Do You Remember The First Time?

June 8, 2018

At dinner recently, we were talking about our first auction experiences. For Kim, it was going to Conestoga with her parents and accidentally bidding on something. For me, it was a Haar’s on-site sale in Harrisburg, when I was around 18. Both experiences were great lessons on how auctions work and probably on what not to do.
For me, it was a Saturday spring sale with household contents that probably had not been touched in years. The widower had died, and the estate was selling everything as is. We showed up and of course had to figure out how to get a bidding number. We forgot chairs, so we stood in the heat and watched the sale. I think for most people, auctions are always about unrealized opportunities. You see something going cheap, and do you hold or do you bid? Well, for the Seiberts, it was a case where we had to bid! And what did we get?
• A piano top and four legs
• A hideous religious-themed Currier and Ives print that we bid against each other to get
• A wooden box
• A 1960s console television
• And we nearly got a Victorian pump organ.
I think we spent the princely sum of maybe $100 at the sale, which was way too much for what we got. It was definitely a critical learning experience for us. Like riding a bike, one goes to an auction, and if he or she is smart enough, he or she can learn a whole lot by watching and bidding. Auctions are an amazing study in behaviors. It is where everyone competes to buy. He who has the most gets the prize. Pretty basic, but also predicated upon a lot of human behaviors. It is also about knowledge (for collectors), nostalgia (for family), and entertainment (for the public). Understanding those motives is really about 99 percent of the auction game.
So to answer the nagging questions, what happened to the stuff?
• The piano top ended up being a great display piece for my mother’s first booth in an antiques show.
• The Currier and Ives sold at auction 10 years later for about $1 more than we paid for it. I think the tramp art frame was the key piece and the print may have disappeared.
• The wooden box held my record collection for years.
• The TV never worked, and after spending a fortune to get it looked at, we ended up chucking it as useless.
• And I was eternally grateful that we never got the organ, as it would never have fit in our small house.

Peter Seibert, a native Pennsylvanian, grew up in the antiques business and remains closely tied to auction houses, collectors, and dealers. Professionally, he has served as a museum director and public historian in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Virginia. He holds an M.A. in American Studies from Penn State and has authored two books and numerous articles on decorative arts, interior design, and history.
Peter Seibert

Peter Seibert

Peter Seibert, a native Pennsylvanian, grew up in the antiques business and remains closely tied to auction houses, collectors, and dealers. Professionally, he has served as museum director and public historian in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Virginia. He holds an M.A. in American Studies from Penn State and has authored two books and numerous articles on decorative arts, interior design, and history.

 

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