Thursday, March 21, 2013

Going Once.. Going Twice... SOLD! Catching Auction Fever

Spring has sprung! Now, if Mother Nature would just look at the calendar and realize it; things would be much better. Even though it is only 11 degrees right now the sunshine has me optimistic and looking forward to warmer weather and outside activities. My spring and summers are usually consumed with working on furniture that I find at various auctions.  Normally I purchase it when it's in a sad shape. I find joy in bringing vintage furniture pieces back to life. There is something very satisfying about an item that everyone walks by thinking is nothing more than junk and transforming it into a stately piece that pulls at your design heartstrings.

I have to say that I am a bit of an auction junky and proud of it! Some "junkies" are very particular and only attend high end antique auctions.... that is not me by any means. I attend them all from box lot auctions to the high end antique variety. You never know what sale may have that incredible item that you can't live without. My thought on the matter is: why limit yourself to one type. Even if the items to be auctioned came from a modest income family you never know if great-great grandma's Early American sewing box is hidden in one of those box lots just waiting for you to swoop it up. There is nothing like winning the bid on a piece of history at a reasonable price, some may say it is a little exhilarating.

Finding this exhilaration may be a little intimidating to some on their first visit to a local auction but having a little knowledge to fall back on will help you get through it and having you bidding like a pro. If you have watched any of the auction programs that have become so popular on television you will know that auctions have their own terminology. Getting some of these terms in your knowledge bank will help you when you find an auction that you would like to attend.

Basic Terminology:

ABSENTEE BIDDER: A person (or entity) who does not attend the sale but submits, in advance, a written or oral bid that is the top price he/she will pay for a given property.

"AS IS": Selling the property without warranties as to the condition and/or the fitness of the property for a particular use. Buyers are solely responsible for examining and judging the property for their own protection. Otherwise known as "As Is, Where Is" and "In Its Present Condition".

AUCTION: A method of selling property and real estate in a public forum through open and competitive bidding. Also referred to as " Public Auction," Auction Sale" or "Sale"

AUCTION BLOCK: The podium or raised platform where the Auctioneer stands while conducting the auction. "Placing (an item) on the auction block" means to sell something at auction.

AUCTION PRICE: The price of property obtained through the auction.

AUCTION VALUE: The price which a particular property/item brings in open competitive bidding at public auction.

AUCTION WITH RESERVE: Also known as "Reserve Auction". An auction in which the seller reserves the right to establish a reserve price, to accept or decline any and all bids, or to withdraw the property at any time prior to the announcement of the completion of the sale by the Auctioneer.

AUCTIONEER: The person whom the seller engages to direct, conduct, or be responsible for a sale by auction. This person may or may not actually "call" or "cry" the auction.

BID: A prospective buyer's indication or offer of a price he/she will pay to purchase property at auction. Bids are usually in standardized increments established by the Auctioneer.

BID ASSISTANTS: Individuals who are positioned throughout the attendees at the auction to assist the auctioneer, spot bidders and assist prospective bidders with information to help them in their buying decision. Also known as "Ringmen", "Bid Consultants", "Bid Spotters", "Goundsmen".

BID CALLER: The person who actually "calls", "cries", or "auctions" the property at an auction, recognizing bidders and acknowledging the highest bidder. Commonly known as the Auctioneer.

BIDDER NUMBER: The number issued to each person to registered at an auction.

BIDDER'S CHOICE: A method of sale whereby the successful high bidder wins the right to choose a property or properties from a grouping of similar or like-kind properties/items. After the high bidder's selection, the property/item is deleted from the group, and the second round of bidding commences, with the high bidder in round two selecting a property/item. That property/item is then deleted from the group, and the 3rd round begins, continuing until all properties/items are sold.

BOOKKEEPER or CLERK: The person(s) who are responsible for the accounting and paperwork at an auction sale.

BUYER'S PREMIUM: An advertised percentage of the high bid or flat fee added to the high bid to determine the total contract price to be paid by the buyer. Example...  Auction terms 10% of sale Buyer's Premium. You win a bid at $10.00 your actual cost is $10.00 + $1.00 buyers premium + tax.

