On Being a Farm Auction Groupie

AuctioneerI’m a Peck Auction groupie.  It’s a variation of a family affliction, according to my brother Stephen.  For most in my family, the affliction manifests itself in a desire to frequent garage sales.  In my case, it’s a desire–even a need–to attend auctions.  Many Saturdays, along with a few weekdays and Sundays, you can find me at a Peck auction, searching through barns and sheds filled with tools, houses full of furniture or wagons full of boxes filled with odds and ends.  Some of the auctions are being held because people are moving while others others are being held to settle or clear out estates.  Some sales have a lot of junk while others are filled with treasures of all sorts. And of course, one man’s junk is another man’s…well, you know the saying.

Depending on the sale you can buy anything from linens, to furniture, to kitchen supplies, to cars, tractors and even homes.  I never go looking for anything special.  Just items I like and want to keep or items I think I can sell and make a few bucks.  Then there are the items I buy for some odd reason becuase they seem to be a good deal, even though I don’t have a clue what I am going to do with them.  Like a stuffed ram’s head.  I’m hoping the grandkids will get a kick out of it.

Usually I bid on what are termed “box lots.” These are boxes full of miscellaneous stuff.  Box lots might contain glassware, Christmas ornaments, fishing gear or nick knacks.  Although one can review the contents of the boxes before bidding, there is almost always something unknown to be found in them, some good, like the small gold ring I found, to the bad, like broken figurines that weren’t worth much even if unbroken.  For me, it’s a treasure hunt.


Parking can be at a premium so plan to arrive early and be patient.

If you’ve never attended a Peck auction or any kind of outdoor auction for that matter, the process is easy.  First, to find one in your areas, go online and type in auctions and the area you are interested in attending an auction.  You can also contact the local Chamber of Commerce.  Go here to find information on Clare County area flea markets and auctions.

Below are the steps and a few tips once you’ve decided to attend:

  • Find out how they accept payment before attending. Cash or checks are usually accepted. Credit cards sometimes, but figure on paying a percentage (3-5 percent) above the sale price for that option.
  • Auctions generally run 2-3 hours, but you don’t have to stay and you sure don’t have to bid or buy. Sometimes I don’t find enough to even stay for the start.  Keep in mind,  that the item you want at the sale may not be sold until near its end.  Usually the auctioneer will let everyone know the order that items will be sold before the auction starts.
  • Arrive early, approximately 20-30 minutes before the auction starts. First of all, parking is sometimes on the road and you may end up parking a long, long way from the event if you plan to arrive just as the auction starts.  Secondly, you’ll want a chance to look things over before the auction begins.  (Sometimes, if I arrive early enough, I will look things over before I even register to decide if there is enough worth staying to bid on.
  • Locate the registration trailer and hand your driver’s license to them to record the information. They in return will give you a bidder number. Guard it since you can’t bid if it’s lost and someone else can purchase something in your name if it’s found.
  • Find items you might want to purchase and decide what you want to spend. If you are bidding on something in a box lot, make sure the item you want is still in there if you bid (I’ve purchased a box of stuff thinking a certain item was in it only to find someone had taken it out and moved it to a different box.)  If there is something you want in a lot of several items, ask the auctioneer or assistant to auction that item off alone.  In a Peck auction, items must be worth at least $5.
  • Don’t bid when the auctioneer first starts an item off for bid. He often starts high and when no one responds he comes waaaay down.  Then lots of people bid but drop out as the bidding progresses.  The auctioneer will give the last bid and the bid he is looking for.  You bid by raising your hand or your bidder number.  Don’t be shy or you may not get seen.   And don’t outbid yourself, although the auctioneer is pretty good about making sure you don’t.
  • If you decide to bid, stick to your maximum. There are other items and other auctions.  You’ve lived without the item(s) for years, maybe even decades.  You can live without for a while longer.  If the item you want was sold along with a bunch of other items in a lot, find the buyer and see if he/she wants to sell that particular item to you.  I often sell stuff I don’t want to others at a low price just to recoup part of my investment.
  • If you are the winner, put your number up so the auctioneer can see it and announce your number to his assistant for the records.
  • Once you purchase something, put in off somewhere off to the side so you can continue to bid, yet keep an eye on what you’ve bought. I have never had anyone take anything I’ve bought so don’t worry too much.  If you are concerned or if nothing else you want is being auctioned for a while, take the item to your vehicle and return.  Although it’s best to pay for items before you remove them, no one will stop you.  Keep track of the number of times you’ve won.
  • When you are done, go back to the registration trailer with your bidder number to cash out.  Please remember to give the auction company a bit of time after your last purchase to get the information back to the trailer and logged.  Check to make sure the number of purchases you’ve made jives with the number of purchases the auction company shows.
  • Load up, go home, unload, and enjoy what you’ve bought.

Most of the time, I’ve come back happy with what I’ve gotten.  However, understand that you may pay $100 for your items only to find out that they are only worth a tenth of what you paid, and only IF you manage to sell.  For that reason, don’t think of auctions as a way to make big money.  Instead, think of them as a hobby that may (or may not) put some extra cash in your pocket.  It’s more fun that way.  Regardless of the financial results, there was still the thrill of the hunt even if you don’t get anything of real value.  And there’s always next time!

So c’mon out and share my affliction.  Although I hope you won’t bid against me, it’s ok if you do.   And stop and see me if you want a ram’s head.   I’ve got one to sell a VERY special price!

Ram's head

My haul at one auction including my prize ram’s head mount.


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