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04 May 2003 - 21:05

iron frog balls

(A loooong auction entry. Better refill your coffee now.)

I'm beginning to wonder if our auctioneer is the only person left on the planet who calls Master-Card by the old "Master-Charge."

His introduction to the auction took a fair amount of time, as they have at least three auctions scheduled right now that he needed to promote, not to mention a charity auction. Finally his Dad spoke up, "That's seven minutes... let's start an auction."

Which they did.

Not a huge crowd there, we arrived just in the nick of time and still got to park on the street out front. Highest bidder's number I remember hearing was 72, but things didn't go cheap. Several professional antiques buyers there, including one from California, so there weren't many bargains on the good stuff.

First item up was a white Pendleton blanket, still in the box, for $17.50.

While the antiques buyers were there, we apparently didn't have anyone trying to decorate their restaurant or bar, since the old, old tools went cheap. Either that, or the fad of decorating walls with old pieces of junk has gone out of style. A couple old, rusty handsaws came up. The spotter looked like an early version of Edward Scissorhands, swinging them around over his head by the grips. But no takers. Not even the first time the auctioneer got down to asking for one dollar for a bid. Even when a member of the audience pointed out they were "cordless" tools.

Finally the Scissorhands spotter shouted out a 'yup.' And the pair was sold for $1. When asked the bidder's number, he announced "13."

Which we all know is always his number. His co-workers started laughing at his folly, and one asked if he even knew how to use those things.

But I suppose he could have the last laugh, if he can unload them on someone else at a tidy profit. Or any profit.

Or we suddenly hear promos for the new hit slasher movie, "Jay Sawhands."

Had a lot of stuff to go through, so you could tell the auctioneer was in a hurry. Giving run-on item descriptions like "This little music box no it's not its a candle."

Taking over the mike for the first time, grandpa announced an item was brand new, still in the box, "but what is it?" A spotter had to explain to him it was a wax heater/applicator, for dipping your hands, feet, elbows, whatever into a vat of hot wax.

"Oh, boy, I'm excited now," grandpa muttered without even feigned enthusiasm. Like someone had told him it was a device for driving nails into your forehead. Wife says it works for arthritis (the wax, not nails in your forehead).

Soon up was a box of... rocks. "I knew there was a reason you gave me the mike," was grandpa's response. His son's retort?

"You are the World's Greatest Rock Auctioneer."

Then he went on to describe the rocks, noting "I'd never let you sell anything but good rocks."

A glass insulator (a gorgeous purple one) had a major chunk broken out of it. Always wanting to accentuate the positive, grandpa pointed out the other side was alright.

When you got to real antiques, bids went up. A child's oak rocking chair went for $72.50. Yeah, still a bargain for someone reselling antiques, but way more than the local moms would pay so their kid could sit down. Still, some things seemed to go cheap. An old wooden egg crate, with the partitions, went for only $17.50.

Is grandpa showing his age when he describes a sleeping bag as a "bedroll?"

Some chuckles came up from the spotters when a ceramic reclining nude came on the block. The spotter holding it up modestly kept his fingers over her bosom, until he realized that may not look so good, either, and set her on the table.

Bunch of antique jars full of antique marbles were in the wares, and were sold separately as they came up. One of the spotters had the bid card of an absentee bidder that apparently listed a maximum bid of $20 for any jar, since he started bidding on all of the first ones, and was soon left in the dust as each jar went for $40-50. 'Round about the fourth jar grandpa mentioned he had never seen so many people who had lost their marbles. (Although the five handmade German Lattiscino marbles went for $70 together, and often reportedly sell for that much apiece.)

Auctioneer mentioned they once had a woman pay $300 for one marble.

At that rate, it might take a lot of money to get all your marbles back.

A sewing cabinet was described as perfect, except for "one little owwy" on back.

A bidder was called twice, an error a spotter mentioned. Looking to see who it was, the auctioneer announced "That's okay, we need the money."

