By Richard White, October 20, 1013
Attention all collectors, antiquers, bottom feeders, scavengers, thrifters, flea marketers and storage warriors - bet you don’t know about the “Mega Marathon Auction” in Downtown Boise? Even the local tourism folks don’t know about this “off, off the beaten” track attraction.
Yes, since 1937, every Saturday morning at 10 am sharp at 2912 Main Street, Boise the auction begins with two auctioneers starting at either end of an old horse barn going until everything is gone, usually means until after midnight.
We didn’t believe it so we had to see it for ourselves. Arriving at 9 am for previewing, we found 50+ stalls jammed with every imaginable thing you could think of - from lumber and construction supplies, to industrial clothes washers and dryers, to art, antiques and household accessories. Thousands of items are neatly neatly piled-up behind chain linked fence barrier so you have to count on your eagle eye to spot what you want.
Lucky we got there early so there weren’t many people and we could have a good look. Brenda’s eye caught a 1950s West German cheery yellow kitchen weigh scale branded “Accurate” with a needle that didn’t accurately point to zero.
Another patron also noticed the irony at the same time and a lively discussion ensued. Dan was a regular and explained the process and confirmed the auction could easily go past midnight. He thought Brenda’s piece would be auctioned off about 1 pm.
We didn’t want to hang around but he explained we could place our maximum bid for the piece with the teller and come back later to see if we were the successful bidder.
By 10 am, the crowd had grown to over 100 people and we stayed for a bit to get a feel for the animation. We quickly understood why it takes until midnight to complete the auction as they auction off the items piece by piece… a set of 8 glasses for $2, a TV for $25 and a load of lumber for 100 bucks – you get the picture.
You have to be quick as these guys are auctioning off several items a minute. This is definitely all about the art of the quick sale. Did I tell you that there are two auctioneers? One starts at each end and they work toward the middle. It was wild.
As promised the auction was still going strong and our piece still hadn’t come up for auction, so we headed back to our room at The Riverside Hotel for a quick costume change (orange and blue is a must) for the Boise State Broncos tailgate party and football game (another fun tale for a later date).
After the game, we headed back to The Riverside Hotel but not before checking out the Main Auction – it was 10:30 pm. Yep, auction was still going strong…while the crowd was down to about 50 people (amazingly some of the same people were still there) and there were still several more stalls packed with items to be auctioned.
We couldn’t believe that the same auctioneers were still there and that they still had a sense of humour. When taking pictures one of them quickly shout “ Hi Mom!” without missing a beat in the auction. Impressive!
Indeed, Brenda was the lucky bidder for the inaccurate Accurate scale with a winning bid of $3. Willing to go as high as $6, she was thrilled.
FYI: We are less tourists and more treasure hunters as we are always looking for something fun, funky or quirky to add to our collection of FFQ art and artifacts. But it must be a deal - anyone can go into a major gallery, boutique or store and buy something.
The thrill comes from the story around the acquisition. And our local man Dan was a key part of our memory. Thanks Dan!
The Main Auction has been family owned and operated for over seventy years. Established in 1937 by Colonel Paul Owens. After many years of running the auction, Paul decided to sell to his nephew Robert Wesely. Robert had six children that all worked at the auction for the next several years. In 1976, Robert sold The Main Auction to his son, Danny Wesely. Danny owned and operated the auction the longest, at thirty-two years. In the beginning of 2008 he sold it to David Wesely Jr., his nephew who is the current owner and works full time at the facility. For more information mainauctioncorp.com
If you ever find yourself in Boise, Idaho on a Saturday (pretty much no matter what time of day it is) be sure to check out the Main Auction. It is great fun for anyone who loves “people watching” or loves the “thrill of the hunt.”
Even if you aren’t there on a Saturday, you can drop by any Tuesday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm for previewing the stalls as they fill up with items for next Saturday’s auction.