Auction Post Mortem for Thursday 5/2/2024 - Flops, Floats, and Flights

Auction Post Mortem for Thursday 5/2/2024 - Flops, Floats, and Flights

You can watch this auction here.

It's May, and today it was warm enough, and my schedule was open enough, that I could finally fire up my Harley, burn some rubber, and leave my cares behind. For the first time in months, the sound of my engine blurred out my anxiety over a divisive election in which no matter who wins, we lose; my anxiety over an ancient conflict, seemingly without solution, wreaking unimaginable suffering; my anxiety over a sluggish economy that even when its at its best only serves to enrich those at the very top with unattainable wealth; my anxiety over the advent of synthetic intelligence, and the opportunity for it to usher in a post-scarcity society that I'm sure the powers that be will forego to maintain class division and wealth concentration; my anxiety over the elusiveness of truth in a media landscape that somehow, perhaps willfully, offers up differing and opposing sets of facts aimed at generating clicks instead of knowledge. These are some of the things that have been weighing on my mind, and probably yours, no matter where you stand, over the long winter. So today I rode my bike through the winding back roads of New Hampshire and Vermont and forgot about all of this shit for a couple of hours.

I think the only other thing (okay maybe there are a few other things) besides riding my motorcycle that offers some reprieve from these tumultuous thoughts is hosting my weekly auction. For the three or four hours I'm live, I'm in the zone, experiencing shared enjoyment and enthusiasm for material culture, aesthetic and esoteric value, and art. I'm not thinking about elections or wars or AI when I'm live, I'm just thinking about what I'm going to put up next. And when something really takes off, and I get in the beat and repetition of the bid call, and the bid is climbing and climbing - then I'm really free from it all.

All that said, my auctions haven't been without some anxiety these past few weeks. April ended with a massive 50% drop in sales from March, a substantial swing that is difficult to absorb. I think part of this is due to this odd transition period where the indoor antique shows of the winter are ended, but the outdoor spring and summer flea markets haven't started up yet, so inventory can be hard to come by. Plus the auctions in my area have been pretty dry lately, with very few offering up interesting consignments where I can buy things with money left on the bone. There are plenty of auctions with boring junk, and low prices, and plenty of auctions with the coolest things you've ever seen, but untouchable prices. There doesn't seem to be much of the in between anymore.

Still, I have been pretty happy with some of the stuff I have been bringing in lately, but have found that its not quite generating the interest I would have hoped. Instagram has been my primary advertising platform, and the primary way I connect with my friends and customers, pretty much since I started Memory Hole in 2016. Lately, though, it seems I am dead in the water on there - my posts are reaching a teeny fraction of the 13.5k follower base I have invested so much time and money into building. So if there are people out there that might be interested in some of the stuff I have coming in, I pretty much have no way to reach them. That's a struggle, and its pretty demoralizing to post content that gets no engagement or feedback.

All this combined with what I might call "auction fatigue" from some of my regulars, and an increasingly competitive landscape flooded with tons of Facebook and Instagram live auctioneers, I think has been dwindling results.

I try not to let all of this discourage me, because my job still affords me an incredible amount of freedom that I wouldn't enjoy with a different occupation. Most of my days are spent professionally hanging out with Liza and Spotty, and even when I do have an all-day commitment like a big in-person auction to attend, I have a blast.

And of course, an auction like tonight's - super fun, lots of laughs and jokes and silliness, friends and regulars hanging out and spouting off in the chat, irreverent humor and more - definitely keeps me invested in the job, even if tonight's take is less than half what I might have expected an auction to bring just a couple months ago in March.

Anyways, that's enough about me and my thoughts and my anxieties about a world on the brink of apocalypse and my frustrations with an auction business with diminishing returns and my motorcycle induced white line fever: let's get on with some flops, floats, and flights!

Float: Copper Cat Weathervane

Purchased $75, Sold $250


antique copper cat weathervane topper

I picked this up at a not-so-local-to-me flea market a couple hours away in Northeastern Massachusetts. It was one of the first things I bought this past Sunday morning. I immediately loved it when I saw it, but I was really close to missing out. No matter how many times its happened to me, I still get embarrassed when I ask a price at a flea market, and have to pass because its out of my budget, or otherwise more than I want to pay. I walk away from so much cool stuff just because I couldn't muster the gumption to ask for a price. This weathervane was hanging by a wire from the door of the dealer's truck behind his tables. I decided it couldn't hurt to ask, since I had just bought a couple pieces from him, but I expected him to tell me it was in the $250 to $500 price range. When he said $75, I was very pleasantly surprised... but still not so eager that I didn't try, unsuccessfully, to haggle a little. I ended up happily paying the $75.

I definitely thought this item had some potential in my auction. Cat items are almost always hot, and I felt pretty sure I would easily recoup my investment. Still, with the way bidding has been relatively sluggish lately, I wasn't so sure it would bring the $200 to $400 I hoped it would. There was a moment when I thought this was going to sell for just $100, which would still have left me a bit of profit, but with a lot of meat left on the bone. In the end, a few bidders stepped up to the plate, and pushed the price up to $250, which I am super happy with. Solid profit for me, and still a good deal for the customer, with potential to re-sell in the future. I call that a winner.

