WILLCOX — There’s something exhilarating about raising your hand at a live auction, placing your bid, and awaiting the auctioneer’s call – SOLD!
Those brief seconds are the end of a process from a method of commerce that may be as old as history, a public sale where goods are sold to the highest bidder, the auction.
Willcox is lucky enough to have one, Willcox Auction House, operated for the past 18 months by local business owners Bear Carman and Mary Peterson.
The two have held an almost-monthly auction out of the complex at 380 N. Railroad Ave., and just completed one on Saturday, Dec. 10.
Previously the auction had been the work of Bruce and Joyce Tingle, who’d run it since 2001.
Carman learned the business from Bruce and when it came time to leave it in someone else’s hands, “he prayed about it, and said he wanted me to take it over. I didn’t know I would be an auctioneer, but the lord kind of pushed us into that,” according to Carman.
Carman is the owner of Bear’s Vintage Thrift at 233 N. Haskell Ave., currently closed for the season.
He and Peterson met, not surprisingly, in a junking transaction. She attended a garage sale that Carman hosted and they both found a keeper that day.
To curate the auction they treasure hunt, buy from estate sales and directly from the household, then do their magic of grouping the lots.
The types of goods one might expect to find at the auctions would not differ from the selections at an antique shop, pickers or junking business, except for buying in lots.
“It really varies, we sell a lot of practical things too, as well as collector things,” Peterson said. “Some auctions specialize, but we’re a general auction.”
Lots are groupings of items, and those groupings can range in size from stacks on a wood palette to the contents of a cardboard box.
There are single larger items up for bid, appliances, furnishings, tools, farm and shop equipment.
Auction attendees are looking for valuables, the core reasoning behind everyone’s search.
What’s of value is determined by the individual as there are times a single object found deep in a box may satisfy hours of hunting and scavenging, and worth buying a “lot” of other stuff.
Or perhaps a regular client of the auction, knowing exactly what they’re looking for, part of a job or hobby that turns a profit from resurrections, like giving an antique a refresh and reselling it as art, décor or memento.
Ron Applegate, a local blacksmith, is a regular to these auctions and tries to make every event, but admits, “I might miss a few during the year, but I try to be here.”
“I’m looking for old Western stuff, or stuff I can use on my chuckwagon,” Applegate said. “But anything I might be able to fix or work on. I always come down the day before and look around.”
Applegate has restored an old-Western chuckwagon, partly by searching for and rehabbing or recreating old iron pieces he’s found over time. A saddle he won at an early Carman auction was restored and is part of the wagon’s gear.
The cowboy gourmand, Applegate and his green chuckwagon are frequent fixtures at events that promote and preserve Willcox cowboys and Western heritage and traditions.
Cindy Stine recalls a notable lot she won, a box of old books on local history she thought would be fun to look through. When she found the books would fill some gaps in the Willcox historical museum collection, she donated the texts.
To participate in the auction, you come by, look through the lots and make note of what you want to bid on, show up to the auction and start bidding on newfound treasure.
Bidding can get competitive, and the scene can be intense, albeit amusing, realizing it isn’t a store and some else sees treasure in your lot.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Peterson said. “There are your collectors, we get people that are going to go build something with it, we get homesteaders, we get locals, people that come from 100-mile radius, yeah and you know, do it yourselfers, we even get people that are buying for their own stores, too. So it really is a cross section, and I think the joy of the variety that we have is that it can appeal to a lot of people.”
A little bit of everything also describes what one might find, and it could be anything.
The last auction included items like a collection of world globes circa 1970, vintage metal signs, large scale letters, miles of fabric and fiber samples, art supplies, crafting tools, books, cast iron, antique wagon wheels, modern car wheels, housewares, clothing, framed artwork or just the frame.
Some previews are published on the site and on social media, but the business consists of in-person bidding.Information about upcoming auctions can be found at bearsvintagethrift.com.