I'm an auction junkie, or at least I used to be, until my four kids started growing up and sucking all the money out of my wallet. I would go to household sales with my wife, farm sales, toy tractor sales - each was like an event. And it always made it more fun if you were there to buy something. Then the real fun began when you just started looking for bargains.
We recently held an auction for my mother and father, since they had to sell their home due to health reasons. Suddenly, I wasn't hoping for bargains - I wanted everything to bring top dollar. What a difference it makes standing on the other side of the ring.
The sale was just the other day. We had a great crowd - people literally lined the road for nearly a mile in either direction. Over 140 bid numbers went out. Great! We'll get top dollar for everything.
If you've ever been to an auction, you know that's just not going to happen. There will be some bargains, and there were. An 8-foot wooden step ladder in good shape for $10, come on, I paid twice that for mine in a sale 15 years ago. An older chest freezer went for $5… are you kidding me?
Then on the other hand here were those items that sold where you wonder, 'what were they thinking?' An unusual but totally meaningless, to our family at least, cameo pin, with some age on it no doubt, for $20. A Longenberger basket for $50. A cedar chest made by my mom's brother in shop class, back when they still taught those, some 70 years ago sold for $200!
When the day was all done, the total was more than we expected - it usually is. It just doesn't seem like it when they're selling a whole box of screwdrivers that you thought would bring $15 for $2 - at least my brother got the good deal. Then there was that single adjustable wrench, a big one, that brought $18.
One part of a sale is seeing old friends. Barbara Bonnell came all the way from Columbus, some 30 miles away, because she was a friend and wanted something from my mother's stuff. I saw a couple relatives I hadn't seen for a good while. I even eked out a little time to talk to them.
The best part was when the auctioneer said sold for the last time and took down his microphone speakers. In three and a half hours with two rings they dispersed 95% of everything my mom and dad still owned. That was tough for them - at 88 and 91- they didn't come to the auction. But now the laborious task of cleaning out their home, going through those memories, is over. And since my mom and I sorted most of the house, we got to spend some quality evenings together.
Like I've told my parents repeatedly over the last few days - it's just stuff. Stuff can be replaced or let go - what counts is friends and families.
Nonetheless, it probably won't stop me form going to auctions in the feature and looking for bargains. I may not feel guilty the next time I get a bargain, but I bet I'll at least think about what it means to the person on the other side - the person who owned it.
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