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A Yankee Auction—The Duncklee Dair Farmstead

by Tom Carrier (01/23/09).

By Tom Carrier
WorthPoint Worthologist

“Hey, I got 10, now, can I get 20. Bid a little more, it’s only money. I got 20, am lookin’ for 30. Thirty and a half, could I get 40. Borrow a ten from your friend Jordy.” That’s the chant of auctioneer Walt Kolenda of Walt Kolenda Auctions, located in New England, who is popularly known as Auction Wally.

Curious as to what is involved with a Yankee auction, WorthPoint spent a day visiting with Auction Wally to preview the items being offered in the Duncklee Dairy Farm auction. All of the items belong to the household of the Duncklee family, dairy farmers in Chelford, Mass., for several generations. They include utilitarian items such as buckboards, milk cans, a Victorian sleigh and farm equipment, but more personal items such as a Victorian piano chair and the family dining room table, too. There are even unusual items such as several large, oversized enameled advertising signs for Cape Cod cookies and Toasterette crackers found in the barn.

Having several generations worth of personal items auctioned off to perfect strangers would be traumatic for the family, you would think. Not necessarily. “Many times family members look upon the proceedings with delight as they witness a fresh enthusiasm for the things they grew up with,” Kolenda says. He would hear family members say things like, “I used to push my sister around in that wheelbarrow. I’m so glad someone else is going to enjoy it.” “I love that,” Kolenda says.

“As an auctioneer, I think of estate auctions as a new chapter in that family’s story. Done right, with respect, a well built auction pays reverence to the family through its accumulated property,” says Kolenda.

Auctions have a long history of its own, dating back to at least 500 B.C. in Babylon, when woman of marriageable age were auctioned annually. To raise capital for some venture or other by the wealthy early on, an auction was usually held. The largest auction on record may be the one held in 193 A.D. When the Emperor Pertinax was assassinated, his Praetorian Guard put the entire Roman Empire up for auction. The winner was Didius Julianus, sort of. Septimius Severus had him beheaded two months later in a “no bid” auction, otherwise known today as a coup.

While a “no bid” auction is rare, the Duncklee Farm auction is considered an “English” auction, the most common type of auction. Bids are accepted for an item in ascending order, in other words, from lower to higher, until the bidding stops. The last bid wins. Other typical auction types are: the “Dutch” auction, where a base price is announced by the auctioneer and lowered until someone accepts the final bid; “Sealed First Price” auction, in which sealed bids are submitted without the participants aware of each other’s bid. The lowest bid, in the case of government contracts, or the highest sealed bid wins, like mining contracts; “Vickery” auctions, in which the winner pays the second highest bid, not their own; “Silent” auctions, bids are written and collected at a certain pre-arranged time. The winner is the last bid.

The Duncklee Farm auction was held on Oct. 4, 2008 in pretty good weather. The buckboard wagons sold for $600 and $825 each, the Victorian sleigh went for $770. The great ceramic advertising signs, 16 of them altogether, sold for $75 and $360, depending on condition. All-in-all, a great Yankee auction. Visit all of Kolanda’s past auctions and educational information at http://www.auctionwally.com anytime.

Watch a video featuring items from the Duncklee Farm auction here.

Tom Carrier is a general Worthologist, with an expertise in a wide variety of subjects.

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