Take the next step: Buy Books at Auctions

More about auctions

Apparently there are auctions and then there are Colorado prairie auctions. On TV, I’ve seen pictures of auctions in England and other places where people are INSIDE and they actually sit on chairs, and to bid, they hold up a paddle. Isn’t that amazing? And there’s an article on this blog which tells about auctions in which a commission is added onto the amount you bid. Now, I have heard of this, indirectly. Sometimes on the bottom of the auction listings in the local paper there is a disclaimer stating firmly that this is not done at this particular auction company and it is always ‘safe to bid.’ One may deduce that it is done in big cities, but I think the local farmers would string you up by your bolo tie if you tried something like that out here.

Book Auction
Southebey's Book Auction 1888

Our auction season begins as soon as the weather will permit, and ends when it has to, and I’ve spent about 30 years standing around in the sun, wind, rain or hail at various auctions, because about 98 percent of our auctions are outside. Usually, in the bright, bright, sun, in the middle of our hot, hot, prairie. You put on a hat, or get sunscreen, and make sure you have water. It’s usually on sale for a dollar a bottle by some enterprising young kid. If you are lucky there are trees to stand under when you are waiting. And that umbrella? We don’t use it for rain. With 14 to 16 inches of rainfall a year, we just don’t have rain often enough to need one. In auction season, if we do have rain, half the time there’s hail mixed with it and the tornado siren is going off. You need the umbrella for the hail, but I suspect half these guys don’t even have an umbrella and the other half don’t hold it over their head, they hold it over the windshield of their pickup truck.

And not only is it usually hot, but all the boxes are on the ground or on a flatbed trailer. Butt in the air, one paws through boxes and flats, looking for treasures and then, should you find one, go piling everything back on so that there is a admittedly small chance no one else will discover it. And then you have to go back and check later to make sure no one has switched it to another box, broken it, or stolen it. I will point out, however, that if the auction clerk sees you doing a naughty thing like that, she’ll give you hell.

I’m not too happy with the books in archive boxes on the ground; I like it better when they are on a flatbed truck. Twice this year I’ve bought boxes of books which had been brought out the night before and left on the lawn, covered in tarps. They look okay from the top, but the bottom layer or bottom edge is compromised or damp. I’ve been practicing just how to approach mentioning it to the auctioneers without getting that unattractive insistent whine in my voice which will discourage them from accommodating me.

Not all these auctions have books. Some folks just don’t own books. I know, I can’t imagine it either. But you go to their garage sale or estate sale, and there isn’t a book there. When one is lucky, a tractor manual or two maybe, but no real books. Not to put down tractor manuals. Tractor manuals can be a good deal, you know? Collectible.

You can learn a lot about folks from their estate sale auction. We went to the estate sale of a nice little old lady about 25 years ago, in which we bought some books and magazines. Layered between the magazines in the bottom of the box were about a half dozen scanty, naughty, lacy bits of underwear. There’s gotta be a whole story there! And once, in a vintage airstream trailer, we watched while they pulled some 1950’s erotica books out of a hole in the wall and they DIDN’T sell the books. Humph.

So on any given weekend in the summer there’s an auction somewhere in the area. Well, within a hundred miles. I usually check out the ones in town. You know what really distresses me? We’ll never go to an auction together on a Saturday again, because one of us will be watching the shop. Some of us will have to haul our own boxes.