We buy far too much stuff we don’t need
  • Buying too much stuff – and not using it
  • A woman who cataloged her stuff
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    Auction Finds

    The stuff of our lives and what they reveal about us

    This woman surely loved dolls and stuffed animals. They were all over and under the tables, and stacked in plastic bags under trees at the side of her house. They gave the first inkling of who she was as a person and the types of things that captured her whimsy.

    “She was a big kid,” my auction buddy Janet offered.

    She must have been a new collector because most of the items were contemporary limited-edition collectibles – the kind you pay big money for but are not worth much once you try to sell them. They are collectibles to be admired in a glass case, not kept as a retirement investment.

    Contents from the house were laid out on tables on the front lawn. They included items the homeowner both collected and used.

    Several pieces of reproduction antique-style furniture and some modern sofas were on the front lawn not far from the tables. In an unlighted horse shed at the rear of the house were a half-dozen old lanterns and other items I could not identify. There was still hay in an open space near the back of the shed. Even the rancher house was for sale – not by the auction company but by a realtor.

    The house and its contents belonged to a woman who now lived in Maryland, the auctioneer told us. She had moved out about seven years ago and apparently was just getting around to selling the stuff she didn’t take with her. He had liquidated her mother’s house about three or four years ago, and she had called on him to do hers.

    Most of the items went for bargain-basement prices – as they sometimes do at auctions. I was more intrigued, though, with what they told us about who she was. So, I took my time combing the tables, studying the items, picking them up and lingering among them.

    Here are some of the things she collected and left behind for us bidders. I’m sure that she kept many more of them for herself:

    Ashton Drake Gene Marshall dolls.

    She was seriously into dolls, and she bought all kinds of them. The auction house had laid them out on four tables, double-row in some cases. Ashton-Drake Gene Marshall fashion dolls (which sold for about $5 to $10 each). Barbies still in their boxes (one of the most expensive was Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy that sold for $32.50). Lee Middleton baby doll (came as part of a lot for about $15). All kinds of porcelain dolls. Clown dolls.

    From left, a Raikes bunny, a Ty bear and other stuffed animals in plastic bags.

    She loved stuffed animals, especially the small Ty animals. She had a tall Plexiglass case literally stuffed with Ty Beanie Babies (sold for $95). She also had Raikes bears and rabbits with polished wooden faces (I had never heard of Raikes but I thought they were cute and different), the traditional stuffed bears (she had only one of the famed Steiff bears) and some plastic rabbits. Most of the stuffed animals sold for no more than $5 each.

    A box of pretty shoes too small for most of us.

    Mini decorative ceramic shoes. I’ve seen these at auction pretty often, and these were actually lovely.

    The framed duck prints were popular at the auction.

    Someone in the family – Janet assumed it was her husband – loved duck prints, because at last 15 to 20 of them had been propped against the tables. They sold for $10 to $40 each. There were also a few wooden decoys.

    Functional and play things for a child or doll.

    She liked toddler-sized collectibles, possibly for her dolls. These had been set up under the trees.

    Some of her other likes were Department 56 Snowbabies (most were in good condition and many were still in their original boxes. The auctioneer said they were found in the attic), Longaberger baskets, Mickey Mouse memorabilia and Spode dishes. Among the most expensive item sold on the tables was a 12-piece blue-and-white patterned Haviland dinnerware set for $110.

    These were the items from her life that were sold:

    Like most of us, she decorated her house for the holidays, because there were bags and tubs of Christmas and Halloween decorations.

    She had pets, and she may have traveled with them.

    Someone in the house was into bowling.

    This church pew illustrated that she may have had a taste for the unusual in her decorating, or she just liked the look of it.



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