J. Bear Savo

BEHIND THE BLOCK: Selling sentimental cheese

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At first, the phone call wasn’t that peculiar. The gentleman who rang was inquiring about the possible value of a vintage refrigerator. I explained that while the Art Deco lines and chrome accents of retro reefers make them more aesthetically appealing than other old appliances, they have virtually no marketability.

“Really? That’s a shame,” the caller sighed. “I have another item, though, that I think you’ll find exciting. My father, who has passed on, acquired it a long time ago. It’s never been opened and there’s not one speck of mold on it.”

“Mold?” I echoed.

“Not moldy at all! That’s important for you to know. Like I said, my father acquired it some time ago…” he paused as though for a drum roll. “It’s a five-pound block of government-issued cheese from 1991.”

“From 1991…”

“From 1991!” he reiterated proudly. “It’s over 20 years old.”

“And it’s not moldy…”

“No mold!” he exclaimed. “Isn’t that something?”

“No,” I said. “I don’t think so.”

“You don’t think it has any value?” he groaned.

“No, I’m sorry,” I said. “I couldn’t sell your cheese.”

“Well…” he stammered, “do you have any suggestions?”

“Perhaps you could fill up the old fridge with some beer,” I suggested, “invite some friends over, and have a beer and cheese party.”

“Oh, no!” the caller cried. “I would never eat it! After all, it was my father’s cheese and it has too much sentimental value for me.”

After that statement, I blacked out. So I have no idea how the phone call ended.

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.