CATALOG or BROCHURE: A publication advertising and describing the property available for sale at public auction, often including photographs, descriptions, and the terms and conditions of sale.

CAVEAT EMPTOR: A Latin term meaning "Let The Buyer Beware!" A legal maxim stating that the buyer takes the risk regarding the quality or condition of the property purchased. Sometimes the property may be protected by warranty, but this is a rare occasion.

CLERK: The person employed by the principal auctioneer or auction firm to record what is sold and to whom and for what price.

CONDITIONS OF SALE: The legal terms that govern the conduct of an auction, including acceptable methods of payment, terms, buyer's premiums, possession, reserves and any other limiting factors of an auction. Usually included in published advertisements or announced by the auctioneer prior to the start of the auction.

ESTATE SALE: The sale of property left by a person at his or her death. An estate auction can involve the sale of personal and/or real property. NOTE: There sometimes are "LIVING ESTATE AUCTIONS", where the seller is alive, but wishes to liquidate personal belongings and has hired the Auctioneer to do so.

FOR THE MONEY : A lot of more than one item that the winning bidder agrees to pay for each piece in the lot at the winning bid price. Example... Lot of 3 items winning bid $10.00 buyer pays $30.00 for all three pieces.

HAMMER PRICE: Price established by the last bidder and acknowledged by the Auctioneer before dropping the hammer or gavel.

INSPECTION: Specified date, time and place property is available for prospective buyer viewing and evaluation. Also known as a PREVIEW.

MARKET VALUE: The highest price in terms of money which a property will bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeably and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus.

MINIMUM BID AUCTION: An auction in which the Auctioneer will accept bids at or above a disclosed price. The minimum price is always stated in the brochure and advertisements and is announced at the auctions.

MINIMUM OPENING BID: The lowest acceptable amount at which the bidding must commence.

OPENING BID: The first bid offered by a bidder at an auction.

ON-SITE AUCTION: An auction conducted on the premises of the property being sold.

PREVIEW: Specified date, time and place property is available for prospective buyer viewing and evaluation. Also known as an INSPECTION.

RESERVE: The minimum price that a seller is willing to accept for a property to be sold at auction. Also known as RESERVE PRICE.

RESERVE AUCTION: An auction in which the seller reserves the right to establish a reserve price, to accept or decline any and all bids or to withdraw the property at any time prior to the announcement of the completion of the sale by the auctioneer. Also known as AUCTION WITH RESERVE.

SELLER: Entity that has legal possession and ownership of any interests, benefits or right inherent to the real or personal property.


TERMS AND CONDITIONS: The printed rules of the auction and certain aspects of the Purchase & Sale Agreement that are read and/or distributed to potential bidders prior to an auction sale.

For a full listing of terminology visit the National Auctioneers Association website at

Now is the perfect time to find an upcoming auction and test the waters. A good free website to visit and find auctions in your area is . This site provides online and local live auction listings for most areas of the United States.

As in any type of sale being early is good and for auctions it is a must. Some auction houses offer a preview the day before but if not make sure you arrive in plenty of time to view the items that are going on the block that day. Usually an hour to an hour and a half before the start of the sale  is sufficient but if it is a very large auction you may want to be there a little earlier than that. Arriving at the last minute is never a good idea since you will not get a lay of the land or a good idea of what may be buried in some of the box lots. Important note,is to dress appropriately. There is nothing more miserable than cold feet and hands or sweating like sinner in church on a hot summer day in the blazing sun.

