"You need to get to the auction at least a half an hour before it starts. The real experts sort through the junk early, separating the good from the bad and figuring out what's valuable."
I listened intently over the hood of my grandfathers Dodge van as we chipped at the frost on the windshield. Before I had a chance to finish scraping the passenger side, my grandfather, Bill, jumped into the driver's seat and urged me to let the defroster handle the rest. Sensing the unbridled excitement in his voice, I obliged.
Each weekend, Bill wakes early and heads to estate sales in the heart of the Wisconsin farmland in search of antique tools and toys. After a career selling electronic switches in Milwaukee, Bill retired to a farm near Adell, Wisconsin and started raising sheep. Tired of the long hours associated with raising fifty sheep a year, he looked elsewhere for entertainment.
Acting on a life-long interest in tools and attempting to clear out his garage for his next project, Bill started selling off some tools on Ebay. Enjoying the craft of researching the history and application of antique tools, Bill started buying tools at garage sales and auctions. Since September of 2002, he has sold over 1800 antiques on Ebay.
Driving an hour north as the sun rose, Bill explained, "Your Grandmother comes sometimes just to people watch. There will be a few hundred people filtering through today. People come to bid on farm equipment, silverware, guns and others for tools," he grinned.
Nursing my coffee, I went out in search of gems. Shivering in my wool while inspecting a wall full of shovels, pitchforks and saws, I heard the familiar pop of an aluminum can. Turning expecting to see a diet Coke or perhaps a Mountain Dew, I spotted a group of camo-clad Wisconsinites starting off their Saturday with a case of Busch Light.
"I am good, thanks. Trying to get through this coffee first." I looked at my watch, 9:17.
For the next five hours, these guys stood guard centrally located between the food cart, auctioneer's booth and port-a-potty. Providing a running commentary, they chimed in their two cents often as I passed by.
As the last item sold, we packed up the Van with the day's bounty, bid farewell to the observers and headed back to the farm.