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The Marjorie Larmon Auction by Cassandra Ross

It was my first big auction as a voluntary participant. Before this sale I had only been to auctions strictly as the dragging her feet, complaining the whole time, not going to have fun if it kills me kid of antique dealers. When you're ten years old there is nothing quite so terrifying as the prospect of sitting with a bunch of old people in a noisy room while stuff you couldn't care less about is paraded endlessly across a stage. It takes hours, it's boring, and the best you can hope for is maybe they'll have pie.

The Marjorie E. Larmon auction, held in Simcoe Ontario, had all the local dealers talking. There was so much excitement leading up the sale that I began to actually listen to the hype. Marjorie Larmon is a legendary collector and seller from the region. Now in her eighties, she had decided to liquidate her home and shop. So many of her items were extremely rare, and of the highest quality, so that there had not been a sale of this magnitude in many years. My husband Anson first floated the idea of us actually attending the auction, and despite the screaming ten year old in my head, I was eager to agree. On Saturday, September 23rd we registered, got our number, claimed some seats, and settled in for eight hours of auction fun.

There are many people who attended who could give better impressions on the actual items for sale (and I hope they will add their two cents on the forum) but my review of the auction is from the perspective of someone who likes antiques, and was hoping to take something really special and unique home to my little Toronto apartment. I didn't know the exact value of the items, but I knew there were some fantastic items for sale. I knew many (okay, most) items would be out of my price range. In the end, all the items I wanted were out of my price range. I had fun bidding up the price for other people, however. I became a bit of a curiosity in my row for my habit of eagerly bidding during the hundreds of dollars then frantically shaking my head and slumping in my chair as the bidding reached the thousands. As someone behind me said "hey, at least you're trying". Anson was also feeling the excitement followed immediately by panic when he bid on the few items we wanted. It was exciting, and truthfully, enjoyable.

The Larmon auction
Auctioneer Jim Anderson. The cigar store Indian behind him was the most prized item on the block. It hammered down for a cool $75,000.
I learned (or perhaps remembered) some tricks to auction sales. First of all, when the really big items are sold for big money, there is a temporary buzz in the crowd immediately after the sale. When a beautiful pirate weathervane sold, quite dramatically, to an avid collector for $24,000, the items that came directly after sold for a little less than expected. I didn't care about those items in particular, but if you wanted the items it was a good time to bid because people were distracted. This also holds true for items near then end of the auction. About half the crowd had already left by the five hour mark, meaning less competition and better prices. You can always leave an auction during a down time and come back in time for your top picks. Finally, I remembered that auctions are still really noisy and strangely exhausting places. During our eight hours I ate one hot dog, a bag of chips and one piece of homemade cherry pie. Never underestimate the value of well timed snack breaks during an auction.

So in the end, the auction was fun and memorable. I'm definitely glad I went. Anson and I were among the youngest bidders there (we are in our twenties) and most of the bidders were at least ten years older. Why am I mentioning this? Well, aside from making me feel young and hip, the age of the crowd also tipped me off to the lack of interest or perhaps knowledge my generation has towards antiques. Who's going to collect and care for this stuff when our parents are gone? Will we know the value of our heritage? Are we too poor to attend auctions like this or has Ikea ruined our appreciation for everything old and unusual?

The Larmon auction was a rarity for its exceptional quality but there are sales of every calibre still taking place in auction houses across Canada. Maybe you don't want to attend all the auctions in your region (ten year old me still has valid complaints) but they really can be interesting, educational, and entertaining events. You may leave with something amazing, or you may leave empty handed but full of pie. In any case there are worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.


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