Chick Wit: Going, going, gonzo

Posted: December 09, 2013

I've always been addicted to garage sales and flea markets, but it turns out they were gateway drugs.

Now I'm hooked on auctions.

We begin a year ago, when I noticed there was an antiques auction in my neighborhood and I stopped by. I'm no antiques expert, but I like old things.

Like me.

So I walked into the auction, took a seat, and watched as the auctioneer showed slides of great furniture. Most of it was from the Philadelphia area, circa 1800s. People made bids by raising white cards, and when the bidding stopped, the prices weren't high at all.

Surprise ending, right?

I watched a beautiful mahogany end table from 1780 sell for $250.

What? Any piece of real, solid mahogany from 1780 is worth $250, whether it's a table or a surfboard.

Because it's a deal.

I watched equally amazed as a walnut tea table from 1760 went for $250.

Incredible!

I don't drink tea and I don't need a tea table, but so what? It was sad to see this great wood furniture go for such a low price, especially to someone not me.

That's what I started thinking, watching the auction. That the end tables deserved to be bought. That the chest of drawers needed a forever home.

I'd be rescuing this old authentic stuff, not merely buying it.

I'd be preserving the history of this great nation.

You can thank me anytime, United States.

So now I've discovered a whole new way of buying stuff I never wanted before I saw it for so cheap.

For example, take today. I went to the auction for a boot scrape, which is a metal thing that sits outside your front door and you use it to scrape mud off your shoes before you track it around your house. You may not think I need a boot scrape, but I will remind you I live with five dogs, so I'm always stepping in something outside.

By the way, what I'm stepping in is never mud.

But "boot scrape" is a nicer term than "poop scrape."

So I got the boot scrape at the auction and was just about to leave when I couldn't believe the low prices that people were bidding for a mahogany writing table from 1830 with slant top and four drawers with brass pulls.

If you don't know the pull of a brass pull, I can't explain it to you.

Plus, it was called a writing desk, and I'm a writer.

I thought to myself, how can you buy a real mahogany writing desk for only $200?

Or more accurately, how could you not?

So I raised my hand.

And I'm now the proud owner of a mahogany writing desk. Never mind that I write with a laptop, so the desk's slant top is of no use.

I'm sure it will come in handy next time I use my quill.

Also, the desk is on a colonial scale, so no normal chair will fit under it. Much less an ergonomic chair.

So it's not an economic desk.

But still, I put my printer on it, and it was a steal.

Of course, not everything at an auction is cheap, but you don't have to buy it, and going to an auction has entertainment value. For example, somebody at the auction bought a stuffed mountain goat for $1,200.

But I don't judge.

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

And I treasure all my trash.


Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's most recent collection of humorous essays is "Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim." Look for Lisa's new novel, "Accused," in stores now.

lisa@scottoline.com.

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