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Collectors feel the pinch

For some, auction prices seem lower than usual

An auctioneer describes a collection of mirrors and a candle sconce during the annual Sturbridge Federated Church auction held on the Town Common Saturday. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
August 15, 2010
STURBRIDGE — Depending on who you ask, the down economy either did or didn't have an impact on Saturday's 61st Annual Federated Church Auction.

The event certainly looked busy, with people milling around examining the furniture, art, mirrors and miscellaneous good on the block, the library's books for sale, the silent auction items and partaking of the food. But the rapid numbers coming from the auctioneers' mouths under the tent seemed mostly, with some exceptions, to go in one direction — down — until items sold.

"I've been coming here for years, and there's no money here today," said one bidder, Larry Weston of Cape Cod. "Items are going a lot cheaper than they should. I've seen them go for a lot more."

Although she basically agreed, event co-chair Sandy Bostrom wasn't overly concerned.

"It is a little bit lower, but, for the recession, it's pretty good," she said, noting food and "a lot of small things" were selling well.

A look online at some auction-related sites and reports notes that the economy has some effect on the business, but is only one of many things that do. An essay titled "Top 10 Factors Affecting Antique & Collectible Values," posted by Lennon Hall Antiques on eBay.com, identifies the economy as the tenth factor.

"[A] poor economy does not preclude consumer spending, it merely re-directs it to other goods and services," it states, observing that people tend to spend less on luxuries but may be willing to buy things that are "a bargain or an investment that will increase in value." Furthermore, they may be willing to put some money into their homes, it notes.

That's essentially what Ann Maher of Milford, Conn., was doing Saturday. In her case, her home is also her business — she owns The Lily Pad Bed & Breakfast, and was seeking to "outfit" it "with some nice pieces."

Maher noted this was her third year as a participant here, and she sets a dollar limit for bidding "just like any other budget."

"These are unique pieces you're not going to get anywhere else, so it's easy to stay within budget," she added.

To her, the fact the auction is supporting a church "makes a difference in what you're bidding," and may have a positive effect despite the economy.

See Tuesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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