Trash or treasure? The mind-boggling culture show that is midwest auction culture.

You’re eying a Spuds Mackenzie lamp, amid a table of buckles, glassware, a knife collection, and a bronze casting of three horses holding a glass ball…  It’s hot, smelly, and weird, but for some reason you are totally loving it.  One of the biggest shock-thrills of moving from the city to this small town was diving into the culture of the mid-west auction.


Ok, first of all there are a few rules

Rule #1 -Don’t act stupid

Rule #2 -Act like a badass

Rule #3 -Don’t get ripped off, or else then you’re stupid and also, not a badass anymore.

Let me explain- Ok, so there’s this friend C.K… He goes to an auction wanting to buy this pretty nice couch that he actually needs. S.H. another friend asks him “how much are willing to bid?”. “200 bucks”, says C.K..  Comes time for the auction, and the auctioneer asks “anybody want to start me off?” ” Two hundred bucks”, says C.K. confidently.  No one else says a thing. “SOLD”, says the auctioneer…

Boom!  C.K. broke all three… So what went wrong?

Auctioneers have tricks.  LOTS of them. Here’s a few I’ve noticed.

-The “this just sold on ebay for $2,000” – The thing you’re looking at is thrashed, not a first addition, or “unopened in the box” and definitely not worth $2,000!

-The “anybody want to start me off?” I once yelled “$100” at the same time as someone else yelled “$3,000!”  (The most embarrassing moment in my auctioning career, maybe my life! C.K.)  Wait a few minutes while the auctioneer says “$1,000?… $500… $100?… $50?”. Then quickly, without smiling raise your hand and say “YUP!” and start it off.

-The “Ghost Bidder”- This one is harder to spot (never, EVER! accuse an auctioneer of this), and really good ring runners know when they can get away with it.  The auctioneer points at you and says “30!” points somewhere else and says “40!” points back at you and says “50!” to which you quickly nod, out bidding “the ghost”.

-Also, I would add, decide ahead of time what price you are going to stop at, then confidently and quickly bid all the way up to that number like you’re never going to stop. You may actually scare them off early and get a deal!


Auctioning can be fun, heart pounding, and can actually yield some cool things!  Make sure to listen in on as many crazy conversations as you can. (most of the ones that come to mind are unprintable now that I think of it ha ha..) and try to bring a friend (it can be a waiting game!)


If you want to try auctioning out for yourself check out  Just put in your zipcode and you can check out tons of photo’s of treasure and garbage alike… Or if you live around here, check out Harman Auction. If you’re wondering, the Spuds Mackenzie sold for $125. I didn’t buy it.  And C.K… he waits for the low number nowadays.

 -Small Town Cool-

Photo’s by Jrandlefoto


One thought on “Trash or treasure? The mind-boggling culture show that is midwest auction culture.

  1. Sometimes the owner of an item can’t take less than a certain amount, so the auctioneer has a ghost bidder make sure it doesn’t sell for less. The item in fact is not sold. That case is not a ripoff.


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