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Hi:

I have been frequenting auctions recently and great deals can be had on things. Many utilitarian items go for a song: things like linens, kitchen gear, books, hand tools.

Some recent examples of my purchases:

Four 3/8 inch chuck hand drills for $2. Thats $2 for all of them. Three worked.

Piles of blankets and sheets for $1. I haven't looked too closely yet, but I'd say I have at least a half dozen sheet sets and a half dozen blankets for my $2.

A selection of books $2 each.

Of course there is always some regretable buys too. Like the time I was biding on some metric combination wrenches. Problem was, they weren't a set, there were four 19 mm and four 23 mm. A complete waste of money.

One can do well on bigger purchase too. I picked up a plow and disc cheap the last time out.

Sometimes things go for silly prices. Often I want something for utilitarian purposes, but am bidding against collectors. I wanted an apple press and would happily have paid $100, but two women bid it up to $450. Clean, new non rusted apple presses can be had for about the same money.

You do have to be prepared to make a day of it though, so it is best if you enjoy the hunt and the social aspect. If you can work an extra shift that day, the job is likely the better economic choice.

I am reporting on my experiences with rural, mostly estate auctions. I have no idea how it works in the city.

hboy43
 

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Interesting idea. I have never attended an auction, although there is an auction house right up the street from where I live (in the city). My impression has always been that they deal in luxeries - art, jewlery, collectables, etc. I didn't know they had regular household items there.

But maybe that's the difference between a rural and city auction?
 

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My wife's been itching to go to a country auction for a while now, and I think I'd rather enjoy it myself. Fair chance of picking up some interesting items and useful tools on the cheap.

Probably do quite a bit better in a country setting. The sellers have lower expectations, and the buyers are more conservative with money.
 

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I've been to a few of these estate auctions hunting around for ivory carvings, which I collect. It does seem that you can buy used articles very cheap -- I've seen silver utensils go for a song and so many items attracting no bids at all. But then you also have to be careful not to get too excited and end up going home with a large pile of stuff.
 

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Yes, I would echo CC's warning.

The danger of auctions is that you aren't generally going there to find a specific item you need, because unless you've seen a preview you don't know what's going to be available. That paves the way for impulse buys; you can end up picking up a bunch of stuff that you think you might need someday but never end up using.

I prefer the "surgical strike" method of shopping: I wait until I need something, find out where I can get it, go there and buy the thing and leave.
 

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I'm looking for new dining room furniture and my dad suggested I try a furniture auction. At first the idea itself was enough to make my jaw hit the floor.

I can't even count the number of friends I know who have filled their homes with brand new furniture, only to replace it all 5 years later when they moved into a bigger home (or sometimes just because it wasn't stylish enough). Where does all that furniture go? Does anyone here have any experience with the lightly used (but not antique) furniture market? Has anyone ever purchased furniture from an auction? How were the prices?
 

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I haven't bought furniture at auctions, but a sizeable portion of my furniture was purchased at flea markets and yard sales. You have the advantage there that prices are not generally bid up, but rather down ;-)

I have an excellent desk here that I bought for $25, a set of four wooden chairs that I got for $40 total and have been using for the past 25 years, an old elementary school library card catalogue that I got for free (I use it to store my old cassettes, which fit perfectly), and a few bookcases that I picked up for $15 or $20 each. I also bought a pocket watch at a flea market in the mid 1980s; it was made in 1910 and restored by a hobbyist; I've been using it ever since (until I got a cellphone, which now serves as my watch) and it keeps perfect time. It cost me $30.

Flea markets and yard sales are great ways to get decent stuff for very cheap. Again you have to watch out for impulse buys, but with furniture you usually know what you need and can spot it sitting out there at a yard sale when you drive by -- most of my furniture was purchased that way.

My stepmother once asked me before the holidays what my "decor" was, since she wanted to get something that matched our home...my reply was "Early Attic." It's good, solid stuff, though, and I doubt I'll ever have to replace any of this furniture in my lifetime.
 

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http://www.rbauction.com/index_ind.jsp

In Toronto I have been to the equipment auction with my Dad. They have so many different things there not listed. You never know what you find. It's amazing.

Of course there's heavy equipment but for regular folk there's things like lawn mowers, snow blowers, chain saws, tools. It's neat just to walk around
 

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CC, ivory carvings are a wonderful thing to collect. I'd imagine that only the museum-quality pieces are priced to the moon already, while most folks don't yet realize that ivory shipments have been embargoed for several years now, so there won't be any more ivory items for sale.

what i am wondering is whether there is a simple test to establish whether an object is real ivory or plastic, a test that will not damage the ivory in any possible way.
 

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CC, ivory carvings are a wonderful thing to collect. I'd imagine that only the museum-quality pieces are priced to the moon already, while most folks don't yet realize that ivory shipments have been embargoed for several years now, so there won't be any more ivory items for sale.

what i am wondering is whether there is a simple test to establish whether an object is real ivory or plastic, a test that will not damage the ivory in any possible way.
I collect Indian carvings, which are not as expensive as Japanese netsuke. I do find these carvings in estate sales but unfortunately, they are mostly chipped or cracked. The pieces in excellent condition sell for a few hundred dollars.

Once you start collecting, you can tell ivory from plastic by just looking at a carving.
 

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hello, CC late at night

actually, i'm fairly knowledgeable about antiques.

in my family we have some pieces brought back by an ancestor from India and what was then Ceylon nearly a century ago.

one of these pieces is a mystery necklace. Yes, of course i can tell the difference 99.99999% of the time, but the mystery necklace has me baffled because its weight is a bit too light for ivory. Ivory is bone issue, so generally there's a certain heft in the hand.

the necklace is a graded series of intricately carved balls. It's possible that these are more hollow inside than i'd thought, which would account for the light weight of the necklace. The workmanship is superb, exactly what you'd expect of something made probably before WWI, or certainly no later than the 1920s. There's a well-carved tiny ivory clasp - two little parts that screw together. All this suggests that the necklace is indeed ivory, and its components were carved by hand. On the other hand, the light weight has always puzzled myself and even other knowledgeable people.

the way i see it, there's probably a chemical test that would dissolve plastic, but it would probably also mark, stain or harm ivory. That's why i was wondering if there's a non-harmful test.

btw did you know there was a huge vogue, around the 1920s i believe, in manufacturing pale bone-coloured items from early plastic that were called "Frency ivory." You'll see these often at your estate sales. Things like hairbrush and comb sets, hand mirrors, jewellery and powder boxes, and so on. At a distance they look rather like real ivory. But they never feel like the real thing from the elephant's tusk. For one thing, the surfaces of french ivory are far too slick and smooth.

these items were made for people who couldn't afford real ivory. I've never seen plastic french ivory used for cutlery handles or for kitchen and dining-room objects as real ivory was, because it wouldn't have been durable enough - and also it probably is extremely flammable.
 

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I've been to a few of these estate auctions hunting around for ivory carvings, which I collect. It does seem that you can buy used articles very cheap -- I've seen silver utensils go for a song and so many items attracting no bids at all. But then you also have to be careful not to get too excited and end up going home with a large pile of stuff.
What about online actions like ebay or craigslist? We have started buying somethings and also selling things we no longer want. It is kind of fun too.

Nice thing compared to estate auctions is you can search for exactly what you want; I guess you can still get distracted and buy stuff you had no plan on buying at first though.

Only buying warning so far from me would be to ensure you work with sellers that do not sell you something for $1 and then say thay they want $20 to ship it, when it could really be shipped for $5.
 
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