Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Do I Hear Five?"

"You need to get to the auction at least a half an hour before it starts. The real experts sort through the junk early, separating the good from the bad and figuring out what's valuable."

I listened intently over the hood of my grandfathers Dodge van as we chipped at the frost on the windshield. Before I had a chance to finish scraping the passenger side, my grandfather, Bill, jumped into the driver's seat and urged me to let the defroster handle the rest. Sensing the unbridled excitement in his voice, I obliged.

Each weekend, Bill wakes early and heads to estate sales in the heart of the Wisconsin farmland in search of antique tools and toys. After a career selling electronic switches in Milwaukee, Bill retired to a farm near Adell, Wisconsin and started raising sheep. Tired of the long hours associated with raising fifty sheep a year, he looked elsewhere for entertainment.

Acting on a life-long interest in tools and attempting to clear out his garage for his next project, Bill started selling off some tools on Ebay. Enjoying the craft of researching the history and application of antique tools, Bill started buying tools at garage sales and auctions. Since September of 2002, he has sold over 1800 antiques on Ebay.

Driving an hour north as the sun rose, Bill explained, "Your Grandmother comes sometimes just to people watch. There will be a few hundred people filtering through today. People come to bid on farm equipment, silverware, guns and others for tools," he grinned.

"What's the auction today?"

"The description says estate auction: farm equipment, guns, cheese-making and a pick up. You can't go into an auction wanting something specific. You won't find it," Bill explained.

Grinning ear to ear, I nodded.

Arriving early, we registered with the auction service and went out searching through piles of farm equipment. Surgically, Bill sifted through the various piles and boxes making frequent introductions to other such addicts.

"He is in it for the oil cans." Bill motioned.

"Oil cans?"

"Yeah, oil cans. He collects vintage oil cans to go along with his cars," Bill explained as he turned over a box full of Stanley planes.

Nursing my coffee, I went out in search of gems. Shivering in my wool while inspecting a wall full of shovels, pitchforks and saws, I heard the familiar pop of an aluminum can. Turning expecting to see a diet Coke or perhaps a Mountain Dew, I spotted a group of camo-clad Wisconsinites starting off their Saturday with a case of Busch Light.

With a smile, the ring leader nudged the opened case with his foot, "Want one? these things (auctions) usually last a while."

"I am good, thanks. Trying to get through this coffee first." I looked at my watch, 9:17.

For the next five hours, these guys stood guard centrally located between the food cart, auctioneer's booth and port-a-potty. Providing a running commentary, they chimed in their two cents often as I passed by.

"Whatcha got there?

"What'd ya pay?"

"What the hell do you need that for?"

Good things.

As the last item sold, we packed up the Van with the day's bounty, bid farewell to the observers and headed back to the farm.

Looking back from the drivers seat, Bill smiled. "We did good today. That was one of the best auctions I have been to in a while. Now we just need to figure out what the hell we bought."

With no point of reference, but ecstatic from my day spent haggling and searching for gems, I nodded in approval.
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Anonymous said...

Looks like thriftin' is your blood.

M said...

Great post, I really like those "just another day with my family" kind of stories. Nice writin', keep warm! Say hello to your grandpa, from me (clicking from Poland, Europe) :)

Foster Huntington said...

thanks for the kind words don and M. thrifting is in my blood. i love it. glad you like it,

Ula said...

My pleasure. I found your shoe-season project fantastic!

Foster Huntington said...

how did you find it. thanks for the kind words,

This is were to make orders: said...

Love that you guys got together.

chris said...

Wow, this is Wisconsin through and through. Especially those yellow gloves. Reminds me of getting up early to go ice fishing.

Wesley Verhoeve said...

Wish we could get this kind of stuff in Brooklyn!

molly said...

an excellent day, for sure.
i love the photos.

Eloise said...

Hey Foster,
What a wonderful post! I felt like I came along for the day with you, thanks for inviting me into your world! Ps I just blogged about you! You're my favourite blogger this month! Well done!

Deb Tam Designs said...

Hey this is very cool! I actually found you on urban outfitters website awhile back ago. I dont know if that is creepy but i just came across you again...

Are you still an intern at Rogues Gallery?

-Deb Tam Designs

Foster Huntington said...

thanks for the kind words. I live in new york now and no longer am involved with rogues. Thanks for the support and rebloging,

stevesmith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stevesmith said...

Like the pictures..Thanks for sharing this blog..Like the concept of explaining the blog.