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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Night at the Auction

A couple of months ago, Ken Farmer Auctions moved from Radford to Salem. You might have heard of Ken if you watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS. I'm one of those people who will put it on if nothing else is on. I'm always amazed at what I think is a piece of crap is actually worth something. I'm sure I'm not alone in the hope that I have something worth megabucks. Unfortunately, I probably don't.

About once a month or so, Farmer Auctions has an open-house for two hours where you can bring up to three items to be appraised. After seeing two end tables fetch over $75,000 each on Antiques Roadshow I brought two of mine, "hey, they look like the ones we have in the basement!" to be appraised. I was told they were just from the 20's and probably not worth much. Anyway, while I was there I was walking up and down the aisles checking out all the crap that was going to be going up for auction the following day. The weather happened to be miserable so I never ended up going. Well, yesterday I saw there was going to be another auction at 5:00pm. A friend of mine brought some of her stuff to be appraised and said there really wasn't much that she thought I would like. Since my taste is, ummm, let's say, eclectic, instead of tacky, I went over to see what was what.

I stumbled upon what I felt was a real treasure...a copy of the 1850 Census! I looked through the moldy tome and decided it would be a "must-have"and help me for the book I've been researching. I had no idea what it was going to go for but saw that someone had already placed a bid of $25 on it. Hmmmm, who else dares to want this book??? It was lot 343 or something so that meant that if the auction started at 5:00pm it would probably be quite a while before they got to it. I registered and then went on my merry way and figured whenever I got there, I'd get there, and if it wasn't too late I would see if I could bid on it.

Now, I've never been to a live auction before. I've seen some auctions on television, but that's about it, so I had no idea what to expect. When I got there around 6:30pm the parking lot was almost full and the place was jam-packed. I guess this is what Salemites do on a Tuesday night! I found one seat and watched in awe as the auctioneer (Ken) spoke quicker than a New Yorker cursing out someone who stole their parking spot. He sounded just like they did on tv! There were two screens showing the lot as well as the actual object somewhere in the room. People were moseying up and down the aisles checking out boxes of whatever, while people on the internet did the same via an on-line catalogue.

I quickly realized there were a lot of professionals in there. I guess the truck in the parking lot with Virginia Antiques splattered across it was one sign, as well as the seat reserved for who I assume was the owner who bid on practically everything. He also won practically everything. After he won an item, a lady, maybe his wife or worker, would transport it directly into the truck where I'm sure it will be on their floor at triple or more the price he paid.

Now, me? I'm a newb. I'm only there for the book, nothing else. Unfortunately they were only up to lot one hundred and something so there was a ways to go. I figured I'd call my husband and tell him to come there from work since it was only a couple of blocks from the shop. After I hang up I'm struck by an image on the screen in front of me of a clock. It verged on hideous, while at the same time I saw a thing of beauty. I hadn't seen it on the floor so could just judge by the pic in front of me. No one was bidding so I meekly held up my number at $10. The next thing I knew someone else wanted it so they bid $15. Ken looked at me while pointing, "Do I hear $20?" I nod yes. Already I'm questioning what the hell am I doing? I'm only here for the book! Slim in the back says, $25!" Now he's poking me. I don't want to bid anymore, but his accent annoyed me, so I say to myself I won't go any higher than 30, so when Ken points at me and asks if he hears $30 I hesitate for a moment, and then nod again. He goes back to Slim who was quick on the uptake with his $35. I shake my head no when Ken asks me for 40. He says, "Your head is saying no, but your eyes are saying yes." He's right, of course, but I hesitate, take a deep breath, and right before he's about to award it to Slim, I pipe up, "$40!" Slim shakes his head no at $45 and Ken doesn't taunt him. He wants me to have the clock. And the next thing I know, I do! I didn't know if I was to be thrilled or horrified, but I set out to find the clock and get a closer look at it. I found it tucked away behind a hideous print. According to the face, I was now the owner of a Wm. Gilbert Co. mantel clock, and I still had no idea if it worked or not. (I'm happy to report, it does!)

I've since discovered (by looking underneath it) that it's the Waverly model which is from 1913. It's mostly wooden with a porcelain face protected by a copper-rimmed glass. The columns are painted black-plastic with copper tops and bottoms. It looks like leather on top of them. The feet are copper as well.