Flight: Tin Lithograph of Saint Margaret

Purchased $20, Sold $145

antique tin lithograph of saint margaret

There was a time when I would ask $100 to $200 for these religious tin lithographs all day long. Religious art used to be one of my hottest categories, but I think the market is a bit saturated, and lots of collections are built out, so it hasn't been bringing very strong results for me. The last tin litho I had was a more common one of Saint Anne that sold for just $45. This Saint Margaret one is definitely a little more scarce - it's the first one I've had - but I was still very surprised by what I think is an extremely strong $145 result.

Flop: Handcolored 1792 Engraving of the Murder of Archbishop Becket

Purchased $38, Sold $30

Lately antique stores have been a real drag. I feel like for the most part I see the same things every time I go, even if I leave a few months in between visits. Rarely do I see something that really blows me away, and if I do, its usually considerable expensive. Occasionally I'll find something where I think "Oh I could probably get a solid $25 for that" and then flip it over to find a $40 or $50 price tag. I was just about ready to call it quits at one such antique store when I came across this interesting print of a dude being clubbed and stabbed to death. I thought it had a lot going for it - grisly subject matter, a religious and historical connection, incredible condition, professional framing, and a $42 price tag with a $4 discount if you pay with cash or check. A couple months ago I'd have been super confident this was a sure thing, but even with how things have been going, I figured I couldn't go wrong for less than $40.

I also thought it was cool enough, and had enough of a backstory, that I could put some effort into making a reel with text and the whole shabang to try to generate some interest. As I mentioned during the auction, when I was whining to my therapist that my Instagram posts weren't getting any engagement, she asked me if I was putting enough effort into my content, so I thought I would try to step up just a teeny bit. I mean the video only took me 15 minutes to make, but that's still a lot more effort than just posting a picture.

Well, anyways... All that just to lose eight bucks. I'm not really sure why this crashed and burned, or why an over 200 year old depiction of martyrdom is worth so little. But hey, you win some, and you lose some.

Float: "Hot Lips" Lighter Bust

Purchased $25, Sold $35

antique 1920s hot lips lighter

This former electric cigarette lighter turned just plain old bust statue generated more weird and funny comments about the subject's apparently suggestive pose than I expected, but generated just the amount of money I expected. If it had the innards to make it a working lighter, or was the more attractive "flapper-ish" version of this device, I might have expected it to bring more. A $10 profit is a $10 profit!

Float: Mexican Mask with Ears

Purchased $25, Sold $75

vintage wood carved mexican mask with ears

I figured this interesting mask would bring $75 to $125. Its definitely weird enough and folky enough to have an appeal, but does lack the supernatural quality (think devil horns and fangs) that I might expect would put a mask into a higher price range. I was nervous it would fall flat on its face, but was very happy we had a couple bidders who liked it enough to bid it up to a very fair $75.

Flop: Kitty Kat Photo in Frame

Purchased $10, Sold $35

antique photo of white kittens

I made $25 on this, so I am definitely super happy, but I'm still gonna give it the flop designation here. It must have been wishful thinking, but I had it in my head that this photo - nicely composed and framed - had potential to hit $50, or even $100, so I was pretty surprised when bidding stopped at $35. I think the flop here has more to do with my inflated expectations than it does with this picture actually falling short of its value. I expected too much from these very cute kitty kats.

Other Items of Note:

Float: Fantasy Pewter Light Switch Cover With Wizard; Purchased $15, Sold $25

vintage pewter light switch cover with wizard

Float: Antique Lock with Sawtooth Design; Purchased $25, Sold $30

Flop: Photo Button with Nun; Purchased $12, Sold $22

Float: Cast Iron Peacock Dish; Purchased $5, Sold $17

Float: Filigree Frame That I Literally Burnt a Hole in When I Was Soldering It; Purchased $10, Sold $26

Float: Carved Statue of Eagle Attacking Wolf; Purchased $10, Sold $25

Float: Framed Victorian Jesus Print; Purchased $10, Sold $35

antique print of jesus christ with crown of thorns

Float: Pair of Antique 1898 Paintings on Milk Glass; Purchased $25, Sold $90

Float: Antique Hand Colored Lithograph of General (Later President) Zachary Taylor; Purchased $5, Sold $40

Flight: Lot of Unframed Currier and Ives Prints; Evicted From Frames, Sold $50

Flight: 1970s Horror Make-Up Set; Purchased $5, Sold $65

Flop: Antique Girondole Candleabra; Purchased $20, Sold $20

Flop: Pair of Antique Composition Dolls; Purchased $5, Sold $20

antique comosition doll leaning up against an antique clock

Flight: Creepy Spider Pencil Sharpener; Spite Bid for $10 at an Auction; Sold $17

Flight: Sing Sing, NY Aerial Print; Purchased $5, Sold $40

Flight: Creepy Crawlers Make'N'Play Skeleton Set; Purchased $5, Sold $28

Float: Unframed Our Father Prayer Lithograph; Purchased $20, Sold $50

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