Today I arrived at 20th Century Props at 8AM with two intrepid deal-hunting buddies. The auction was scheduled to start at 9:30 AM, so we used the remaining 90 minutes to do a quick preview of the items slated for the auctioneer’s block. The place is huge and it is packed, floor-to-ceiling, with items that must go. The live auction is going to take place over the next five days, and then there will be a smaller, online auction for hand-prop items and other items that did not sell in the first (live) auction.
The hand-prop room at 20th Century contains things like dolls,
all kinds of plates, earthenware and silverware,
antique cameras, and
eyeglasses and sunglasses, among other things. Remember, these items are going to be sold in the smaller, online auction, not in the live auction that is taking place now.
There are many items at the prop house that are not marked with official auction lot numbers. These items will go into the smaller, online auction. Included in that group are things like patio/outdoor furniture, many side tables, coffee tables, and things of costume interest: mannequins and garment display items.
Some of them, I might mention, are quite old. And beautiful.
Okay, so in order to get a paddle to bid today, we had to put $500 in cash down as a deposit. This is non-negotiable. The deposit serves to discourage people from bidding on things they can’t afford, and it weeds out the pretenders.
Armed with our paddle, we sat down as the auction began.
Some items went for thousands of dollars – those items were one-of-a-kind movie props. Other items didn’t sell at all.
Some things were a real bargain – dining room chairs for $5/each, dining room tables for $25 – and some items were hugely overpriced due to bidding wars. I suspect that the auction will bring in big bucks for the one-of-a-kind prop items, while other pieces (furniture, fixtures) will be able to be had for a relatively inexpensive price. My friend bought four hutches, a buffet, and an awesome vintage western sofa with matching chair and ottoman, all for about $1100. Those are good prices, especially if you have a home to furnish.
Bidding is available online, though you do need to give a credit card in order to bid. Additionally, you should know that the auction company charges a 10% fee on all items won at the auction itself. The fee is 13% for those items won online.
The actual auction was cool – you have real, live bidders sitting in the chairs, and then a bank of guys staring into monitors, looking for bidders in the online portion of the auction. The auctioneer is doing his hey-yabba-dabba-homina business, and it is electric and interactive. If you are bidding online, this is not like eBay – you do not put a reserve price in – you have to bid live, as it happens. It is very exciting!
Having done an extensive and exhausting inspection of the auction items today, I will do the rest of my bidding online. It’s a long drive out to extreme NoHo, and it’s hot. I will attend the auction from the comfort of air conditioning, good music and good food. Hopefully I will be able to get some bargains. It’s sad that they are closing their doors. It’s a rotten sign of the times. However, the end of 20th Century Props provides many of us with an opportunity to purchase something of value, meaning and quality for a price we can afford. Perhaps that is the silver lining to this story…