Behind every auction is a story...
In the words of Semisonic, every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. And when that end is an auction, it usually means that something has ended quickly and dramatically. Sure, occasionally places - especially government agencies - will auction off surplus items, to make sure the public has the opportunity to buy it and that it's sold for fair-market value. But generally, the auction is the sledgehammer of the selling world - something bad has happened, and someone needs to get rid of everything now. Sometimes it's an estate auction, because someone has died - as I once overheard a fellow auction-goer remark at a consignment estate sale, "In life, everything ends up on one of two tables - the auctioneer's table or the mortician's table". Sometimes, it's because a business has failed, for the reasons that businesses do - not enough customers, too many expenses.
But sometimes it's more interesting than that - when I see an interesting auction, I often do a little digging, and the stories are interesting. One was of a charity that was supposed to be helping to put technology in schools, but was also taking out fraudulent loans by leasing computers, then getting loans using the computers they didn't own as collateral. Another was doing sham mortgage relief. Another had been stealing money from the elderly woman she was a caretaker for, and spending it on crap from QVC and HSN.
I recently saw an ad for something called The Harrisburg Auction and was a little surprised - Harrisburg, PA isn't really known for much beyond it's status as Pennsylvania's state capital. But then I did a little reading and understood. For those who follow the problems that municipalities are facing in terms of coming close to bankruptcy, Harrisburg is one of the poster children. It's got the usual issues - declining tax base, municipal pensions, plus an incinerator that cost way more than expected. But it also had a previous mayor who had a very expensive, but not very coherent, vision of turning a working-class state capital into some sort of tourist mecca.
His first project was the National Civil War museum, which I'v visited, if by visited you mean "drove thought he parking lot of". See, Harrisburg is also home to the PA State Surplus Warehouse, and as a semi-professional crap reseller I usually try to stop there on my way up to my parent's house in NJ - as long as it's a weekday before 3pm, when they close. A wrong turn sent me into the Civil War Museum's parking lot, which was very nice, and in front of a very nice building. It also appeared to be very empty.
The mayor's other brilliant plan was a Wild West museum, despite the fact that Harrisburg isn't even really in Western PA, let alone in the actual West. In preparation for his museum, the mayor went out and acquired a whole bunch of crap, but luckily for Harrisburg tax payers, never actually opened the museum. Evidently, the city has finally decided to sell of their giant collection at auction.
No, I won't be going - it's not my kind of crap, I usually go for the more technology-related kind. But it's an interesting story.