Auction Action


Softcover music books can be surprisingly valuable, so I attended what was billed as a 1950s music store stock auction one nice Sunday not long ago. It turned out to be more of an accordion auction. Over 140 of them, in fact, all laid out on long tables. The mother-of-pearl of all accordion auctions. Some old ones, flat black with yellowing keys, but mostly somewhat newer, shiny black, red, blue, and white, small and big, starters and fancy models, mostly Italian-made. My guess is that these were either in the collection of the music store owner, or more likely they were trade-ins and fixer-uppers.

At one point during the preview there was much cacophonous instrument testing and merry-making, punctuated by the occasional mini-concert. Learned music geeks and extroverted performers were having a high old time. Several had been taught by this man. There was some other stuff, like a large box with hundreds of new old drumsticks that would have been great for some avant-garde art project, some wind instruments, and some store display pieces, but accordions ruled the day and Myron Floren’s ghost was in the house.

Underneath the tables were hundreds of boxes of sheet music and music books, but alas, it was 99% accordion as well. Mostly beginning level, many duplicates (though I bet I could have sold all seven Beverly Hillbillies books with a great cover photo), and melded price stickers on most of it. I offered a fair start of $700 for everything, but seemingly serious accordion aficionados had been previewing for days, marking (and perhaps composing) the boxes they were interested in, so I was urged to stay and compete. I was kind of relieved I didn’t have to do all this work, but stayed for the beginning of the show anyway with no intention of bidding for hours under those conditions.

The mood changed fairly quickly when the auction began. Most of the accordions did not reach a minimum bid of $30, and I only saw a couple go for over $100. Few if any sold via the dreaded (for physical attendees) eBay Live! route, probably because accordions are one thing you shouldn’t buy without testing them in person first. And here is the other huge flaw in the game plan: how many accordions do accordion players actually need anyway? All that lugging, trucking, research, description, picture-taking, and all those eBay fees and wages, all for naught.

Same with the sheet music and books. The pickers were pikers, and very few boxes went for over $15. The rest was passed and eventually not lifted off the floor to begin with. This is a very well run auction house but there was lots of confusion and discomfort this time, and I left before it got any uglier. They had high hopes and nearly noble intentions but agreed later that it was an unmitigated disaster.

A striking young couple attended this auction, much in contrast to everyone else. They could have been fashion models. Slender, eastern European-looking, intent, like vampires really, in silent communication with each other. The woman in particular stood out because she was wearing all black with a long fur coat and had an interesting thin double ring neck tattoo. She continued previewing while the auction was in progress, and was scolded for being in the way, but seemed oblivious to her surroundings. Her focus was on the accordions, and she seemed to be moving at a different speed than everyone else, or vibrating on a different plane. She intercepted most of them as they made their way up the tables, performing quick tests on some and simply stroking others. When an instrument of interest was up she stood near the front and stared down those who dared to bid against her. She did not go very high on the lots I saw, and turned away almost as if in pain when she lost, but I left early and don’t know how many she got altogether. I mentioned this to an independent horror filmmaker the next day. “Well,” he said, “it’s a well-known fact that vampires like accordions.”

Postscript: I Googled vampires and accordions some days later and could not find any connection. When I pressed my filmmaker friend further he said he just made it up as a joke. And some weeks later there was a full page spread in the local paper on this woman! She is a cutting edge performance artist who feels she was conceived as an animal but snatched into a human body at the last moment. At a recent event she cavorted on stage with her accordion wearing a deer head (the whitetail is her east coast animal persona) and was suspended from the ceiling on wires. She admits to liking old stained things, and one of her teachers remarked that she is “otherwordly,” so I will cling to the possibility that the stage work is just a ruse for darker doings a la Anne Rice, and that vampires really do dig accordions.

The Standard: The Journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association

Check out the Independent Online Booksellers Association Website