I'd never been to any form of auction before, here or in the UK but felt myself a bit of an expert having spent countless hours watching afternoon auction shows on UK tv. You know the sort of shows......on for the entertainment of the unemployed, the unemployable and housewives.
Oh I feel a large comment section now ! Fill yer boots.
These shows are on at 2pm for a reason but despite this, I've always wanted to go to an auction and thought that having one a couple of miles away was too good an opportunity to pass on.
Lemme set the scene as Christie's or Sotheby's it was not.
The auction was held in a large metallic shed which, despite having the doors open and utilising several huge fans capable of blowing Peter Pan all the way to Neverland (he should BE so lucky) meant we were all a bit hot and sticky after a few minutes inside.
To add to the atmosphere, the 'people from Walmart' were out in force, both running the event and forming a large proportion of the bidders - large being an appropriate description as several 'chair and a half' patrons took up their positions at the front.
Regulars brought their own bidding numbers which was scary on several levels and led to a bit of confusion when the auctioneer realised that someone who arrived with the number 22 was in the room with a newbee who had been allocated the same number by the office who didn't know the regular person had turned up as well.
The auction items were on display on trestle tables and consisted of jewellery, soda bottles, candles, perfume, hospital supplies, post sell by candy and knock off handbags. Definitely mixed lots but we hoped that better items were still to appear.
By 6:30pm the auctioneer was on his chair, mic in hand and we were off and running. No wait. We SHOULD have been off and running but like open mouthed spectators at a crash site, we remained firmly seated, not knowing what to expect.
Debby had gone to the little office to register and get her bid number just in case a bargain did come up for auction but from the get go, it didn't look promising.
While staff members handed out a few candy bars as free samples to whip the bidders into a frenzy of excitement and anticipation, that particular bubble was somewhat burst when we discovered the first items were dull bottles of soda and cans of pop. The lady (cough) in front of us ended up bidding $10 for an 18 pack of Pepsi Max and actually bought 3 of them....so $30. Seconds later, in an effort to shift the stock, these packs were 'going' for $5 each.
My afternoon experience of watching auction shows had not prepared me for this development - namely that having bought an item, you could then sit and watch it actually go DOWN in price before your very eyes ! Our lady wasn't fazed at all by this as I really don't think she was capable of being fazed by anything in the real world, having only recently been allowed out to experience it.
When you remember that a case of 18 cans of Pepsi Max can be bought in any store for around $6 at the most, you see my point.
And so it went on; boxes of candy bars; more cases and bottles of soda; 3 porcelain dolls (don't ask); light bulbs, candles. It was like bidding on the contents from a Dollar Store closure.
Then there were the more exotic items which REALLY called into question where these things came from. Actually there was little need to question. It was pretty obvious.
Dozens of maternity goodie bags and hundreds of 'one size fits all' surgical gloves made me suspect that somewhere a supply officer is looking at a lot of empty shelves and scratching his head. If you are due for surgery anytime soon, check if the operating staff are wearing bright yellow marigolds before your anaesthetic kicks in.
The designer handbags were next up. Each one was described in great detail - ok a designer name was mentioned for each one and that was it. There were 6 or 7 of them. The auctioneer started us off at a suggested bid of $100 or something but as the most expensive bid for a previous lot had been the $10 for those very exclusive cases of Pepsi Max, I don't think he'd worked out the purchasing power of his audience.
The price tumbled and just when it reached $10 and a few people got interested, the owner stepped in and, spluttering something about feeling embarrassed by these prices, withdrew them from the auction. I'm sure Mr. Gucci would've agreed.
Then the auction turned into a Camden Town market event as the owner of the items got out a large cardboard box and started throwing unsold items into it while (or whilst) the auctioneer took increased bids from the floor.
$10, $11, $12.....now we were motoring along. In went a porcelain doll. $13. A few boxes of candy bars. $14. Some Marilyn Monroe perfume. $15.
The shed was in uproar. Actually only 2 people were bidding on this growing box of unsold goodies but it was pure market trading theatre.
Litre bottles of soda. $16. Boxes of candles. $17.
With the box overflowing with the addition of surgical gloves and maternity bags, it was obvious the owner didn't want to have to take this stuff back home and was prepared to let it all go for a song. If you'd already bid on any of these individual items, you'd have been feeling righteous indignation by now but like I said, our lady in front hadn't got such concerns and actually applauded when the 'hammer' finally came down and someone walked away with the large box of items for the same price that she'd paid for 3 cases of Pepsi Max.
I say 'walked away' but really the box was so full and heavy that they needed to use a flat bed cart to help get it out to the buyer's vehicle. Bargain of the evening if you actually wanted those items. If you wanted to restock a Dollar Store maybe !
Then it was on to the jewellery but to be honest (ha !), who would bid for jewellery at such an auction, especially when the bids were all under $10 ? I think your skin would've been tainted about as much as the legitimacy of the items.
By then most people had left and there had only been about 40 there to start with. Most of the remainder were up looking at the jewellery items along with the auctioneer who had abandoned his mic and was trying to work out who was buying and who was just looking. Meanwhile the staff were busy packing up the unsold cases of soda and candy to no doubt be readied for another auction at another time and place as this one seemed to be coming to an end either by design or a lack of bidders.
Debby had earlier bid for and bought some Dove chocolate as let's face it, that's good stuff even a few months after it may say so on the box ! I fancied a few pairs of the surgical gloves myself but as I'm still working on that particular fetish, I didn't bid on them and I think I heard my therapist applauding from 4,000 miles away.
But it was....different. And a bit of fun. Definitely an experience. It was like a bizarre meeting of "Only Fools And Horses" and "Antique Roadshow" except with a few fools and no antiques.
Although looking at some of the expiry dates on those chocolate bars, I'm not so sure.