Whaddyabid?

Chairs and other furniture at an auction in Tennessee
Chairs and other furniture at an auction in Tennessee

My mom tried to talk me out of going with her to an antiques auction this past weekend in Manchester, Tenn. “You’ll be bored,” she said. She knows I’m a one-and-done antiques-shopper: I take one turn around the antiques mall/estate sale/antiques shop and I’m done. But she takes her antiquing seriously —  and I’ve got a couple friends like that, too. They drive miles and miles out of their way to check a possibly interesting yard sale. Then they take hours and hours to examine Every Single Little Item at the possibly interesting sale. Of course, I come away empty-handed and they end up with bargain-priced treasures. That’s what happened Friday night at the Coffee County Fairgrounds when the contents of a going-out-of-business antiques mall were in the middle of a three-day sale. My mom had been Thursday and found some prizes, so I was intrigued with the chance to see her in action and pick up some secrets when she wanted to go back Friday. So, am I the only person who didn’t know how much fun auctions are? It was like a shopping trip, a history lesson and an evening of entertainment (how can auctioneers possibly talk that fast?) combined. I loved poking around the tables and shelves and boxes full of leftover antiques and junque. Then I sat, listened and learned: 1) Stay calm. 2) Set a bid limit and stick to it. 3) But don’t let anything you really want get away. I was awestruck by my mom’s smooth confidence and discerning eye. She would merely raise her hand a bit to bid. A horizontal slash of her hand meant a half-bid increase and a slight shake of her head meant she was done. But it wasn’t all sitting. My dad and I were the “toters,” grabbing paper and boxes to wrap up Mom’s successes — she likes glassware and linens (much easier to pack) — and then toting them out to the truck. Business as usual for my dad, but I was startled at how much physical labor antiquing demands. I got rewarded, though. My mom won this old McCoy pottery bowl I liked and then gave me one of three white-and-blue china demitasse cup-and-saucer sets she’d bought for my brother. Sold!

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