They say there is no such thing as a "friend" at an auction. We all know what we will bid, what we want to pay, what we need to pay, the values, retail, wholesale, whatever.
However, that said, sometimes it is a good idea to make sure that if there are people at the sale you know well and are good friends, you may want to sit near enough to them to chat a bit.
A buddy and picker friend of mine just started back into the picking game after a bit of a hiatus. He's hitting the road, auctions, yard sales, flea markets, cold calls, etc, and hitting them fairly hard, hoping to make it a full time living. He has picked for years prior to his hiatus, as a collector who was tired of not being able to find very many objects of his desire at antique shops and shows. Apparently, my shop was one of the few stores where he always seemed to find something fresh for his collection.
I was always adding fresh picks to my inventory, and my tastes were in line with his, where as many of the traditional, older dealers inventory tended to grow stagnant and/or was overflowing with glass, china, and what was then "traditional" fare.
Anyway, we have reconnected after several years, and he's back at it, and hoping to make it a living. He is a guy with an advantage over most of the "newbies", as he is not "new" to picking....but he is new to making a living in the junk biz. I hope it works out for him, I really do. His horizons are expanding, the blinders are now almost off, and his focus has broadened, interests are widening in scope, and his brain is absorbing all it can.
Being in Manitoba, it is not going to be easy, which I think he is well aware of. He's seen all sorts of folks come and go in this biz, and only a handful who are still at it after many years. I guess my pickin' life could be one of those inspirations, tho my career could be a cautionary take on this, too!
If you never make mistakes you are not learning a damn thing, in my opinion. He may (and will) make some of the same mistakes I have made, and some uniquely his own. Being a friend, I am doing my best to steer him clear of many of the ones I made. Someone else might as well benefit!
Anyway, one mistake I made at the auction was sitting where my wife wanted to sit.
She likes the front row. I prefer the middle, back or standing at the sides, wandering around if I get bored, or need to get out of the line of sight of those folks who decide that just because a (knowledgeable) dealer is bidding, that they should bid, too. If you are one of those folks, a word of caution...that really is a bad idea...which I've discussed in one of my previous posts.
Anyway, I sat with her, but did get that wandering itch, and did cruise around the hall a bit, re-examining things, looking deeper, taking a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th look at items I had only casually examined initially.
Bidding was strong, prices were going far higher than normal. Thus, buying items that weren't quite what they appeared to be, were damaged, missing pieces, repaired, faked, etc, could have a negative effect on my finances that I'd regret.
Had I sat near my buddy, we'd both have saved some money.
One of the lots of note was 2 1950s prints....bad, bad, bad 1950s prints. Both were those textured cardboard prints popular in the 50s,60s,70s, 80s, and even to date, of famous master's works. It is the sort of stuff that is sold for "cheap" prices to the masses by stores of the Woolworth's/Woolco/K-Mart/Wal-Mart ilk.
The one I was after was a copy of one of a series of Van Gogh's Sunflowers.
Why the heck would I want one of those???
I know, you are thinking: "Surely it HAD to be temporary insanity!"
A sharp eye, knowledge and experience made me want it.
Or, rather, what was HIDDEN in it!
You see, when I flipped it over, I could see a surface tear on the cardboard backing.
In the shape of the mark that an "easel back" piece had been fastened.
And I could see that the cardboard had some writing on the other side, via a spot where I could lift it ever so slightly. But, if I got looking TOO close, or even yanking out some of the fasteners, and pulling it right out of the frame would make my observation and discovery too obvious....and potentially incur the wrath of a consignor, auctioneer, etc.
Plus, old cardboard can be less than flexible...sometimes even so brittle it will crumble upon being lifted with any sort of strain on it.
So, I had to decide if I was going to gamble on it.
For $2 or $4, it is what I call a "lottery ticket"....a "sort of" a gamble....though, the odds are better due to the knowledge I have of its potential contents. About all I could make out was some blue lettering, and what I recognized right away as the winged boot logo Goodyear uses.
I also had a strong feeling it had been trimmed, however, which will make the value plummet, if not eliminate it from being any more than a chunk of worthless cardboard. Upon close inspection, I recognized that one edge was not 100% straight, and had a few stray strands of cardboard on its edge, like small tails...tell-tale tails...of a not 100% steady hand, with a razor knife in it.
But, these sorts of pictures sell for next to nothing at auctions...shouldn't have to pay more than $5, TOPS.
The auctioneer, well aware of the fact they sell for little, put two pictures together as a lot. Both were as worthless as the other for what they were. One had a fancy "carved" frame that was semi-attractive, in an old, faux antique-ish sort of way.
Bidding started at $2...and ended with me owning them at $20.00.
Hmmm.....Seems that I lost control of my mind...maybe it WAS temporary insanity.
Well, not really...I let my curiosity overtake intelligence, knowledge, experience and gut. A rookie mistake, but one which long time vets will still make from time to time. Usually 4 beats 1, but curiosity is powerful.
Frankly, when it is under control, it is a good thing when picking...but sometimes it can be a bad thing at auctions.
Only one other bidder was bidding.....and I quickly figured out it may have been my buddy sitting in the back with his family.
I couldn't figure out why he would bid...the odds were against it 1000 to 1....
I went right over with the 2 pieces, and as it turned out his wife wanted the Van Gogh print. What she wants she will get, which, being married, also, I understand. Good to keep the wife happy, especially after sitting in a hall of people, partly bored, and with a small baby to tend for. If she isn't kept happy, odds are he won't be attending many more auctions, with or without her!
Twenty bucks is a small price to pay for that....but I outbid him....unfortunately.
We made a deal to split the cost, and I would keep the cardboard backing of the Van Gogh and the other picture, which I really did not want. He'd get the Van Gogh and his wife would be happy.
I took it apart there, and he gained some knowledge that may serve him well in the future.
I gained a cut, and thus worthless, chunk of 1950s cardboard, that used to be a collectible, vintage sign. I gifted it back to him on the spot, as it was worth more as backing for that picture. It saved him the hassle of cutting a new piece.
Let that be a lesson to you......actually, TWO lessons! One will save you money the other will make you money.
Plus, I am going to toss in a THIRD lesson...but you will have to read the next post for that one.