J. Bear Savo

BEHIND THE BLOCK: Canned goods at auction

BEHIND THE BLOCK: Canned goods at auction
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Had I been standing in a grocery store talking with its owner, and had that owner called me in because he was closing shop and was inquiring as to whether or not I could liquidate his stock, I wouldn’t have been taken aback by the question:

“Do you sell canned goods?”

As it was, I was standing in a house, the contents of which included all manner of horrendously unmarketable items, including decades-old food in tin cans and Mason jars. While many estates into which I have ventured have contained old canned food in both tin and glass, no one had ever hoped that I would be willing to take it to my auction gallery, for the previously quoted query had not been asked with a nonchalant tone, but rather with the inflection of incredulous frustration after I had explained that there was nothing in the estate that was marketable.

“Do you sell canned goods?” was asked of me with the same desperation that a defeated adult may use when asking a fussy child, “Well, what do you want to eat?”

While I was tempted to make an appointment to return to this particular estate and pick up the vintage canned goods, I discovered – after consulting my abacus – that the cost of the removal far outweighed what I might make in commission. So I gently declined and took my leave.

I must note that there are certain things other than food that can be found in cans and jars that are unmarketable. Likewise, there are certain things that might be found in cans and jars that are marketable. Therefore, I have compiled the following lists, which are by no means complete, but are intended to exemplify the fact that the marketability of canned goods must be considered on a case by case basis.

Unmarketable canned goods:

  • Food
  • Rusty hardware (bolts, nuts, nails, etc.)
  • Fireflies
  • Nail clippings
  • Urine
  • Leftover paint
  • Hair
  • Dirt
  • Lint
  • Souls

Marketable canned goods:

  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Precious and semiprecious gems
  • Coins with numismatic value
  • Jewelry
  • Vintage fashion buttons
  • Ammunition
  • Small vintage toys
  • Genies
  • Souls

You will notice that souls appears in both lists. That’s because the marketability of a soul depends upon from whom it was harvested. This fact reaffirms the need to consider every inquiry regarding canned goods on an individual basis.

Indeed, any good auctioneer acknowledges the prudence of ascertaining the contents of cans and jars before marketability can be determined.

There’s far more to being a professional auctioneer than merely marketing merchandise. Each Wednesday, Behind the Block explores the precise methods, the elemental madness, and the intrinsic humanity of the auction industry.