Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Entering the World of Live Estate Auctions

It's been a long time since I've been to a live auction. For 12 years I attended them weekly and often more than one a week. I was part of the gang that hung out at the back, trying to bid undetected.

That changed when I had my first daughter. I learned that auctions are great for newborns that sleep all the time but a disaster for wiggly toddlers. I soon stopped attending and just got used to having my weekends to myself again.

These Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls sold for $1300.

This past Sunday I reentered that world I'd once held so dear. (My husband was hanging out with the kids for the day) My uncle & I drove 2 1/2 hours to an antique estate auction being held by one of my favorite auction houses. The auction was due to start at 1, so we arrived at 12:15 to have time to preview what was being offered.

Very old Georgian Period doll sold for $3500

The auction contained a toy collectors estate. Dolls of all kinds, dating back to the Georgian Era of the 19th century. Black Americana toys, Victorian mechanical toys, & lots of old teddy bears.

Folk Art doll that went for over $5k

The doll collectors came out in force. I watched as folk art dolls made around 1910 went for $5000. (note to self: pay attention to old folk art toys!) I saw the Black Americana toys get skipped over for lack of interest. (which illustrates how subjective value is-with the right audience these toys should have gone for thousands)

Black Americana folk art dolls didn't sell

I was surprised to see a Victorian mechanical rocking chair toy not getting bids. The auctioneer kept offering it lower and lower. Just as they were about to pass it I raised my paddle. I won! I wasn't planning on buying her, but I'm sure glad I did. She has the sweetest hand painted porcelain face. Her body has the original clothing, all her arms & legs and she sits in a wooden rocking chair. When gently wound she rocks back and forth with a loud tick tock sound.

Victorian Mechanical Toy that I won! 

Then they came to the teddy bears. I watched as the ones 12 inches and under in height sold. I waited. I checked out my competition. Two women were behind me bidding but they seemed more interested in the dolls. I listed and watched as they bid $11,000 between them on dolls. When the next bears came up, they were all spent and didn't even try to bid.

Small bears that sold for $300-400 each

I was waiting for the large bears. The largest was 38 inches high, giant for a bear. Perhaps he was a studio model for a store display? The others all ranged from 17 inches to 27 inches. When each one came up for bid, I waited for the British auctioneer to start. "Who will offer me $2000?" "Okay then, who will offer me $1000?" "$500?" "Come on now, no price for it!" "$250?" Okay then, who will give me $100?" Then the bids started to fly. I was able to win them for under $200 each. I couldn't believe it.

Here they are! For size I've included my 23 month old daughter. She's posing since I told her smile big.


  1. Great post! I've yet to enter an auction house but hope to do so soon! This last shot is precious!

  2. We still go to local estate auctions but find that things go higher than they use to. I manage the website for one auction house - one of my many hats, so we always go there each month. I think we go now more for the socializing than the bidding ! but there are still bargains to be found. Great score on the mechanical toy.. I love her!