The poignancy of auctions

I’ve been to many auctions in my lifetime — is is the best place to score a bargain right? And you never know what you’re going to find.

Yesterday’s auction, however, was different. Because I knew the people who’s estate was being auctioned off. In that moment, as I saw their stuff being held in the air, I gained a new perspective on auctions.

Item after item, going for $1, maybe $5 if it was a “special” item.

Things that meant something to these people.

These items are just items to people in the crowd, but to the people who formerly owned them, the items were their lives. Things they loved.

That quilt that just went for a dollar — someone’s mother made that. Handmade it.

That plate that went for a few dollars — that plate was made in Germany and it hung on the kitchen in the home of this couple — they loved a particular breed of dog, thus the beautiful painting on the plate.

That gun that sold for 20 dollars — it was a Christmas gift. It came in a kit. The gentlemen who owned it — it took him a year to put it together. A year. The family who purchased it inspected it and placed it in their lap. No clue the significance of the item.

That little rolling pin pendent that was sold as part of a box — lost in the box — the women who owned that loved to collect rolling pins. It was a unique gift given to her.

A pair of binoculars actually went for $40. I later found out why it meant so much to the man who ended up getting them. He came over and explained an inscription on the instructions — it was a Christmas gift from a man who used to be a professor. It meant something to that one person. To everyone else, it was just a pair of binoculars.

I don’t think I’ll ever look at an auction the same again. Every single item in that auction means something to someone. And likely somewhere in the crowd there are family members hoping someone will just bid a few more dollars. Just a few more. To pay expenses left by the person who passed. To pay expenses for a surviving spouse.

Somewhere in the crowd someone knows the story of each item and silent tears fall as they watch their family member’s whole life go for next to nothing.

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