales a month and say they find it fun and that interacting with people is interesting as they were doing at a recent Pamela Rose Auction. The auctions have replaced some of the good times they had traveling, and they have a house and garage full of things that prove they have had their share of top bids.

An 8-by-4-foot mirror purchased at a Monroe sale is one of the most outstanding buys they have made. Doug said that he appreciates buying things that have a history, including a pair of African paintings on wooden planks that he bought at a good price.

The Shanks also see auction merchandise as an opportunity to share. Doug said he bought a $1 hammer and several other tools for a boy who works for them. “He needs them,” Doug explained.

Joyce took Doug’s number to the bidding action. Minutes later she returned carrying bundles of heavy winter jackets.

She explained she spent $40 for the 10 jackets, which are not for Doug or their sons or sons-in-law. The jackets are for the Salvation Army.

“It’s terrible to be cold in winter. These will keep 10 people warm,” she said, holding the insulated jackets close.

There are several ways to attend an auction. The cheapest way is to go as a spectator and ignore the cashier station where buyers sign up, show their driver’s licenses, and get a bidding number.

My advice is to always get a number, because you just never know what might be put on the auction block that you simply can’t live without. The last time that happened to me, a black iron pot looked perfect from afar, but once home it was not only rusty but had been painted black. Planted with a red geranium this summer, it now evokes memories of a good time spent at an auction in Paulding, Ohio.

Near the end of a big sale, there often are mystery boxes that go for a dollar or two. You don’t really know what you have bought until you get home and sort through it, but it’s still more fun than losing at a lottery ticket.

Auction-goers who do their homework know what’s going to be sold by reading the auction company’s published list of merchandise and taking advantage of the scheduled viewing period prior to the sale.

It’s a good idea to get to an auction early during the allotted preview time, which gives would-be bidders a chance to shop the merchandise on display. In other words: Check it out, because you can’t always tell a book by its cover.

The price of the $20 lamp purchased at the Paulding auction went up after the purchases of a new shade and other parts for it. I obviously had not gone to the preview.

Arriving before sale time has another advantage. At farm auctions, there’s plenty of room to park, but private home sales in the city can mean a good hike before getting to the auction.

It can be frustrating to select something to bid on and not know when it might come up in the sale. That’s not a concern for bidders who have high-end collector merchandise in their sights, because they are sold at a preset time. As an example, at the Pamela Rose auction, buyers interested in bidding on a classic mahogany speed boat and a 1988 Corvette convertible knew they would be sold at 4 p.m. at an auction that started at 2 p.m.

The auction system dates to the early Greeks and Romans, who were the first to issue auctioneer licenses. Early American colonists bartered for livestock, tools, and farms.

The first auctioneer school was opened during the Great Depression because of the need to liquidate companies and individual estates.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: poseypowell@aol.com.