But yeah, he backed off one bid.

A mint condition grey Hull platter went for $9. Really. I think some of the antique dealers intimidated locals into not bothering to bid. (I know they did me. Still fun to make them pay more when you know they want it.)

A young couple with a little boy, not quite a year old, came in and sat two rows behind us. And the little one immediately began fussing and crying. So Mom stood with him by the doorway, and he was just fine, horribly cute.

As soon as she tried sitting again, the crying arose.

The wooden rocking footstool they bought was a big mood changer, but only for a while.

So they took turns, one sitting while the other held the boy up front. Occassionally with both parents standing.

For the entire five-hour auction.

Their son was kind enough to let them both sit at the same time to eat their hotdog lunches, but as soon as the food was gone, the fussing resumed.

Mention was quietly made that the "Jim Bowie" knife in a "Jeremiah Johnson" scabbard was from Pakistan.

An old wrench for Indian motorcycles, complete with logo, went for $30.

A box of old regular wrenches were sold to #62, who didn't even know he'd bought them.

Really. It's true. And they made him take them.

When one tray of miscellaneous old tools came up, a spotter came up to dig through them almost frantically. Coming out with one tool in his hand. No one else could figure out what it was all week, and they wanted to see if grandpa knew.

A leather punch, he said. And showed 'em how it worked.

When a box of books came up, each spotter grabbed one or two, announcing the titles. Ed came up with "The Ugly American."

Man in the audience asked if he would autograph it for the buyer.

A mixed box came up with a ceramic cannister that matched a set sold earlier. It's buyer pointed the mistake out.

"Guess you'll have to buy this, then," was the only response he got.

The previous buyer started the bidding at $5. Auctioneer immediately announced "sold" and they handed him the rest of his set.

Auctioneer to the male half of an elderly couple sitting up front:

"Don't listen to her."

Auctioneer to another bidder who quit bidding:

"You're ignoring me."

And yes, he got another bid. Both times.

A man won an item without having a bid number. Hadn't planned on buying anything (happens a lot at auctions... twice at this one). Auctioneer told the man to put it on his son's number. "He'll pay for it."

And he did.

A modern vacuum cleaner came up along with several steel rods that no one could figure out what they were for. But they were called "precious" steel rods. When bids only went up to $15, grandpa pointed out the vacuum worked, because that's what they cleaned the house with when the moved the estate out and besides, you could always just throw the rods away.

No takers, though.

All of the boxes of books (more than five), including two we were watching, went to the spotter who also runs a local antiques store. He knows he can get a couple bucks for each book, so can afford to pay a lot more than folks who just want one book.


They decided a fair starting bid for three rolls (150) of wheat pennies would be $1.50. Went for $5.

A lot of a dozen or so silver dollars were sold choice, with the auctioneer checking and announcing the year on each, ranging from 1872 to 1922.

"Dang, those are old," said the kid a couple rows behind us. (And yes, this pre-teen said "dang.")

They had three frames of arrowheads, with each frame having 35-45 perfect points. The plainest went for $180, the one with a rare steel point and a bear tooth went for $210, and the one with two clay pipes went for $240. (Most looked to be made of our local stones, and not the gorgeous "white stone on black cloth" like your Dad's, Lisa.

An antique metal "Lincoln Highway Garage" sign came up, with grandpa announcing you won't ever find another.

But that's the second one we've seen at these auctions (since I started this diary).

A non-local antique dealer bought it just the same, for $75 (and will probably get $200 for it).

Another ceramic piece was stated to be "Hull."

"Of course it is," the wife muttered in my ear, "It's ugly."

One of the professional antique dealers, #19, was sitting behind us. And probably bought 20 percent of the auction. One of the spotters kept enticing her to bid on a really bad box of junk, which she finally did, at $1.

And she got it. But she was laughing, just the same.

