I was hooked! Ever since the 1st auction sale I attended while I was still a teenager. The old “Roxy” Theater was holding an auction of antiques and collectables and I was, even at the tender age of about seventeen, curious to see what this was all about. My wallet was not too heavy with cash but it didn’t take me long to get into the frenzy of bidding on whatever stimulated my fancy. The hall as I remember was pretty full and the bidding was quite intense so my meager budget couldn’t go very far. My attention was starting to fade when I was brought into the contest again by the auctioneer when he declared that he was going to sell this rare antique to the 1st bidder. I was standing at the back of the hall and had to call out quite heartily, $11.00. It was all I had and the auctioneer called back with the same enthusiasm, SOLD. The audience started to laugh as I carried my prize up the aisle. I thought I had made a fine purchase but maybe not. I would have a better idea once I could inspect my prize more closely.
Antiques in the 50’s were not as prized as they are now. I had bought a framed proof print of “Sir Ralph Abercrombie”. Everything is original from the frame to the hardware and even the glass, all date back to the mid 1700’s. It just has to be worth more than my meager $11.00. My purchase was a little less than half of my weekly salary as a shoe salesman.
My wife and I have furnished many houses and investment properties large and small with Auction goods. But none more fun or interesting than when we had a forty room mansion to completely furnish and complete in a six month period. We had taken possession of this derelict old building in the fall with the intention of doing all the plumbing and electrical work over the winter months when the contractors had more time and would give us better prices.
We wanted to obtain a person or a couple to occupy the apartment and manage and supervise the trades. Their special duties would also be to attend auction sales and estate sales with instructions to purchase antiques or good quality old furniture to fill the enormous void we were in charge of. The end result was to have a property that we would be proud of and one that would honor the original owner, Sir William Mackenzie. Not an easy task but one that was fulfilled to our satisfaction in the appointment of a retired couple that fit the bill for us to a ‘T’.
Dave and Loraine were avid auction customers and were aware of every sale within a hundred miles. They were also RV people and were restricted as to what they could buy as their Motor Home was only so big. They were ready to settle down from their travelling and our set up was just what they were waiting for, we were just there at the right time. We were a perfect fit for one another. When we asked them if they would be interested in doing some selective buying at auctions and other sales, they were hooked. We were now free to spend our winter in Florida and do some serious shopping in the south.
Christmas found us back in Canada and anxious to see the progress at the mansion. Regular phone calls between Canada and Florida were fine but it was necessary to make an appearance to check on a number of situations. After all, a lot of my hard earned dollars were going into this project and it had to be done right. I had given Dave $500.00 cash to buy furnishings with only one condition, good quality and taste and at a good price. We were told that most of the money had been spent but we were not told for what or how much was purchased. We needed everything you would require for setting up a new home only five or six times more, everything from bed sheets to pots and pans and enough furniture to fill fifteen bedrooms and on and on. The list was endless and Dave and Loraine came up to the challenge.
The ballroom was where we were to view the purchases from the past two months. Our ballroom was large enough to comfortably sit over one hundred people. From one end to the other was a curiously shaped dragon like form all covered with sheets and tarps and blankets. It was a true Christmas scene. One for just Joan and I to unwrap one piece at a time. When we were finished we had a very good start to furnishing our project. Dave and his wife had done well. However this was just a start and much more was needed. We were not hesitant at all to leave them another $500.00
It was now our turn while we were home to get our feet wet and learn all about rural auction sales in the winter. Joan and I have spent too much time away from Canada’s cold. We were cold the whole time we were home that year. It made us realize just how lucky we were to be able to enjoy summers in Canada and winters in Florida; and now for the experience of taking on a real test of endurance at a winter auction sale. Explicit instructions from the committed auction fan. Drive 50 or 60 miles in all kinds of winter weather. Get a medium sized cardboard box and lots of newspaper, find a good seat well forward so you can be aware of everything that is taking place, and get a bidding card. When all of this is in place and provided there is enough time, you should take a real good look at all the goods that are for sale that you are interested in. By the way, the newspaper and the box were not for packing your purchases, no, they are to put your feet in to insulate them from the cold cement or sometimes dirt floors. Most auction houses were not heated. Stamina is another prerequisite. Hang in there for the last items, many times you can name your price and walk away very cold but with a real hot bargain. Over the years we have made some very good deals and have had a lot of fun as well.
Months later, when we entertained the community with our Open House, one of our auctioneers was coming down the main staircase and I noticed a shocked look on his face when he saw one of his sale items sitting in our main entrance. A large Victorian sofa was in a prominent place in our front hall – purchased for the sum of under $5.00 along with a matching chair. Always have fun at the auction sale. My smallest purchase was under $1.00 and one of my largest was at an auto auction when I purchased two new cars. I gave my son his choice of a white one or a yellow one: I got the yellow one. It turned out to be a very good car, not a lemon.
Paul D. Scott