Auction Post Mortem for Thursday 2/29/2024 - Flops, Floats, and Flights

Auction Post Mortem for Thursday 2/29/2024 - Flops, Floats, and Flights

Watch the auction here.

With a milder-than-normal auction last week, I really wanted this week's show to be a blockbuster to pick up some of the slack. Its important to keep enough cash on hand to be able to say "YES!" to every awesome buying opportunity that comes my way, and a few slow auctions in a row can really get in the way of that. So I hit the ground running this past week to put together a slate of items that would build back up reserves so I'm in a strong position to buy all the coolest stuff I can as we enter the spring.

I had high hopes for this past weekend, as there were many auctions within 100 miles of here on Live Auctioneers and Invaluable that had really interesting items. Everything from a taxidermy wolverine to an antique life-size anatomical human model to a 19th century Masonic entryway arch. I had dozens of bids out, and even went to one of these live-broadcast auctions in person, hoping to avoid the online buyers premium hikes. My hopes to get some of these great items into my hands and into the hands of my customers were dashed pretty badly, as I got outbid on just about everything. The auction I drove two hours to in Connecticut on Saturday proved to be a rare strikeout for me - I left with nothing. I'm not sure who was buying all this stuff, but they had deeper pockets than I do, and if they were buying to resell, their asking prices are going to be in the stratosphere.

After the Connecticut auction proved to be a bust, I hoped that an additional two hour drive into New York to an evening auction would help to make up for a long day with nothing to show for it. I chatted with the New York auctioneer for a few moments before show time when she checked me in and got me my number. Come bidding time, I found she was extremely effective at egging her audience on to keep the bidding going, referring to me by my first name many times to get me to raise my paddle again. I fell right into this trap, and ended up overpaying for lots of items as a result. At the end of the day, I ran up a huge bill with not a whole lot to show for it. The only thing worse than heading home with nothing is heading home with a lot of overpriced junk. Still, I got some good barn sale items that I hope will make up for some of my questionable purchases, like a Victorian water color of doves that I bought for $50 plus a 16% buyers premium, and ended up selling for only $25 in my auction last night. That's a flop.

My Saturday auction double header was an exhausting 16 hour day on the road, so when my 4am alarm went off to wake me up for the Sunday flea markets the next day, I hit snooze 'til 7am, which I never do. Everyone at my local antique market made sure to remind me that I was late when I showed up three hours after my normal 5am arrival time. That said, showing up late saved me a $20 early buying fee at the first market I went to, and a $30 early buying fee at the second, and I still managed to find plenty of great stuff, with multiple dealers having "tucked" things they had me in mind for. I might have to rethink my early Sunday morning strategy. After those first couple markets, I hit the road across New Hampshire to a higher end antique show in Hampton, then hopped down to Massachusetts to pick up from an auction in Andover.

Monday had me driving three hours north, almost to Burlington, Vermont, to pick up from an auction I had won a few lots at earlier in the weekend. I had planned for this to be a longer day of driving, retracing my steps into Connecticut and New York, but, for better or for worse, I got outbid on those auctions. After my Vermont auction pickup, I stuffed my face with a signature wet burrito from Mad Taco, and made the trek home.

Throughout the week, consignments came trickling in from a few regular customers to add to what I had already put together for the week. If anyone reading would like to consign, you can check out my consignment highlight on Instagram, or click here for more info. I was really encouraged by this first round of solicited consignments, though in retrospect perhaps I should have been a little more selective when it comes to the size of items I accept, as a few larger items came in that proved to be shipping challenges. I'm looking forward to expanding the consignment side of my business, and hope that the results of my auctions keep stuff coming in.

Anyways, this is a whole lot of backstory that could just have been summed up by saying that a lot - of time, of gas, of miles, of money, of effort - went into putting this week's auction together. I am very happy to say that it really paid off, with really strong results on higher-end items, and somewhat mild results on some of the smaller, filler items. Let's have a look at some flops, floats, and flights.

