Saturday, November 28, 2009

Applauding at Auctions

As much as I dislike shopping, I love browsing at garage sales and junky "antique malls," and going to auctions. We have quite a few auction companies in town, including one "high end" house that alternates between really expensive stuff and regular monthly auctions featuring things that normal people might buy. A month or so ago, we went one of the chi-chi auctions.

We observed a ritual that never ceases to baffle me: applauding when something goes for a high price. There was a cool mid-century coffee table by some designer I have never heard of that inspired a sedate bidding frenzy, both from people in the audience and bidders on the phone. The table started at something like $10,000 and by the time it was all over, it went for an amazing $40,000. As soon as the final gavel fell, the crowd broke out in spontaneous applause. Now, this wasn't some sophisticated Paris or New York audience dressed in haute couture. There wasn't a lovely spy lurking in the background, like in the movies. It was a rather frumpy looking mid-western crowd, with lots of jeans, sweat shirts, and baseball caps. Few of them looked like they could spend $40,000 on a table (although looks can be deceiving, I know.) Nonetheless, they all applauded.

Exactly what, I wonder, are people applauding in such a situation? The object itself, which has achieved such a high value? The designer or artist, probably long dead, whose work has inspired such a frenzy of desire? The auction house, for its foresight in attracting the right crowd? Or are they applauding Mr. or Ms. Deep Pockets, that wealthy person who can afford to spend $40,000 on a table, as if to say "Bravo! Way to go for earning so much money that you can afford to spend so much! We admire you! We envy you!"

Maybe its a combination of all of these things. I don't know.

But I do know that we didn't get any applause for our little purchases, which totaled $150. Even so, I was pretty happy with them.

First, we bought four mid-century dining chairs that look great with our 50's dining table. I found the table and original chairs about 15 years ago at a garage sale for $90. The chairs, never the sturdiest, have gotten rickety, and one broke when a 300-pound friend sat in it. (I felt so bad for her! She wasn't hurt, but it must have been humiliating.) The new chairs more or less match the table and are very heavy and sturdy. I love the interesting lines they have ... you can't tell from this photo, but the wood on the sides creates a little triangle shape, and the back is all wood. At $12.50 apiece, I think they were a steal, even though I'll need to recover them.

And, I could not resist buying a set of Russel Wright Modern American dinnerware. My mother had these dishes in this exact color when I was growing up. They are sleek, cool, and incredibly mod. Plus, they remind me of mom. She never had much money to spend on herself or home decor, but she managed to decorate our tiny house with style. These dishes will remind me of her every time we use them. I plan to use them as our every day dishes. I was pleased to get the set for an amazing $100. It's not a full set-- there are 8 dinner and bread plates, and 12 cups and saucers. To have a complete set, I'll need to find the serving bowls and a few other pieces. But that will be a fun endeavor -- something to look for at junk sales! Read more!

Friday, November 27, 2009

After a Long Hiatus, I'm Back

I am surprised to see that I still have any followers at all, after taking a long, unannounced and unplanned hiatus from the world of blogs. I didn't really plan to stop blogging, or to stop reading blogs, and no great trauma or drama has occurred in my life. It seems that I went a week without writing, and then that stretched into two, and before I knew it, I was out of the habit altogether. Because I wasn't visiting my blog, I got behind on reading all the blogs I followed. But I miss reading everyone's blogs, so now I'm back. I'm going to read as much as I can, and resume posting as well. I'm looking forward to catching up! Read more!