Selling `junk' to raise funds

Consignment sale offers everything and the kitchen sink - including camaraderie

April 20, 2007|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,sun reporter

When Robert Brown of Glen Burnie pulled up at the Howard County Fairgrounds on Wednesday in his pickup truck with three beat-up lawnmowers, two bags of potting soil, a paper shredder and a 15-foot power boat on a trailer, members of the Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club showed no surprise as they helped him unload.

Over 12 years of holding its annual consignment sale, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the fairgrounds in West Friendship, "we've had just about everything you can think of," said Virginia Frank, a club member and sale organizer.

Each year the selection of stuff - which has included Emus, a bulldozer, a prefabricated building and usually a kitchen sink or two - gets bigger, Frank said.

Wednesday was the first of three days that club members were unloading, tagging and arranging sale items between 9 a.m. and dusk, with today expected to be the busiest.

By early afternoon, there were 16 used push lawnmowers, a hay rake, eight rusted cars, piles of unused building materials, a dented trampoline and a wood chipper. A 1967 Mustang was on its way. A collection of wood sculptures carved with a chainsaw were expected.

About 4 p.m., club members hauled in three dented metal cupolas that stood on top of the dairy barn they are renovating at their farm heritage museum site across the street from the fairgrounds.

"Nothing seems to amaze me when they bring it in," said Rebecca Lorah of Ellicott City, who is Frank's daughter and a volunteer. "I'm amazed people want to buy it."

The club drew about 500 buyers last year and nearly 2,000 attendees looking for treasures - or at least stuff they could use - amid the collection of other people's castoffs. Professional auctioneers sold the items for $1 up to several thousand dollars.

A percentage of each sale, which is determined on a sliding scale, and a buyer fee go to the farm machinery club for its programs, particularly the farm heritage museum. Club President John Frank said his organization usually makes between $14,000 and $16,000.

Most nonprofits would not be able to take on such a fundraiser, Frank said. "It is labor-intensive for about a two-week period."

Fortunately, he said, the club is full of people who like to work with their hands, whether it is reconstructing a sawmill at the museum or unloading the contents of people's garages.

"I've always had pretty good luck at this sale," said Brown, a retired truck driver who also owns a hobby farm in Little Orleans in Allegany County. "I come here to buy stuff and to sell. ... I just swap junk."

This year, he said, his contributions will include six 5-gallon buckets of fence paint, a farm gate and a large tractor.

""It's stuff I bought that I thought I'd use, he said, "but I'm getting up in age. I'm slowing down."

The sale can be appealing to people who don't want to deal with phone calls, visitors or haggling with people, said John Frank. The organizers advertise in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania and contact their own mailing list to draw a large crowd. Once the item is consigned, the seller has the option of sitting back and waiting for a check in the mail.

For some sellers, the good cause is the attraction.

"I'd rather bring it here than anywhere because the money goes to the club," Gary Ridgely of Cooksville said as he unloaded a lawnmower and a dog house from his truck. Several members of his family are longtime club members.

Sonny Freeland of Westminster said he likes to support the farm machinery club as he brought in a set of skis, a grass sweeper and a 70-year-old maple infant's crib. He said he has less space since moving to a retirement community. "I always have stuff to bring out," he said. "I had to downsize."

Freeland, who retired from the telephone company, said he enjoys attending the sale.

"I like to see old tools, old farm equipment, stuff like that," he said. "There is a lot of camaraderie. You run into people you don't see every day."

John Frank said with the help of proceeds from past sales, the farm heritage museum is "moving much faster than most people thought possible."

The group started creating a museum on 40 acres of leased county parkland - which included a two-story farmhouse and several deteriorating outbuildings - in West Friendship in July 2005.

The club plans to hold a Spring Field Day at the museum May 5 with the Maryland Draft Horse and Mule Association. Demonstrators will use horse- and mule-drawn farm implements to plow fields and plant crops, among other activities.

consignment sale is to start at 9 a.m. tomorrow with buyer registration beginning about 8 a.m. at the Howard County Fairgrounds on Route 144 in West Friendship. Information on the sale and other antique farm machinery club activities:

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