What a great time I had last night! While Brett spent the day in King George meeting with City Officials and gathering information for our permits, I spent the day working in Richmond with my current job. After work, I headed over to Midlothian, Virginia. Midlothian is a section of Richmond. My destination was a place called “Alexander’s Antiques” Alexander’s is an auction house that has antique auctions every Thursday from 6:30pm until they have sold all the lots. There are about 700 lots per auctions. That means they generally finish sometime between 2 and 4am!
They open the doors at 9:30am on Thursday morning for guests to come in and preview the items until the auction beginnings. They also preview their upcoming items on their website earlier in the week. You can preview the items and even request more information and pictures of items you are interested in. If you can’t go to the auction, they have several ways you can bid on items you are interested in. You can place a phone bid on an item. When the item comes up for auction, Alexander’s will call you. They talk with you as the bidding is going on to let you know what the bid is. If you want to bid again, you can do so. Another way is to place a silent bid. You place a bid that you want to bid up to. If your bid is the top, then you win.
I have never been to an auction before and I have to tell you I was a little intimated by it. I am not generally a shy person, but I was so unfamiliar with the process that I just didn’t know which way to turn. But the staff with Alexander’s was more than helpful. As soon as I walked in, I got so excited at the sight of so many possible purchases! I walked over to the desk and was quickly assisted in finding my way through. I filled out a bidder’s card and received my number.
The staff recommended that I place a reserve seat card on my choice of seats to make sure I had a good spot. They also explained that if I find an item that I wanted to see earlier in the auction, I could place a request card on the item so it could be moved up in the auction. They explained that I could place a small sticker on the auction tag for the items that I was interested in bidding on. And if I wanted to know about the price an item might go for, one of the staff could give me a ball park of the figure.
So I filled out two reserve seat cards and placed them on two seats in the thirds row from the front. I wanted to make sure I was close enough to see the items that were being bid on so I could catch possible imperfection I might have missed in the preview. I also was excited that my second seat was going to be filled with one of our closest friend, Terri. Terri and I have known each other for years. She had moved several years ago from Chesapeake, but had moved back to Richmond, Virginia. So every time I am in Richmond, we try to meet up. Terri is as much a history buff as I am so it is fun sharing my research with her.
Terri and Michelle
While I waited for Terri to arrive, I walked around the room looking at all the items. I found several items I wanted to bid on. I took pictures of them so I could remember them as they came up. When I finished looking at everything, I went back through. I do this every time I go to an antique store. I can’t tell you how many times I miss things when I go through the first time. I went through Alexander’s three full times before Terri arrived. Then we walked through and I pointed out items to her I was interested in.
My goal for this auction wasn’t really to buy anything. It was more to get use to the process and to see what the average prices were on different items I might need as we start filling the house. As we started to get closer to the auction, Terri introduced me to one of the owners of Alexander’s, Barbara Ann Smith. I didn’t know until Terri arrived that she knew them. Terri explained to Barbara Ann about our venture and I showed her pictures. Afterwards, Terri and I made our way to our seats.
Barbara Ann’s husband, Keith, was the emcee of the event. Her son, Alexander (who the business is named after) assist with silent and phone bids. Keith quickly explained the auction and defined terms you would need to know. Such as when multiple items come up like chairs or lamps. He explained that when you bid, you are bidding on the price for each item. So if you had two chairs, it would be the price times two. If the final bid is $25, then for the two chairs your total price would be $50. He also explained “bid and hold” items. If a bedroom suite came up and the seller would allow the suite to be separated and if any of the bidders wanted to bid on one of the items, they then would auction each item of the suite and hold them at that price. Then they totaled the ending bids for each item to get a total. Then they auction the suite as a whole. Whichever was the highest, by piece or by whole, would win the items.
Keith also explained that when an item comes up for auction, they would have staff members hold up the item so you would know what was being bid on. The staff would walk it from one side to the other. They would also turn the items over so you could see the top, sides and bottom. I was very impressed! They even turned over tables and larger items! They have a very hard working staff! No sooner had we finished with one item then they had the next ready to go.
The auction started at 6:30pm. I spent the first five and half hours just watching. I wanted to see what items would go for and what I could expect as a bidder. One thing that I had been told by another antique dealer that comes to this auction is the later you stay the better the prices. The first couple of hours are bidders who will spend the most money. So I didn’t want to bid against any of them. So I waited and watched. I even had a chance to speak to one the staff when I took a break. I asked her about when the major of the bidders started to clear out. She told me that they would start moving out around 10pm – 11pm. But then you have a second group of bidders come in around 11pm. She laughed and said it was like a second shift. And sure enough, around 10pm the crowd started thinning out. Then at around 11pm I started seeing several people coming in.
At about 12:00am, the crowds started to slow down. A few people started leaving again. At that point you could see who the antique dealers were. I had hoped that none of them wanted any of the items I had wanted. There was a few items I had wanted, one was a hot water dispenser made of German silver. That had been top on my wish list. But it had gone earlier in the auction. It sold for $180.00. It would have been more than what I could spend on it that night.
The final bids on some of the items were amazing! Some of the items that blew me away were area rugs and tables. I saw some really nice antique area rugs; ones that I would have loved to have at the plantation. Several were even over-sized which would have been perfect for us! Their average closing bid was… are you ready?… less than $300! I think the first few; I was so amazed I just sat there with my mouth gaping open.
