As an admirer of old bits and spurs I bought a fancy catalog for an estate auction of a very rich man who was a collector of collections. The sale featured his fine art, furniture, cars, Indian blankets, saddles, silverware, dishes, bits, spurs and a host of other items. As a potential bidder I had to pay $20 just to get the catalog. Can you imagine if a bull breeder tried to charge a potential customer for his or her sale catalog? No one would show up for the sale, and if they did I’m quite sure that such a greedy person might also charge for the traditionally-free lunch.
The company that handled the sale usually sells art so the catalog was like no other I’d seen. It read like the sale manager was allergic to lawyers because after every item description in capital letters were the words: “YOUR BID INDICATES ACCEPTANCE OF ALL OUR CONDITIONS OF SALE. ALL SALES FINAL.” If those words appeared after every description of a horse in a sale the auctioneer would never get a bid.
No one should ever complain about the commission they pay to sell or buy livestock because in this auction 20 percent of the hammer price was added right on top. If you didn’t have any money and charged your purchase on a credit card it was an extra 2.5 percent. Add to that the applicable sales tax and the buyer would have to pay over 30 percent on top of what he bid! And this doesn’t count what the seller had to pay the sale manager in commission! Hey, it’s good work if you can get it, but it kinda makes the commission you pay at the auction market seem downright puny, doesn’t it?
Another big difference was that an estimated selling range was listed for every lot, I suppose for those folks who have no idea what they’re doing. A friend of mine who is a leading authority on old bits and spurs was asked to give his opinion on what they were worth and his estimates were then lowered by the sale manager so as to not scare off any buyers. Some lots brought 10 times more than the estimates. Just think what might happen to a cow buyer who missed that badly.
It got me to thinking, what if bull and horse sale catalogs were written up like art? Here’s how a typical description might read:
Lot No. 26, Nude bull by Adonis, early 21st century, with legible monogram on left hip. Other marks and brands obliterated or reworked. Condition: Areas of leather show scratches, rubbed wear, cracks and dents one would expect to see on a bull of this era. White spot in eye indicates early repair. There is some minor warping on the back with dirt accumulation and stains found in cracks. Small loss to ears attributable to frost bite, not Van Gogh. In need of major repair and/or restoration. Provenance: Previously shown at the American Royal, Cow Palace and Houston. Letter of authenticity from the American Angus Association. Not responsible for anything that is broken during shipping. Estimated selling price: $300 to $1,000. (Wink, wink.)
Lot No. 12- Knothead, Pinto gelding from mid to late 20th century with unreadable tattoo on upper lip. Acquired by present owner from Blowhard Bill’s Broncs. Condition: Overall poor condition with severe dust accumulation, cracks in feet, scattered dents and abrasions commensurate with age and use. 221,000 miles on the odometer and one leg is shorter than the others. Guaranteed only to be a horse, with nothing else implied or suggested. Provenance: This horse was purchased in last year’s sale, threw the rider before they got home, causing a broken pelvis, leg and arm in three places. No loader is provided so good luck with that. Reference to particular defects does not imply the absence of others. Not responsible for errors and/or omissions. Any and all lawsuits to be adjudicated in jurisdiction of sale. Not responsible for any comments made from the auction block. Estimated Selling Price: Dependent on price of horse meat in Canada or Mexico. ALL SALES FINAL. We repeat, ALL SALES FINAL! ❖