You arrive at the auction site and the first thing to do is to find the Clerk's Desk or office to register and get your bid card. Every auction is a little different when it comes to this process so be prepared to share your state ID or drivers license with the clerk and they may make a copy of it. This process is so they have a record of who is receiving a bid card (paddle) and bidding on items during the auction. Some auction houses request that you leave a deposit of a specified dollar amount which is refunded when you depart the auction if you do not win a bid on any items. This deposit can usually be left in the form of a copy of a credit card or cash and is done to protect the auctioneer from individuals who win a bid and then do not pay for their items. Now that you are registered get out there and nose around to see what is being offered. It is a good idea to have a piece of paper and a pencil with you so you can write down the Lot Numbers or location of items you are interested in. This is also a good time to write down what your maximum bid would be for that item. Keep this private! You never know who may be looking over your shoulder and what they may be interested in bidding on. It is a very good idea to keep your personal thoughts to yourself regarding what you are interested in and what you think it may be worth. Even if you feel that what is being offered is boxes of junk you don't know if the person standing next to you is a family member, friend or the owner of the items.

Many people have the perception that all Auctioneers talk really fast and are next to impossible to understand unless you have a degree in auction jargon. Another perception in that auctioneers  are out to swindle as much money out of you as possible. These assumptions are simply not true (most of the time). It is rare to run across an auction that is not conducted in plain English. Be prepared because every Auctioneer has his/her own style and cadence that they have perfected and you will someday find there is some that your like better than others. Don't be surprised if you find yourself in a position where you have been out bid and the Auctioneer is trying to pull one last bid out of you. This occurrence is common and should not be confused with swindling, they are hired sell the items offered at the highest price possible and you have the right to agree to another bid or decline.

Going Once ... Going Twice ... SOLD! You won! The first thing to do is write  down on your piece of paper what you bought and what your high bid was, you may need this information later in the day.  That was exciting but now make sure that you gather up your item/items and keep an eye on them. Some higher end auctions will hold your items until you show your receipt at which time they will retrieve everything that you have purchased. Other auctions, especially on premises estate auctions once you have won the bid the item is your responsibility and payment will be expected. It is a good idea to take your item and place it in your car or keep it with you. It is sad but there are some dishonest individuals who will pick up your box of treasures and walk out with them as though they bought them so better to be safe than sorry. I have only had this happen one occasion and was more frustrated with myself than the person who walked off with my box.... I knew better but sometimes you place your trust in the wrong people.

Once you have had your fill and are ready to leave you may have to stay a little longer if you just won a bid. It takes a little time for the the bids to to reach the clerks office and get recorded onto your transaction sheet. Be patient and realize that they may be dealing with 100 or more bidders and it takes a little time and skill to make sure that everyone is being charged for the correct times.  At this point you may get a full printed receipt listing out each item or a stack of perforated tabs with you items written on each one as your proof of purchase. In either case look at them carefully and make sure that only your items are listed, mistakes sometimes happen and there is nothing wrong with pointing them out.

Congratulations, you just completed your first auction and I am sure you will have a great story to share with your friends. Be prepared, a lot of auctions can run for hours and hours so dress appropriately and have fun. Like everything in life enjoying what your are doing makes all the difference!

Next Week ...

Flea Markets ....   not just for Fleas!


As a child I was not particular when it came to food for the most part. This was especially true if that food contained butter, sugar and flour and was baked in the oven! We all had our favorites my mother;s was peanut butter, mine was chocolate chip and father's was Snickerdoodles which ironically was my least favorite. My mother was an incredible cook and baker and to have a package of store bought cookies in her house was unheard of. In my circle of friends, in my class at school and throughout the neighborhood she had come to be known as the "Cookie Lady" an endearing label that stuck with her until her passing a few years ago. 

It's funny as we grow older our tastes change in  almost everything and cookies are no exception. Like I said, Snickerdoodles were my least favorite cookie but over the years have gained popularity on my list of favorites. Maybe it is not so much the taste or the texture but the memory that is attached to them that is able to take us back in time to a place that was happy and always full of excitement. So straight from my mother's dented and faded tin recipe box is her recipe for Snickerdoodles. Share them with your friends and family, that's the way the Cookie Lady would like you to enjoy them. 