The lion "knockers" on the sides are copper

The inside works look original. There is a patent date of April 28, 1893 embossed. It dongs beautifully deep on the hour, and dings elegantly on the half-hour.

I love the filigree work in the wood. It's a strange combination of materials and styles that's for sure!

When my husband got there I told him I bought a clock and pointed to the table where it was. He checked it out and thought it was worth the $40. I told him we had a ways to go before the book, so if he wanted to look around and see if there was anything he liked to let me know. Big mistake. Clearly he must have a had a beer or two before getting there because he wanted me to bid on things that were ridiculous! It was like he couldn't pass up a good deal. $15 for a couch and two chairs?...Bid! Ummm, no. Look at that box of arrowheads!....Bid! Ummm, no. The monkey with the cymbals..Bid! Ewwww, no! I can replace that marble in that table....Bid! Ok, ok, I did, but I stopped at $70. Clearly the antique shop guy wanted it at any cost, and frankly, I didn't. My husband -- "Oh that was a mistake not bidding higher." No, it was a mistake having you meet me here!

So anyway while waiting for the book, there were a couple of other things I did bid on...I thought the box of antique postcards were cool, but I wouldn't go higher than $30 so I lost them. Three prints I also lost. But I did win this pair of plates. I got them for $10 and it turned out they were Lenox special editions. I had no idea, I just liked the birds on them.




When my husband saw this glass set he said, "My grandma used to have those." He said it with such longing in his voice that I couldn't help but bid on them.

I love this set too. It's got a little ice bucket and tongs and the glasses are just the most perfect size for a cocktail! My grandather had golden leaf glasses like this, only longer, and I think I have a couple here somewhere.
When I won I turned to him and said, "Merry Christmas!" For $10 I got that set along with this pitcher and bird glasses. Pretty cool.

This set is pretty too. I can envision making lemonade, I mean margaritas, in this pitcher. $10 both sets...a steal! 

And then this happened. An antique Singer sewing machine in a cabinet came up. I said, "My grandma used to have one." And my husband must have thought I said it with longing in my voice, I didn't, so he pushed my arm up and the next thing I knew...we owned it for $10!

It's an interesting machine in a wooden cabinet with five drawers. In one of the drawers are attachments and hand-written notes. The owner must have owned cats or something because there are tons of scratches on the wooden cabinet.

I haven't found out the year yet, but it's model # BZ-10-8...a very pretty lady.

When I was a kid I liked to sit under my Grandma's machine and move the treadle up and down. I always got yelled at! When my Grandma moved into my aunt's house they threw away the machine and I was disappointed to find that out.

The interesting thing about this particular model is it has a treadle as well as electricity hook-up. That is a light attached to the back of the machine. I think the bulb has to be changed because when I plugged her in, she purred and worked. No frayed wires or anything. Other than the scratches on the wood, she's in beautiful condition, but man, is she heavy!

Did I mention I don't know how to sew, and already have two other sewing machines in cabinets that I want to sell? No, they're not antique, just heavy Singers from the 60's. My husband says, "So if we sell it at a yard sale for $20 we doubled our money." Well, a quick search revealed this model is going for some nice three digit money on-line, so forget the yard sale!

Anyway, back to that evening...my calculations added up to $70 already which was before taxes and the 15% fees, so in theory, I blew my book budget. But I was not going to be deterred. I wanted that book, and I told my husband to stop telling me to bid on things. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity the book came up. Oh, she was a beaut! Immediately I held up my card for $30. I don't know who was bidding against me, but someone was and the next thing I knew was the price was up to $70! I shook my head no at $80. Ken & my husband tried to convince me to go higher, but I just couldn't. It's not like I probably can't find the information on-line anyway. It would have be nice to get what I "came for" but it wasn't meant to be. Disappointed, I paid the bill and had my husband trek out the booty. Good thing he came...that sewing machine weighed a ton. Wait a second, if he hadn't come I wouldn't have even bought the darn thing to begin with!

Anyway, all in all, it was a fun night, and I think I have been bitten by the auction bug. I could see myself becoming a seller...if I liked people, but I don't, so I have no intention of opening a shop and selling stuff. Of course, I could sell the stuff on-line like I plan to sell all those books, magazines, and tapes....hahahahahaha! There's just not enough time in a day. and at this rate, I'm never going to get back to writing...but I did have to blog about the experience. "A Night at the Auction," not a Marx Brothers movie, but it could have been....

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