I’m not sure if it has anything to do with our self-imposed Stay At Home order, but last week I found myself more than just casually interested in a piece of Arts and Crafts furniture being offered at Brunk Auctions here in Asheville.
Now, it is safe to say I have been attending auctions since I was 18 years old, so they have always been a part of my adult life. I have sold items through auction, I have bought items through auction, and I have come away from auctions empty-handed, so I was slightly bemused at myself for getting so pumped up over a fine — but not necessarily rare — example of Arts and Crafts furniture.
And I was enjoying the anticipation — and the adrenaline rush I could feel building day by day.
The piece was a large trestle dining room table manufactured by L. & J.G. Stickley. By large, I do mean large: six feet long and nearly four feet wide. You would assume that anyone interested in this large of a table would have a need for a large dining room table, but that is what puzzled me, as we already have an even larger, one-of-a-kind dining room table made by the Tryon Toy Makers & Wood Carvers.
Yet I found myself in the days leading up to the sale walking around our house and my office with a tape measure, trying to determine just where I could squeeze in this mammoth table, a table which I actually had no need for.
I finally settled on placing it in the middle of my already crowded office, where I currently have a 60” Stickley desk flanked by two 48” library tables, not to mention a second flat-topped desk, my father’s dropfront desk, a Charles Stickley china cabinet, and a 60” Gustav Stickley two-door bookcase. Not to mention two drafting tables, three tall oak filing cabinets, a leather couch, and an assortment of chairs, plus Kate’s desk, work table, and two bookcases.
Like I said, I had no need for this table.
And to give myself yet another reason not to even consider bidding on it, our Stay At Home order prevented me from even inspecting it in person. Who spends two thousand dollars on something he hasn’t even seen?
Someone in confinement?
Or a collecting addict…?
The table was scheduled to come up for telephone and online bidding at 12:30pm Saturday. I may have pretended to have been working that morning, but, trust me, I got nothing done. I kept checking back with the online auction service, just making sure my table wasn’t coming up sooner than expected.
Not totally trusting the internet, I had reserved a phone line with Brunk’s. A few lots before the table came up, a young woman by the name of Lydia called me from her home, where she, like most of the auction staff, was working remotely via Zoom. I opened the bidding with her at $500, then sat back and watched my computer screen.
I wasn’t worried as three of us ran the bids in one hundred dollar increments into the $1,000-$2,000 pre-sale estimate range. At $1,500 I again leaned back and told Lydia I was going to pause and see where my competitors were going to take this.
“Well,” she replied. “It’s just the two of you.”
In other words, bid or get off the phone.
I had done some calculations on a pad of paper placed next to my laptop, showing me exactly how much I would be paying with each bid once the 23% buyer’s premium was added to the hammer price. I had no intention of paying more than a total of $2,000 for the table, but within a matter of seconds I was agreeing to a bid of $2,400. When my competitor raised me yet again, I leaned back once more — and let it go.
And just like that, it was over.
The adrenaline rush was gone. The catalog I had poured over for days was now yesterday’s news. Getting the table picked up during a Stay At Home order was now somebody else’s concern, as well as finding a few strong men to dismantle and squeeze it up the stairs, where I can now admit it would have simply overwhelmed the room.
Any Sunday morning remorse?
Not a bit.
I got to enjoy the high — without paying the price.
Until next week,
“If you keep your emotions locked in a box, then when you want to open it one day you’ll find that they’re gone.” ― M.D. Arnold