Flight: Sideshow & Circus Performer CDV Photos

Purchased $198, Sold $1614

These photos did a lot of heavy lifting in this week's auction. The results were incredibly strong, and helped to pick up some of the slack of the mid-range items that were maybe a little sluggish. All of these photos came in a small family CDV and tintype photo album that I got at a local online auction for $165 plus a 20% buyer's premium. In total, including $75 for the album full of general estate photos, this purchase grossed a windfall of $1614. I didn't do much research on these photos when I got them in, figuring that a $25 start bid for each was enough to protect my investment and make a little extra cash. So needless to say, when individual photos started bringing in upwards of $200, I was extremely pleasantly surprised. Here are some of the individual results:

Henrik Brustad, "The Norwegian Giant," Sold $230

Che Mah "The Chinese Dwarf," Sold $100

Unknown Albino Girl, Sold $165

Illavaro the Egyptian, Sold $280

Miss Annie Jones, Bearded Lady, Sold $265

The Sutherland Seven Sisters, Two CDV Lot, Sold $314

Eli Bowen, "The Legless Wonder," Sold $60

Unnamed Big Lady, Sold $50

Waino and Plutano, Sold $50

Isaac Sprague, "The Thin Man," Sold $25

Flop: Medical Antiques and Oddities

I had a number of medical antiques and oddities in this week's auction. Historically, those items do quite well and are a strong draw. However, I felt that the bidding on this week's selection was a bit sluggish. Not everything fell totally flat, but I am giving the overall category the flop designation this week, just because the performance of these items was enough to make me second-guess high-dollar investments in this area for next time. Here are some individual results:

Flop: Antique Bone Handled Tooth Extractor / Tooth Key & Root Elevator; Purchased $140, Sold $100

I purchased this tooth extractor, along with a worn root elevator tool, at my local antique market for $140. I didn't expect that I would make much money on the lot, but I know that these are a sought after oddity, and something that I don't see very often. The last tooth extractor I had like this one sold for $150. My hope was that I could replicate this result, and sell the root elevator, which had some condition issues, for a little more to help pick up the slack. Sadly, they both fell totally flat, with the tooth extractor bringing just $90, and the elevator bringing only $10, amounting to a $40 loss, plus expenses. Not a great result, and I'll definitely think twice before I spend $100+ for one of these again.

Flop: Frank S. Betz Company Rectal Dilators with Instructions; Purchased $40, Sold $35

Rectal dilators are a favorite entry level oddity among collectors, with the most common ones being the black set manufactured by Dr. Young, which usually go for $100 to $125. So when I saw this set that I had never seen before, and my dealer friend gave me a $40 price, I didn't hesitate. Next time, I probably will (hesitate), because these brought just $35 come auction time. Maybe it was the boring box that held them back.

Flop: Illustrated French Medical Dictionary; Purchased $5, Sold $55

I sold this dictionary for 11X what I paid for it, so giving this book the flop designation is hereby officially not a complaint. It was a good money maker. That said, I thought the illustrations in this dictionary were really, really cool, and hoped it might even bring as much as $200. But books with sparsely placed illustrations are hard to show on my platform, and take a long time to look through. I think that if I had had this on a table at an oddities market with a high price tag on it, and a prospective buyer took the time to go through and see each detailed image, they might be more easily convinced of its value. I think this auction result fell short, but am happy nonetheless that I made my little chunk of money, and know the buyer who bought this will have great success reselling.

Float: Belladonna Apothecary Poison Bottle; Purchased $40, Sold $80

This was the sole item that I got from the higher end antique show I went to this past weekend in Hampton, NH. With the $10 admission fee, I guess you could say this bottle really cost me $50. I have been looking for a good belladonna bottle for a while, after almost getting duped by a repro that had been sitting at a local antique store for many months. Commenters while this green beauty were live during the auction noted the condition of its label. I think that helped it along to this $80 result, a doubling of my investment. I think there's a bit more room for money to be made on this bottle, so I am giving it the float designation. I had a personal flop, however, when I was packaging it up - the label fell off and was damaged. I was able to carefully reattach it, but not without some fresh wear. I checked in with the buyer who elected for a 50% refund, still wanting the bottle. So after that little blunder, I guess I'm out my ten dollar admission fee, but a great customer got a great item at an even better price.