Another ceramic piece was described as being "Hull", from the 1950s (and yes, it was ugly). Shortly after it was sold for $150, the auctioneer was politely and quietly pulled aside by the buyer, half of a local lesbian couple that attends regularly, pointing out it didn't say "Hull" anywhere on the piece, and in fact had another manufacturer's name. Spotter who ID'd it stood by his description, mentioning Hull marketed under other names. But they should bring it to him if it didn't check out.

I don't know. It was ugly, like so many other Hulls I've checked on eBay, so my money's on the spotter.

As the day wore on, the auctioneer began suffering from his usual case of twisted tongue brought on by fatigue (this is not a critique... my voice and brain wouldn't last ten minutes of his job).

Drink coasters were called "drink casters."

"For rolling drunks?" the wife asked me in an aside.

A troll with purple hair was described as a "tired auctioneer."

A partitioned plate was called "segregated" rather than "separated."

A marble game board was described as "a piece of oak with holes in it."

Another jar of marbles was discovered from the back tables. Before grandpa could finish describing it, Ed announced his bid of $20. And was promptly outbid, with the jar going for $40. His absentee's bid of $20 might actually buy a jar or two at most auctions, but not this one.

Needing a break, the auctioneer again passed the mike to his father, who got the huge fiberglass "Coincepts" sign (from an apparently failed business venture) as his first item.

And died with it, not able to get even $1 for the sign. Not even for the fiberglass. Not even when he suggested cutting it up into keyrings.

"You gave me a great start," he snapped after they had to set it aside.

When the third "last jar" of marbles came up (this really was the last one), Ed announced his bid of $20 before the jar hit the table.

Went for over $50, with a shrug from Ed.

In the five minutes we had to quickly scan the entire auction wares before the auction started, the wife and I had noticed several boxes with brass pieces. As we passed between tables, she asked if I had noticed the brass frog.

Well, actually he's cast iron, but of course I had. In with a box of ceramic figurines.

The frog's box came up late in the auction, when they were in a hurry, so they threw on yet another box of ceramic figures.

Craaap. No frog for me. I watched as the spotters spread everything out, and the one with the frog looked at its belly, then showed it to his neighbor, and a few in the front row. Snickering as they did.

Clearly there was more to this frog than meets the eye. Wife mentioned the frog was equipped with well-endowed human male genitalia. "I thought you knew!"

Now, that was newsworthy, so I started scribbling about the frog on my auction notes.

And saw my wife's hand leave her lap. Twice.

You guessed it. She was bidding. And won, for $22.50.

Turns out she wanted one of the ceramic animals, but the frog was the bonus that made her keep bidding.

So, now I have a cast iron frog on my desk.

With equipment that reaches his xyphoid process.

And the young mother, seated next to us with her also teenaged sister(?) got a box of plastic toys for her baby daughter, and a dolphin soap dish. For free. When she asked again how much, I had to make an "0" with my fingers (after checking with the wife, of course) to make her believe me. (She'd been buying baby stuff and basic kitchen and household wares all day, obviously setting herself up for her own home.) To her, the dolphin soap dish was apparently a luxury she wouldn't have bid on.

A belt with red and black beadwork was described by grandpa as "an Indian karate belt." In response to the murmurs of dissent, even when a spotter wore the belt across his forehead, the caller asked "Be nice to me... I'm old."

One of the antiques dealers behind us left when he had acquired all he came for. His sister-in-law, a local dealer seated next to the wife, advised we could help ourselves to anything he left in his trays. Got another white FireKing mug out of the deal. The sisters beside me pretty much cleaned up the rest. Like it was Christmas.

Grandpa and another spotter fumbled an antique pewter miniature tea set onto the floor. Before things had stopped clattering, Ed had scooted across the floor to the front door, with his hands raised.

"It wasn't Ed!" he announced. (But actually, it was, since that's grandpa's name, too.)

After one item, the auctioneer leaned forward to a woman in the front row.

"Believe me, you got a good buy, regardless what he says", nodding at her husband.

