November 6, 2017

There’s a first time for everything and I am no longer a bid-board auction virgin! Last Saturday, I attended my first, and it was an experience.

There's A First Time For EverythingFor you others out there who have never gone to one, I’m no expert, and assuming most work pretty much the same at other locations, here’s how it plays out:

The auction house was located in a mall and its layout was HUGE, having over 6,000 items on display. Basically, it’s like those silent auctions you may have seen at charity events. Alongside each item up for bids is a card where one writes his/her bid. There are no absentee bids, no phone bids, no online bids. If you were the last to bid and met the required minimum amount to raise, you were going to win – of course, unless someone comes along and bumps you before time is up!

First, you need to register by providing your drivers license and this place actually also takes a picture of you! Then you are given a number to use instead of writing your name. If you plan on hanging around to pay and pick up your lots at the end of the session, you are given another number. At the end of the day, the staff needs some time to get ready and then begins to call those wishing to pay in the order of the numbers given out earlier.

There's A First Time For EverythingSo…what did they have? Mostly collectibles (coins, trading cards, comics, toys, dolls, records, sports memorabilia, girly magazines, train items, etc.) but also loads of jewelry, artwork, antique stuff, prints, some furniture and musical instruments – even guns!

At this auction house, every item required an opening bid of at least $2 with the minimum bumps for raises posted. It’s an absolute auction in that all items will sell – no hidden reserves. However, those items with a blue bidding card (usually it was an expensive piece of jewelry or a highly valuable coin) had a much higher opening bid required. Note: hardly any of these sold.

Each item had a number associated with it, BUT, although there would be a run of numbers in one location, it frequently jumped in sequence to another section of the room. When one first enters, there’s so much to see that you’re not aware that different sections of the huge room have different colored lines near the ceiling. It was by sections, not numbers that the final bidding would commence.

At 11:00 AM, the auctioneer got on the horn and made his announcements and instructions. The auction would start in the “yellow” section. He would give us a one minute warning to place our final bids THEN should someone wish to place another bid, they were to yell out “time” and that section would be open to bidding for an additional 15 seconds. This would go on until NO ONE asked for “Time” for 15 seconds. When that happened, the section was closed off to the crowd and off we went to another section in the room.

There's A First Time For EverythingNow what happened was that once he gave that 15 second warning, many people would call out, go up to the item/s they were still interested in and write in their ID number and bump the current bid. Often, the other bidder just bumped would then request “time’ and bump that bid. Occasionally, the small cards where one wrote his bid became filled up as this was going on. They would call out “pull card” and a staff member would add a new card and yell out “card replaced” and 15 seconds would start anew. Depending upon the interest, each section’s final ’15 second bidding’ could run 5 to 15 minutes before going on to the next area. At this auction, all was down by 2:20 in the afternoon. Over 6400 different lots sold in less than 3 1/2 hours!!

Again, the staff needed to do some work before they started calling those of us who wanted to pay and go. # 1 was called and a staff member followed the successful bidder around the room as he/she pointed out where the lots were that they had won. Once found, they lots were put behind the counter where the bid cards were removed and entered into an invoice by another staffer. Once ready, they called you up by you ID number to pay. There were 36 people ahead of me.

There's A First Time For EverythingThe young lady who called out for who had #37 said she was so pleased that I knew where all of my winning lots were located (I won 21 of them) and led her in a simple path through-out the room. Evidently, many people can’t recall exactly what or where their winning lots are located – really slowing down the process.

I got out of there at 3:15 after they finished tallying me up and correcting the total when I called attention to the fact that they only typed in $7.00 instead of $70 for one of my items. They were very appreciative!

There was the option to just gone home, as many did, and call after a few days to get my total. However, that would have required me making the trip back to the auction house – KD Smith Auctions, located 88 miles from me in Allentown. No, I stayed and paid. It’s located in the Merchants Mall, home also to Saucon Valley Auction which is due to have a nice comic book auction coming up. Also, the mall is loaded with many other collectibles shops and occasionally hosts non-sports card and other shows. Worth a visit sometime. Surprisingly, the comic shop inside the mall was closed that Saturday!?

Comic books. Yes, there were dozens and dozens up for bids but nothing major and I won only two items. Running into another comic book buyer I see at many auctions, I asked about him how it worked and for advice. One thing he did caution me about was the crowds that show up in the middle of winter. Seems people get cabin fever and look for something interesting to do. As I said, the place is big, BUT the lots take up loads of room. As it was, one had to constantly say, “excuse me’ to navigate the room. He said that it becomes extremely crowded those days and not everyone practices good hygiene. Hmmm. They give a complete list, not all pictured, on well in advance as the lots are available for inspection and bidding during the weekends leading up to the final day – always held the last Saturday of the month. I’m sure I’ll be visiting again.

There's A First Time For EverythingShould you decide to make the trip, the Blue Route (476) is probably the fastest way. However, should you take 202 to RT 100, you avoid the toll and end up very close to the site. And, on the way, maybe 10 miles or less from the end of the trek, there is a big outdoor flea market on RT 100. I stopped and did a quick pass through the stands and found a nice lady with about 10 long boxes of neatly bagged and boarded comics – all priced at one dollar each. Her sign advertised 20 for $20. I assume she learned this practice from the flea market’s own signs – a 10′ by 25′ spot could be rented for $10. 2 for $20. Someone needs a copy of “Art of the Deal”?

Ruth’s Toys & Pop Culture auction has risen from the ashes of Sellersville. That owner fled to Florida and is actively being hunted by other victims, but the auctioneer has opened up at a new location in Lansdale, PA. The building is nowhere near as large or nice as the old sites and it might take a while before comic book owners aware of the problems with Sellersville will risk consigning major issues to them. The schedule is fairly sporadic so far. Yet, there were two lots with key issues (Iron Man 55 and FF 52) offered last week that enticed me to make the trip. They both went for about what I would have priced them, but I did pick up a few lots to make the visit worth while. Like in the past, the auctioneer kept a fast pace.

Traveling to Millsboro next week to look at two collections – supposedly silver age. Stay tuned.


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