Getting a buzz from just being at auctions
The man was quite honest about his failings. I’m an auction addict, he said matter-of-factly, as if he’d recognized and accepted this condition of his long ago. I’d seen him around auctions for awhile, as both a buyer and an auctioneer. I’d even watched him bid on some of the stuff he was auctioning off.
Once, he walked away with practically every antique table-top radio in a special sale at one auction house. Astounded, I asked another auctioneer about him. He buys too much stuff, that auctioneer told me. He barely has a place to store it. They were lovely old radios, but I wondered if he’d ever unload all of them.
I sat near the man recently at another auction, and we struck up a conversation. I hadn’t seen much on the tables that I had to have so I was wasting some time – ready to leave but not ready to go.
The man hadn’t seen much, either, but that wouldn’t stop either of us from going home empty-handed. He drops about $1,000 each time, he told me. Unbelievable, I said. I would never ever spend that much money at an auction house.
It didn’t seem to faze him, though, and that’s when he told me about his addiction for auctions. He’ll pay $1 for an item he doesn’t need, he said, even if it’s not even worth it. My auction buddy Janet told me about remarking to him once about a nice item on a table where they both stood. It’s all crap, he said to her.
But he buys it anyway. After he and I finished our conversation, he moved to a chair closer to the auctioneer and the action to make sure he didn’t miss anything. I watched as the auctioneer dropped a small painting down to $1 just so someone would take it off his hands. The man with the addiction bought it.
As I looked around the room, I saw others like him. All of us regulars have varying degrees of auction fever, but it’s not auction fever as in bidding crazily for an item that’s worth only $1 (well, sometimes we do). It’s the buzz you get from just being in an auction house – and sometimes bidding and sometimes not. It’s the need and desire to just be there among the people and stuff that auctions are made of.
Like the man who has three floors of his home filled with auction buys. Or the man with the shop who seems to regularly show up with a different woman (recently, it’s been the same one). He sells jewelry in his shop, he said, and most of his buyers are women. Or the hospital worker who outbids Janet and me on African American memorabilia that he sells to his co-workers. The rest of the stuff apparently stays in his apartment.
There are those like me who go to auctions to see if there’s anything worthy of our dollars. I’m very selective these days about the things I buy. When Janet and I started going some years ago, we’d be among the last ones standing at the end, buying up trays of items for just $2 each. I still have some of those items in my basement. I don’t do that anymore, but I still go to auctions weekly or bi-weekly.
Many other regulars follow the same routine – some go to more auctions, estate sales and yard sales than others – and we have grown to know each other’s faces if not names. We come to do more than just buy but to linger, to commiserate about how there’s nothing here worth buying but walking away with too much stuff anyway. We come to socialize with people of like interests so that we can brag about what we bought at the last auction and how much we sold it for, to pass on the best flea markets to buy and sell, and to give directions to new auction houses.
Some come for the camaraderie. I bumped into a female regular at auction one afternoon who told me she had to just get out of her house full of men who expected her to wait on them. The auction house was her refuge. Here, she was all to herself and no one claimed a piece of her.
Some come to be entertained. I was at an evening auction a couple months ago – itching to get out of there early – when two men acting like 15-year-old boys were taunting the auctioneer. I felt like screaming at both of them. They finally quieted down so the auctioneer could continue. When I complained about them later, an auction-regular said she was amused by their antics. She enjoyed their back-and-forth child’s play, and thought it added a lightness to the procedures.
I don’t tend to linger at night-time auctions. I do hang out during the day even after I’ve pushed and opened and moved stuff around on the tables or eyed items in the cases but haven’t seen a thing that grabbed me. Why? Maybe it’s the rhythmic voices of the auctioneers, the decent folks who show up or the hope that the auctioneer will pull out an item that I missed.
There’s a “something” in the place that wills me to stay put in one of those thinly padded chairs, not allowing me to leave until I finally realize there’s nothing to keep me there.