Auctioneer was definitely getting tired. When selling a wooden rocking chair, he said "and we'll throw in that kitty cat, or whatever," referring to the stuffed animal sitting on the seat.

It was Mickey Mouse.


Ever seen a California pocket gopher trap?

I hadn't either, and snuck up to take a look at the four they had, while the crowd shifted to some of the furniture. Old traps, which use museum specials for the mechanism. Insert the bottomless trap into the gopher's tunnel, he bumps the trigger hanging through the rat trap, and bars slam down from the ceiling to break his back.


They went for too much for me to bid. Must be collectible. Or someone has problems with California pocket gophers in their garden.

A box of all sorts of curios and knick knacks included a ribbon from the 1916 dedication of the wife and sons' church. But she was soon outbid by a dealer (probably after the straight razor and campaign pins).

But he sold her the ribbon for a dollar.

We were mainly staying for an old plastic Pendleton case. That matched perfectly with the Pendleton blanket she picked up for a song at the last auction. Beside it was another Pendleton blanket in its own case, and we were grimly anticipating having to buy a second blanket, at dealer prices, just to get the empty case.

But no, they didn't throw the empty case on with the other blanket (that also went for $17.50).

They threw it on with three old gas cans.

Which the wife won for $1.

"God, [Grouse], I'm glad you came today," the auctioneer anounced as they racked the three cans up in front of us in the front row.

We already have at least five empty old gas cans in the garage from these damn auctions (all my fault, I know, but geez, do we need three more?). These three are yours I announced to the wife.

To find her jumping up and shouting at a spotter.

They had thrown the case away!

And in front of the entire room, to the delay of the auction, the wife stormed across and dug the bag out of the junk pile behind the block.

"That's what I wanted!" she advised the entire room.

They won't mess with her stuff again, I assure you.

Auctioneer and his dad got into an argument when grandpa described the propane bottle on a grill as "good." "No, it's not," his son answered, pointing out the recent regulations do not allow that type of tank to be refilled.

"You can with a new valve," his dad retorted, "for a few bucks."

His son won, pointing out the new valves are actually $23, and a new tank is $20.

Three old lawn mowers, two antiques with gas engines mounted on the old blades, went for $10. The young mother on my right bought a bunch of tools just to get a rake. For a $1.

And gave me the sickle that came with the batch. Not an antique, but still a sickle. Already tried it on the overgrown hedge.

Needs sharpening.

Elderly friend of the wife's bought all four bags of golf clubs as a batch. When the golf caddie came up a bit later, she started the bids at $5.

Auctioneer dropped her bid to $2.50 and announced it sold.

Wasn't much left after the furniture, so a couple regulars stayed up front with their purchases on the front table.

Auctioneer grabbed the boxes and slid them down to resell.

By the end, they were selling items in as large a groups as they could pile on the block. One woman bought almost all the office stuff at one time.

Grandpa stopped the auction to ask her if she would sell the package of carbon paper buried in the rest. And she did, for a dollar.

One of the last was a trash can filled with cards and other junk. The woman bidding soon glared at the man bidding against her.

"Oh, you want that?" he said as he stopped bidding.

Her brother.

So we got out of there fairly cheaply. A well-endowed iron frog, a bunch of ceramics, a brass piece.

And three gas cans.

And I forgot to put this in my notes, I was so pleased with myself.

First item back on the block after the furniture (which ends with most people leaving) was an American Flag. In a box, rolled up on a broken wood pole. And two other flags, one which they did not unroll, the other a small one that they showed and then threw (yes, threw) back into the box.

Got 'em all for $15.

Bidding for the small one. Apparently none of the dealers counted the stars in its brief exposure.

There are 48. All cloth, each individually sewn on.

And a bonus.

The unopened flag?

Also 48 stars. Full size. Kinda suspected when I saw the old wax paper package.

And yeah, the wife and I got up right then and there, went to the only open space in the room, by the front door.

And properly folded that little 48-star banner.

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