Going, Going, Gone….
In our never-ending quest for new stock, my E-bay bookselling buddy and I went to our first auction. Oh, yes, we’d known about auctions for years, but we’d never been to one.
Thanks to my column in Bookthink I received an e-mail from an Austin bookseller telling me that L.L. Auctions had one on their calender that promised “children’s books”.
Since we were total auction novices, I e-mailed Lisa, the owner and asked her some rather basic questions. Her response was so friendly and welcoming that we decided to give it a whirl.
The inventory list said their were four “lots” of books. We had no idea what a lot consisted off, but we emptied my car and on a grey, cool Sunday, we took off for La Marque, a small town south of Houston. La Marque is a small town consisting of down at the heel buildings, failed businesses and many trailers, all in poor repair.
We pulled up to the auction site, a small warehouse / small business park. The tenants seemed to have forgotten to pay their electric bill and their rent, hence the auction. They also hadn’t paid for plumbing – the facilities consisted of a porta potty. We were assured there was no running water on site (wrong – more on that later).
The interior was dim and dusty and stacked almost to the ceiling with everything, including the kitchen sink. School desks, old air conditioners, antique furniture, a canoe, football uniforms, dusty toys, old clothes, dishes, the valuable, the trivial, the worthless and the forgotten.
We found our first “lot” in a corner -some 50 unwieldy boxes of books, books and more books. We dug into a few and they appeared to be the cast offs of an old elementary school. The other lots were equally large and the contents appeared to be similar.
Most of the folks were regulars – they stood around chain smoking and chatting of past auctions and bragging on their E-bay sales. Many had the “ex biker look” - beards, gimme caps, beer bellies, bad teeth accompanied by that “dipped lightly in grease” aura. Everyone was quite friendly and it was interesting to listen to their stories.
The list of goods was long we settled in for a long wait. Lisa was efficient, organized and amusing and she moved along quickly. Most of the items went for pennies on the dollar – it was definitely a place to pick up some bargains.
While there was a great deal of interest in some tubs of old videos, nobody appeared to want the books and we ended up with 3 lots. By this time, it was 3pm and we could see a storm brewing on the horizon.
We ripped open the first box and started culling. Some gems, much, much, much chaff. Due to space and time constraints, we knew we could only take the books worth listing and that we would have to consign the others to a dumpster. Luckily, for us, many of the other buyers had a serious case of Packrat and started gathering up what we’d left behind. We happily told them to take whatever they wanted. My friend made a quick call to her husband and he gamely agreed to drive down and help us out.
In the midst of it all we discovered there was indeed running water in the building. A cheap PVC spigot broke off a pipe and water shot out in a 50 foot stream. People scurried to grab their items, ran for buckets and searched futilely for the shut off valve. This did not exist because there was not supposed to be any running water in the first place. One inch of water soon covered the floors and started streaming out the doors and into the parking lot.
A rumble of thunder sounded and became apparent there was going to be water both underfoot and overhead. We loaded up our cars – the increasing dim light made it impossible to continue sorting and headed out as the first drops began to fall.
Said drops quickly became a downpour, a deluge and a monsoon. Hunger had set in so we crept along the freeway until we saw a promising looking Mexican restaurant.
Chips, queso and a potent Margarita quickly improved our outlook on life.
Would we do it again? In a heartbeat, only this time we are bringing our own book boxes, a box cutter, a dolly a flashlight and our rubber boots!