I went to Paris in 1999 to celebrate my graduation from my masters program. I was lucky enough to have befriended a wonderful woman named Ines while attending Stanford who is half French and half African but 100% European! She and I spent countless hours talking, laughing and sharing our perspectives what it meant to be “American”. Ines was unique in that she was born in France but essentially grew up in Maryland with foreign parents. I on the other hand grew up in grew up in Greenville, OH- a “foreign” in its own right. Surprisingly, we found multiple commonalities in our perspectives on the world and grew a friendship that still lasts to this day.
In any case, Ines moved back to France to attend business school a year prior and invited me to visit should I have time. Well scheduled worked out and I was able to make the trip to visit her in Paris. While she was in school, I roamed the streets of Paris, playing tourist and like many, getting lost. On one of my “lost journeys” I found myself at an auction house and decided to wonder inside. What I found inside was a large room filled with antiques and people milling about. In front, a woman in a smart turtleneck, scarf and skirt (very French) rambling in French as a large screen displayed items and lot numbers. None of this made sense to me since (1) I don’t speak French and (2) as outlined yesterday, I wasn’t interested in antiques at that moment. However, what did intrigue me was the buzz in the air – the energy – excitement. Collectors held paper and scribbled messages, dealers raced to place calls and way too-cool-for-school art students sketched works of art on their artist pads. This was Paris and I fell in love with the idea of auctions.
Photo Credit: BetterBidder.com
Fast forward to 2008 and I find out that there is an auction house in my backyard. Clars Auction House has been in business since 1971 dealing in appraising and auctioning personal property, such as fine art, furniture and jewelry. It is now one of the largest auction houses in the Western United States and works with buyers and sellers globally. The majority of its clients, however, are located in Northern California, which includes little ol’ me!
It conducts monthly two-day estate auctions of 1500-2000 lots at its North Oakland location and about 6 months ago, The Partner and I finally bit the bullet and went. We attended the Saturday auction which is the lower priced items while the Sunday auction is for collectibles and antiques. What surprised me was that many of the lots on both days are available for bidding online, so it was really easy to review the list of items, bid and then attend the auction live to see if we won. We ended up bidding and winning the artwork that currently hangs in the guest bedroom for $35. It is by no means a collector’s item but it’s original artwork for cheaper than I could make it!
Overall, the experience was awesome and fun! By no means was it as moving as my time in Paris, but there is still the same excitement and anticipation in the air albeit the female auctioneer was wearing Crocs and the man in front of me was wearing an FBI t-shirt (aka Female Body Inspector). While not as classy as Paris, it was just as enjoyable for a Saturday morning. If you do go, get there early as parking is limited to the street. Additionally, they do not provide shipping, so if you are looking for furniture, bring a truck as you will need to take possession of the lot that day.
The next auction is November 6 -7, 2010. I am pretty sure I will be there with my hand held high on some lot. Come join me…I will buy you a coffee!
Clars Auction House
5644 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94609