Any Given Thursday

The other day, my friend Erica called me and, in a very serious tone, asked ‘Wanna go to the Gavel.’

Yes! was my immediate answer– she’d trumpeted the awesomeness of this outing to me a few times in the past, but I’d never gotten a chance to go. Now was my moment.

The Golden Gavel is an auction house in Connecticut that holds a live auction every Thursday night, from 7 p.m. until everything in the place is gone. The wares range from sets of drinking glasses to full bedroom sets, with everything — and I mean everything — in between. The goods come from estates and businesses unloading things, so on any given Thursday, there could be furniture, electronics, clothes, ephemera, or, as there was when I went, a box of dead butterflies and a full Ronald McDonald clown suit. Both of which, might I add, sold.

Erica, her friend Liz and I headed down to the auction after work, and upon arriving, registered and were given bidding numbers. I was 158. We then made a quick stop at the snack bar, a makeshift diner staffed by two Flo n’ Alice lookalikes. Erica had a baked potato and a piece of apple crisp; I had a good old-fashioned hot dog. They buttered and grilled the bun. Color me impressed.

diner

After taking our seats, the first of three parts of the auction began. One of three auctioneers took the stage — I gathered his name was Pat — and started the bidding as what seemed like a massive staff grabbed items from tables and walls and brought them to the front. We watched the process both on the stage and via one of a row of closed-circuit televisions that zoomed in on each item: a lamp, a neon sign, an ottoman, some Ikea shelving, a Coca-cola sign, a couch, one of seven TVs, mirrors, computer hard drives, WWII memorabilia. The breadth was really amazing, but what was more amazing were the prices some of these finds were going for. I watched in awe as a like-new, teak, four-piece, ceiling-to-floor entertainment center with glass doors went to the highest bidder for $150.

golden gavel

Pat led the auction until the bulk of the merchandise had sold. Then, he turned the gavel over to another auctioneer, Ralph, who kicked things into high gear with that classic ‘auctioneer babble’ style — “Five, five and ten, ten, ten hubbada ten, fifteen? huddaba hubbadahubbada SOLD to the lady in black for $20.”

Ralph also led the $10 round, which starts the bidding at $10 for every item. Some still go for more, and some less. The $10 round then switched to the $5 round, and finally a third auctioneer, Ron, led ‘the walk-around,’ during which you can buy a whole table of sundries for $2, and take what you want.

The Golden Gavel does routinely sell high-end items that sometimes go for as much as $10,000, and I heard a few things go for $2,000-plus the other night. But, it’s also easy to get a pair of never-worn, $75 shoes for five bucks, LIKE I DID! Woo! They were in fact the first item I tentatively raised my laminated number for, after it seemed clear that no one else in the room wore a seven-and-a-half.

I also scored these fantastic wood carvings that are perfect in The Orange Livingroom:

wood carvings

and this cool tureen. I needed a serving dish with a cover on it:

tureen

Erica got a Bulova clock; neither of us spent more than $40 on the evening, including dinner. And even if I hadn’t bought anything, I think the people-watching alone would have made the trip worthwhile. Auctions are definitely a cross-section of humanity.

The verdict? I’m sold. And, I think I want to be an auctioneer when I grow up.

Published: Sunday, 17 August 2008

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