Soft Snickerdoodle Cookies

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon


1 Preheat oven to 350°F.
2 Mix butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar and eggs thoroughly in a large bowl.
3 Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
4 Blend dry ingredients into butter mixture.
5 Chill dough, and chill an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10-15 minutes in the fridge.
6 Meanwhile, mix 3 tablespoons sugar, and 3 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl.
7 Scoop 1 inch globs of dough into the sugar/ cinnamon mixture.
8 Coat by gently rolling balls of dough in the sugar mixture.
9 Place on chilled ungreased cookie sheet, and bake 10 minutes.
10 Remove from pan immediately.



Thursday, March 14, 2013

Garages Are Not Just For Cars

Another week has passed and it is still winter here in the Midwest, I can tell by the snow falling from the sky again.This year the thermometer has been bouncing around like Mexican Jumping Beans on a car's hot dashboard not knowing whether to be cold warm or just flat out miserable. In any case I know that the end of the cold and snow is near and in another month or two the world and my attitude will take on a new look. Gone will be the feelings of not wanting to leave my home for fear of the cold and no more shoveling which that in itself could be a good reason to move to a warmer part of the country. I can remember as a child my parents friends going south for the winter months and I never understood why you would want to leave the winter wonderland in the height of its glory. I get it now and someday I may turn into one of them fleeing the cold for the balmy winter temperatures of the low to mid 70's like a nomad of ancient times and being branded a "Snow Bird."

Now that our clocks have sprung ahead the next big event is the start of Spring, that is unless you are Irish then Spring is the second big event. Spring .... ah yes, the season of rebirth, growth and a built in feeling to clean our closets and homes. Sifting through the stacks and piles of articles that have accumulated for no reason other than we can not bare the thought of sending them off to a new home. It does not matter if we have looked at something in sometime let alone used it we still cling to it with a weird comfort that it is in the back of the closet just in case. Tradition has made us believe in spring cleaning so we sort, clean, dust, scrub, vacuum, wax and then in the end pile all our forgotten treasures back in the closet thinking we will make a plan to rid ourselves of them. The thought of making the plan is sometimes much better than the action and the next year we religiously follow the same plan of attack as we did the year prior thinking this time it will be different.

For those who have the will power to purge their homes of these unused articles it is the perfect time of year to host a garage sale. For others like myself this is the time for exciting treasure hunting excursions. Keep in mind that all Garage/Yard Sales are not created equally and what holds treasures for some may be nothing of interest to you. If you are a hardcore Garage Sale shopper you know the ins and outs to make your trip successful and worthwhile and if you are a novice I will share a few of the secrets that will help you load your SUV or trunk with delightful articles to enrich your surroundings.

Like Christopher Columbus a little planning and research will land you in the right spot, or at least close to it. Take a look at the Classified section of your local paper, most news papers will have a section devoted to Garage/Yard Sales, Estate Sales and Auctions. Another good place to locate upcoming sales is on Craigslist where you will find a section listing Garage Sales under the "For Sale" heading. Read through the listings choosing the ones that have an interest to you and write down the address or neighborhood that the sale will take place. Pull out your local map and plan your attack! Set a schedule that will take you from one sale to the next with the least amount of travel time in between, it is all about time management to hit the good ones early and the ones of lesser interest later in the morning. Yes I said morning, if there is something you are particularly interested in get there early, more than likely that beautiful Mid Century carved teak wood statue  will not be there later in the day.

Along with planing your route deciding which sales are most suited for you is just as important. If you are looking for antiques and mid century items a sale in a newly developed subdivision of suburbia more than likely is not going to yield the treasures you seek. It would seem to make sense that you would find sales in these locations to have driveways lined with tables of children's clothes and plastic brightly colored and somewhat faded toys. It is good to know your neighborhoods as the vintage treasures are more than likely to be found in the established older neighborhoods with older families. If you are not familiar with a particular neighborhood do little investigative work before the sale day. Drive through the neighborhood and see what the feeling is, bikes and toys strewn about the yard may imply that the sale will be a lot of children's articles where a well manicured yard and no signs of children may hide that wonderful set of Heywood Wakefield nesting tables.
When heading out for the day pack a survival kit with few bottles of water, some high energy snacks, hand sanitizer or baby wipes and a good attitude. Everyone at some point likes to play dress up and this is the perfect time to pretend you are a high end interior designer. Get yourself a stylish tape measure and make a notebook filled with paint swatches from your home and dimensions of areas you would like to fill. There is nothing worse than trying to decide if the blue chair you found will clash with your living room walls. Instead of contemplating if the chest you fell in love with will fit in the entryway of your palace you will have the correct dimensions with you so decision will be made much easier for you... it fits, you love it, buy it! 

