Real, fake or just weird, auction has it Monthly sales draw antiques dealers and bargain hunters alike

October 29, 1995|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Despite some debate over whether the bearskin rug was authentic fur or synthetic fluff, Roxie and Rollie Henry figured it was a steal at $35.

Meredith Barney, a Baltimore collectibles dealer, knew no one else at the show in Charlotte, N.C., would have antique Halloween costumes like the bundle she bought for $12.

And Elkridge porcelain dealer Dan Cross didn't think twice about buying a set of dentures with seven gold teeth.

Plenty of creepy and bizarre items were up for bid at auctioneer Brad Dudley's Halloween party and sale in the Idlewyld Community Hall on Friday night. He had 4-foot-tall Victorian funeral lamps, artificial legs and a skull light.

But some of the weirdest stuff wasn't creepy; it was just, well, Baltimore. The merchandise could have been props for a John Waters movie. The kitsch included chrome and vinyl furniture, a liquor dispenser shaped like a bowling ball and a Pink Panther toilet seat.

Throughout the night, Mr. Dudley, decked out as a devil with a black cape and red face, exhibited enthusiasm for even the most mundane items.

"Look at this long-handled frying pan," he exclaimed. "You can hit your husband from a long way."

More than 50 antique dealers, collectors and bargain hunters dropped by for the sale. They snacked on hot dogs and hamburgers, appraised the merchandise, and flashed their white bid cards when something caught their eye. No one seemed to think any of the items were too strange to buy.

Take Mr. Cross, for example. Some might be disgusted by the idea of holding the yellowed dentures of a person who in all probability is deceased.

"I don't have a problem with that," Mr. Cross said.

For him, the teeth were an investment that promised a quick return. He paid $16 for the set and calculated that he could get at least $16 for each of the seven gold teeth.

And the Henrys saw nothing odd about buying the disputed bearskin rug, which they thought would be a perfect touch for Mr. Henry's office at Measurement Methods on West 28th Street in Baltimore.

The couple said they frequently attend the Idlewyld auctions looking for bargains.

"There are a lot of deals here," Mr. Henry said. "And the best part is you never know what you'll find. I find things I didn't even know existed."

Mr. Dudley, 34, of Towson said he sometimes is surprised himself. Since he began working in the auction business seven years ago he has seen everything from an outboard motor collection to silver service sets worth thousands of dollars.

"And I've seen people with every kind of frog," he laughed.

Mr. Dudley began going to auctions as a boy with his mother. He hated it then, but in 1988, he ran into an acquaintance clearing out a house for an auction. He learned that the auctioneer needed some help holding up the merchandise and he offered his services.

Soon, he was hooked on auctions. He spent two weeks in an auctioneer school in Decatur, Ind., learning the auctioneer chant. Always a bit of a ham, he found the work came easily and he soon could trill out the "would-you-bids" and "could-you-bids" without a hitch.

After he finished the course, he returned to Baltimore and began free-lancing for auction houses around town.

Mr. Dudley said he loves being in front of the crowd and he loves the challenge of trying to elicit the highest bids.

"I enjoy acquiring value for something some people think is trash," he said.

But only a small part of the job is standing up chanting bids. He spends hours scouring houses and hauling around other people's junk.

Even that part of the job can be interesting, he said. "I can see an entire life from attic to basement."

But estate auctions can also be sad, as elderly people give up prized possessions or children sell belongings of a deceased parent. "You know it's the end of a life, " Mr. Dudley said.

For about a year he has been holding the auctions at the Idlewyld Hall on the last Friday of each month. Last week, he decorated the hall with orange and black streamers and carved pumpkins, and scrounged up the most bizarre items he could find.

While he obviously had fun selling the macabre pieces, he said his first love is 1950s memorabilia and tobacco-related collectibles.

His Towson apartment is crammed with 40-year-old televisions and radios, a horrendous orange sofa, a cigarette lighter collection and an antique cigarette machine.

Mr. Dudley said the 1950s materials are easy to find in Baltimore, and he pointed to a pair of lamps with Caribbean chalk dancers to illustrate his point.

"It's 'Hey, Hon' stuff," he said proudly.

"Baltimore is a great 'Hey, Hon' town."

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