So when a couple of friends asked my girlfriend and me to attend an auction, I wasn’t sure which end of the spectrum I’d see. The auction house we’d be attending was familiar to me: Auctions “Buy” Sammy B. on Rock Boulevard in Sparks. I wrote an article a few months ago about an interesting item they had up for a sale: an unusually heavy rock someone found in the mountains believed to be a piece of a meteorite. I learned that Samantha Brockelsby, better known as Sammy B., is among the relatively rare breed of female auctioneers and that she grew up in a family of fast-talking sellers. At the time I wrote the article I figured that was the closest I’d ever get to an auction.
But on Friday night I walked back through the doors of the business to see what its weekly auction is like. The store has been transformed from a giant mess of miscellaneous stuff to an organized mess of miscellaneous stuff. Everything is labeled, numbered and cataloged. About 20 minutes before the start of the auction, buyers who weren’t hillbillies but certainly weren’t snooty and rich were inspecting all the items. I checked in and was given a printout with a large block number at the top and blanks below where I could write notes about the items I wanted to buy. Figuring I’d go through the motions, I found a few items that seemed interesting and wrote down their numbers.
Out of the more than 600 lots up for auction, I wrote down a half dozen that piqued my interest either because they probably would be cheap but useful or because they were cool but likely to be expensive.
After a few introductory comments, Sammy B. launched into the auction. And when I say launched, I mean zero to 100 in one second flat. Ever the entrepreneur, my girlfriend had her eye on five Spice Girls dolls still in the packages that she wanted to try to sell online to a collector. She held up our number and was the only bidder — surprise, surprise. For $7.50, we were the proud owners of Posh, Scary, Baby, Sporty and Ginger.
Before I knew it she had breezed through five dozen items and was approaching a stack of vinyl records I planned to bid on. Another man, who strangely resembled myself, had been eyeing the same albums and he started the bidding at $10, which was more than I wanted to pay. A few minutes later, I lost a bid for a collection of miscellaneous exercise weights, but not without putting up a fight. Another buyer drove the price higher than I wanted so I backed down, but I was getting caught up in the frenzy. The next item I wanted was a used electronic dartboard that came with a bundle of board games. When Sammy B. called the lot number, I immediately raised my number. One other person raised their number, but I was determined not to lose again. I flashed my card and swatted my opponent down like a bug. The games were mine for $7.50.
My prized item of the night was a stack of 13 vintage Playboy magazines. Part of me wanted to buy them to keep, but with my money tied up in fixing up my Jeep I knew I only could buy the magazines to resell them. I planned to spend a maximum of $20 for them but the bidding started at $30. I hesitated but my girlfriend cheered me on, so I raised my number. I wasn’t the only bidder for these beauties, so the price quickly went up. When Sammy B. called out $40 and pointed at me, I kept my arm down. My heart raced and my pulse quickened.
“Going one, going twice …”
My arm shot up.
Sammy B. looked for other bidders.
“Going once, going twice, sold for $40.”
I was spent, literally. As we cashed out, we loaded our car and thanked our friends for inviting us. We joked that we were going to make T-shirts for the next time we came and create a team name to print on them: The Sons of a Bid. We might even join the auction regulars by purchasing big plush chairs and leaving them at the auction house permanently so we’d have our own reserved spot each week. Really, you can do that.
The high my girlfriend and I were on continued when we got home and looked up the values of the Playboys. Selling just one of them could pay for all our purchases. We have found our new addiction: auctions. We’ll surely go back to Sammy B.’s (full disclosure: Sammy B. is an advertiser in the Tribune) but we also will look up any place we can and check it out. My girlfriend put it best when she called it an “auction-gasm.”
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to find some batteries and see if my new dartboard works.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.