Shop for items that offer something special and unique that provide the opportunity to add flair to your living space that can not be found at the big box stores. Vintage furniture is a great starting point to fill your home with unusual shapes and forms. You may find a wonderful and unusual piece but the upholstery is a little less than desirable since rust and green floral is a little tough to work with. Don't despair fabric can be fixed broken legs are another story.

We have all heard the term "Good Bones" and this is especially true when it comes to vintage furniture. Make sure that you sit in it, not upright and polite but how you would lounge in it at home. Feel the frame for any possible cracks and listen when you sit down and rock back and forth a little, if it sounds like the frame is cracking or squeaking you may want to pass on this particular piece as its "undercarriage" may need more repair than it is worth.  Bad upholstery is not the end of the road for a piece of furniture but it does cost a little to rectify that burlap plaid. Apartment Therapy offers a fantastic guide for how many yard it will take to recover a piece of furniture turning it from an ugly duckling into a swan. Print out this guide and add it to your notebook, you may not use it on one hunting excursion but may come in handy on the next. Also keep in mind that a sprung spring poking up is not the end of the road, an upholstery professional can retie the spring making it as good as new. Maybe you will find that incredible piece that you can transform from furniture into "Fun-iture!"

With your finds in hand keep in mind that most individuals hosting a Garage/Yard sale are looking to make a little extra pocket change so don't go flying in with extremely low offers on items you find especially in the first few hours of a sale. If there is a item that you are in love with pay the price that is asked or make a reasonable offer that will not offend the seller. It takes a lot of work to organize and set up a sale and more than likely by sale day the person is exhausted from the long extra hours added to their day. The last thing you want to do is to offend a person that is teetering on the edge of exhaustion. As always cash is king! Make yourself two stacks of cash, one with big bills and the second with a couple of fives and the rest ones. There is nothing more insulting to a seller than a low offer and agreeing to it because of their illustrious story and then having the customer pull out a role of twenty dollar bills! Big bills in one pocket and small bills in the other may save you a moment of embarrassment and humiliation.

Now that you have your purchases home make sure that you clean them very well. Most sales offer clean items but you never know so play it safe and make sure you are not bringing home more than you paid for. Don't let this scare you into not experiencing the thrill of the hunt there are treasures out there to be found and reclaimed. The more we seek out these vintage treasures the more variety we will have in our homes and lives and decreasing the burdens on our bulging landfills.

Next Time ...

The ins and outs of auctions


Normally at this point I would include a fun recipe for you expand your culinary repertoire but this week is a little different. You see I am normally not a political person and believe everyone has a right to own views in life as long as it does not cause harm to others. This past week I attended our Mayors "State of the City" address and found out that Forbes staff writer Kurt Badenhausen had listed Rockford, IL number 3 in his 2013 America's Most Miserable Places To Live article. My question to Kurt is have you actually visited Rockford, met the citizens and spent time discovering all that it has to offer? I doubt it. Oddly the outcome of his article is proving to be opposite of it's intent. Instead of Rockford hanging its head low in shame the city is fighting back with a new advertising campaign "Misery Loves Company, visit Rockford Illinois"  BRAVO to the City of Rockford for taking lemons, making lemonade and most importantly selling it! Take a look at what we have to offer here its a pretty spectacular place to live! 

 Misery logo slide

Watch the Video Of A GREAT CITY! 

Next Time ...

In and outs of Auctions