The tables, like dining room tables that would seat anywhere from 8 to 14 went for …. here it come…. less than $200!
I saw an antique bedroom that was a beautiful Asian style. The current owner had paid somewhere around $25,000 for it. It was sold for ….. you better sit down for this one…. less than $1500! I know I just couldn’t believe it!
Finally, I got the courage up to give it a try. The first item I placed a bid on was a large mirror with a gold frame. It wasn’t something I had wished for so I wouldn’t mind if I lost it. I opened the bid with $30 on it. A couple others placed more bids and got the price up to $50. The auctioneer pointed at me and asked if I would bid $55 for it. Okay I have to tell you I was so shocked that I placed a bid that I had not even heard the others bid it up to $50. So when he pointed at me, I quickly shook my head “no” more as a panic responds than really hearing what was going on. But like I said, I wasn’t upset I lost it. I just needed to get past that panic of being involved so I could bid on the ones I wanted.
So I waited for another mirror to come up. This one was a gold frame mirror which was made of heavy wood. The mirror I had lost didn’t really look antique, which they do sell reproductions in this auction. They will tell you that it’s not “period” meaning it’s not an antique. But I was glad the new mirror didn’t come up until a little later. It gave me time to calm back down and to get a grip on myself.
When it finally came up, I was ready. I opened the bidding at $30. Then someone bidder it up to $40. Then I bid $45 on it. They bid $55. Then the auctioneer pointed at me and asked $60. I nodded “yes”. It was so cool! Just like I had seen on television on some of the auction shows. The auctioneer than ask the other bidder if they wanted to do $65. I held my breath. I knew I wouldn’t go any higher.
Once, twice, sold! I won!
Okay, this unleashed something new in me! I was ready! I had won and I was ready to get those other items. It was around 12:45am at this point and I knew I still had a two hour drive home. So I requested that they pull four items I wanted to bid on so I could head home. Three of the items were silver-plated serving dishes. Each had a different design. I wanted them to use to serve my breakfast items in. The last item was a silver serving tray with four feet. It was so beautiful. Because I had requested these items, I had to give an opening bid to start the auction of that item. So for each of the serving dishes, I placed an opening bid of $20. For the serving tray, I placed a bid of $30. Of all the items I had bids on that night; the silver serving tray was the one I wanted after the hot water dispenser.
So they brought my items up. First the serving dishes. They opened the bid with $20 for each. Again I held my breath.
Once, twice, sold for $20 each!
I couldn’t believe it! At first I was so excited about getting them, then I began to wonder if I had placed too high a bid. Who cares! I won them!
Then the silver tray came up. I prepared myself for someone to outbid me on this one. I had watched other items of silver come up and go for pretty good prices. But all had been a little too high for me tonight. If it gets too high, I would have to walk away and return another day when I had saved my pennies. So the auctioneer opened the bid at my $30. I felt myself tense up. I knew it was coming. I think I even closed my eyes so I could listen better for the next bid. I held my breath. The next thing I hear…
Once, Twice, Sold to number 270!
I won! I got this beautiful tray for $30!
I must have looked like someone who had just told I was going to Disney World! I was smiling for ear to ear! People who I had been talking to around me about the plantation (I can never go anywhere without tell people about it) congratulated me on my purchases. It was so much fun! I grabbed my card and headed to the desk to pay for my items. Barbara Ann had checked me out and taken my payment. I was talking to her about the plantation, which she knew about from Terri earlier when her husband, Keith popped up at the desk. He told Barbara Ann that I was opening a Bed and Breakfast. I don’t know who told him. It could have been any one of the staff members I had talked to. But it was really cool how excited he had been about our venture. I showed him my pictures of the house on my cell phone and thanked them for all their help. They were so gracious and visited me back soon.
I walked over to the pickup window and received my items. One of the staff members walked over and asked if he could help me out to the car. The mirror alone is about 5 feet and weighs maybe 20 pounds. Then a second staff member asked to carry my silver tray out while I carried my box with my serving dishes. The customer service here is out of this world! Oh, I forgot to tell you. At around 11pm, Barbara Ann set up a table with boxes of free pizza. Such attention to details!
As I pulled away at 1:15am on Friday morning, I was so high on excited energy. One of my fears about coming to the auction, after working all day and staying up late for the auction, was that on my way home I would be fighting to stay wake. Not this time. I was so excited about the auction and the items I had won; I don’t think sleep even crossed my mind. Two hours of singing in the car and dreaming of the day our plantation would open, I arrived at home at 3:15am. I unloaded my items into the kitchen for Brett to see in the morning.
I poured myself a glass of iced tea and stood there to admire my treasures. But you know as I was stood there, thinking about this venture, it really struck me. This is really going to happen. I mean I know it is, but for the first time I really felt the excitement of knowing that I was going to finally reach out and grab my dream. The first song I heard on the way home really hit the nail on the head about how I was feeling.
“I’ll spread my wings
and I’ll learn how to fly
I’ll do what it takes ’til I touch the sky
And I’ll make a wish, take a chance, make a change
Out of the darkness and into the sun
I won’t forget all the ones that I loved
I gotta take a risk, take a chance, make a change
Kelly Clarkson – “Breakaway”