Flight: 1848 Mourning Lithograph

Purchased as Part of a $123 lot, Sold $370

A few weeks back I was at a fancy antique show and a gentleman had a mourning lithograph half as good as this one and without a frame hanging out in his booth. I am always after these, and I have a ton of frames, so I asked for a price. He told me $150, which I thought was kind of nuts for a print with no frame, but I later went back and countered with $100. That's still more than I would like to pay for a piece of paper that I need to bring to the next level, but there would be a little meat left on the bone. He rejected my offer, and I moved on. I suspect he's going to be hanging onto that for a long time.

All this is to say that when I scored a lot of five antique Currier and Ives lithographs, including this mourning lithograph, in a competitive online auction in Vermont for $100, I was over the moon. These typically bring $150 to $250 in my auction, so I would have paid the $100 for the mourning litho alone. The other four, though, are great, because selling them for $25 each will pay for the lot, and make the incredibly strong $370 windfall from this mourning one all gravy. I'll definitely continue to seek out more of these... though I probably still won't pay $150 for one without a frame.

Flight: Seth Thomas Guardian Angel Clock

Purchased $123, Sold $300

I don't know why I keep doubting my clocks. I have had a couple over the years that have fallen flat, so I worried that the same would happen with this one. But like with the 18th century grandfather clock works I had a few weeks back, this one soared. The $300 result was just enough past the $250 I had hoped it would bring to earn it the flight designation this week. I purchased this clock in the same online auction in Vermont where I got the mourning lithograph above for $100, plus a 23% buyer's premium. The $300 result, combined with the result from the mourning litho, definitely made that day-long trip up to Vermont worth it.

Float: Clown Stuff

I had a considerable amount of clown stuff come in this week from a consignor. I haven't been doing too many clown related items lately, but I welcomed the change of pace, and these items were really fun. I thought almost everything in the lot performed well, though two larger items - a massive clown face embroidery, and a puppet with a 40" custom stand - I hoped would do slightly better to justify the high cost of shipping them to their auction buyers. The embroidery, which will necessitate its own box, brought just $25. The fact that it fell flat didn't really surprise me, being as it was more modern and not quite as flashy as some of the other clown goods. The Effanbee Clippo the Clown Marionette on custom stand brought $75, which I thought was right on par for the value of the doll, but I hoped the stand would help to push it one step further. Other items included a Western Germany Jimmy the Acrobat toy, which brought a strong $80, and a slightly less-cool, less-good-condition Toe Joe Acrobatic Clown which brought a predictably more mild $45. A great pair of vintage clown shoes brought $50, which was about what I expected, though I thought there was potential they could take off and bring considerably more.

Other Items of Note

Flight: Pair of Raphael Kirchner House of Art, NY Art Deco Risque Prints; Consigned, Sold $200

Float: That Devil Rag Framed Sheet Music; Personal Collection, Sold $95

Flop: Victorian Six-Sided Little Red Riding Hood Lithographed Block Puzzle; Purchased $40, Sold $40

Flight: Teeny Tiny Little Carved Skull Charm; Purchased $15, Sold $40

Flop: Grouping of 5 Binders of Gravestone Catalogues; Purchased $100, Sold $125

Float: Popeye Pipe Toss Game; Purchased $10, Sold $25

Flop: Punch and Judy Cast Iron Door Stops, Pair; Purchased $25, Sold $50

Flop: Victorian Watercolor of Doves; Purchased $50, Sold $25

Float: Hand Carved Wood Dog Head Inkwell; Purchased $30, Sold $52

Float: Hand Carved Wood Lion of Lucerne Plaque; Purchased $10, Sold $30

Float: Antique Brass Censer; Consigned, Sold $90

Flight: Vintage Hand Made Leather Masonic Wallet; Consigned, Sold $47

Float: Antique Hand Forged Lock with Key; Consigned, Sold $85

Flop: Antique Hand Forged Lock without Key; Cosigned, Sold $25 Each

Flight: Lot of Carnival Tickets; Consigned, Sold $55

Flop: Odd Fellows FLT Grave Marker; Purchased $20, Sold $25

Float: Antique German Board Game with Devil on Cover; Purchased $10, Sold $45

Flop: Antique Stanhope Cross; Purchased in $70 Lot, Sold $20

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1 comment

When I looked up the Punch & Judy doorstops, I was shocked to see what the pair, & even one, was going for… I can’t remember who ended up with the set, but they got the deal of the century.


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