There's a local auction where I live that goes on Friday nights, so every Friday afternoon when I come back from running errands, I stop in to see what's up for auction. There's a lot of yard-sale 'stuff', some vintage things, electronics, and usually several pieces of furniture, which is what I go to see. I'm in the market for a good desk with drawers and a shelf unit, and it's possible to get a really good price on decent furniture.
Usually I'm only interested in the furniture (everything else bores me) but yesterday I spied something I never thought I'd see--jewelry supplies, and lots of it. Boxes of tools or glues, zippered cases containing hanks of beads, packets of silver and coils of wire, two whole cases of seed beads (bead store Czech, not craft store Chinese), containers of sterling findings and components, and portable storage boxes containing all manner of faceted glass and Swarovski crystal.
I determined that I was going to buy at LEAST one case, even though I had never bought at a live auction before (and I was apprehensive, as the niggly details are really counterintuitive). But I went, and I bid, and I got a pair of $13 specialty stepped loop-forming pliers for only $5, two cases of sterling findings for $3 apiece (I was stunned that no one bid higher--I guess they didn't look very closely, or didn't know it was sterling) and another containing crystals for $3. Other beader women were there, outbidding me on the cases of seed beads. Every woman for herself, right? I'd say 'all's fair in love and beading' but that's not true, and also, it's a terrible cliche and overly cutesy for me.
The auctioneer moved on to a different table, leaving one case left unsold--the case containing glass, seed beads--and, I remembered, one case full of crystals, the one I wanted the most. Instead of just accepting that this wasn't for sale anymore, I asked when it would be auctioned--and the woman I asked happened to be the owner of the supplies, who worked at the auction and was willing to sell it outright.
Another lady was interested in buying it, and she made an offer. Even though it wasn't officially an auction anymore, I took a chance and made a higher offer (after making sure it was kosher to do so; even though it was in an auction house, I didn't want to step on toes by bidding when it wasn't officially an auction anymore). The first lady countered, and I countered again, winning the auction for $30 (lower than the amount I'd decided beforehand I was willing to pay). I knew that case had at least twelve containers of crystals, each valued at about $4, plus the other case of glass beads in a useful 4mm size (though the crystals were really what I wanted), so overall, I figured I was paying maybe 50% of the retail price.
Well, when I opened up the beads later to look at them again, I found out what I'd forgotten--that each case contained not twelve but twenty-four containers! Twenty-four of glass and seed beads, and twenty-four of crystal! Not only that, but also.... there was a third container I had forgotten, filled with the finest crystal beads in the world!
P.S. If you are enchanted with my tale of buying beads, and must see pictures, you can read my bead jewelry blog, The Beaded Passion.