On the drive back down the autobahn the large suitcase lay unopened in the boot. An hour’s drive during which we enjoyed sparring over what priceless treasures we had smuggled from under the noses of the other bidders.
The auction, a sale of lost luggage from Lufthansa in Frankfurt, was run by kofferauktion24.de who take their auctions on the road in southern Germany, setting up their show every month in another town on the hunt for the innocent with more money than sense.
There were 375 lots,unopened suitcases, kit bags, hand luggage and unmarked cardboard boxes, kinder chariots, body boards, laptops, iPads, phones, watches cameras and a Fender bass.
The cases were stacked on racks for the viewing and as no case fondling was allowed the bidders carefully analysed the sagging and bulging of each case in an effort to differentiate those full of treasure from those full of air.
Rumours were rife as to what might be in the bags. The auction website states that perishables, wet stuff and cash had been removed. I understood that the bags had been inspected to find details of owners and any electronic device with memory and hence perhaps personal data had already been taken out by Lufthansa.
There were a few big cases described as filled with left luggage clothes or books, but all the other cases were mysteries. There was no way of knowing whose dirty clothes you were buying.
There were a hundred lots of ipads, cameras, iphones ipods, laptops and kindles and a set of 3 Mont Blanc pens that fetched over £300.
I looked up the cost of new suitcases before we went and was heard to utter “I do not believe it!”. It is simply un-fekin-believable how much people pay for a new suitcase. Many are over £100 and some of the hard-sided Samsonite cases are a lot over. I saw one bidder leave with three Samsonite cases and suspect the contents were not important to them. Having found my pre-war Karrimor Jaguar rucksack at the tip and my suitcase in a charity shop this auction was to be a real eye opener.
The auction was held in a very smart new-looking town hall in Bühl, between Karlsruhe and Freiburg. This is a very well-to-do part of the world and there was a civilised and well-behaved, young to middle-aged audience of 550, yes I had plenty of time to count them. All very smartly turned out and not a tatoo, piercing or tracksuit in sight. When I used to live in an office we called the style of dress that is common in southern Germany, “smart casual” or “fucking chinos”.
It was all a long way from, and a lot warmer than, the last auction I attended in the draughty stone-walled and stone-floored cattle mart at Ramsey.
- Where did you put the body-board, sun shade and wind-break?
The auctioneer and his crew were well practiced and the lots were available for collection 15 mins after the hammer came down. There was a slow but steady depopulation of the hall as clearly many had come for just one bet and were then away early. In spite of there being only 1/3 of the bidders left by the end the prices didn’t drop significantly.
It was a good-humoured affair and those I talked to all sensed the daftness of it but enjoyed the hunt. A successful bidder on our end of the balcony collected his winning lot and brought it upstairs. He had paid €100 for a what we thought was a painting packed in protective cardboard. We slid across our seats, craned our necks and goaded him into opening it. A Schwitters collage, a Hesse aquarelle, A Dürer etching……er, ….no. A pound shop takarama plastic 3D wall plaque. There was more sympathy than schadenfreude from the scrum around him, although I have to declare, shamefully, that I nearly pissed myself laughing. He was not put off and soon bought another box but for reasons only known to him he chose not to open this one for the audience.
There were some 20 individual lots of substantial looking BMW kinder chariots, including one that the auctioneer said retailed at €1,500 and a single lot of a luggage cage filled with what looked like 50 smaller folding buggies. The lesson here surely is to leave the brat strapped in at all times.
Sad git that I am, I made a note of and averaged out a few dozen winning bids. I have added the commission and tax on commission, roughly 20% giving the average final prices,
- large cases – €150
- small cases, up to size of annoyingly big wheeled hand luggage – €96
- unmarked cardboard boxes up to size of a small microwave – €90
And so an hour later and settled home with a cup of Earl Grey we opened the case we had bought,
Novels have been written with less plot substance than we found. A dozen hand made bracelets from Eritrea, 7 pairs of new strappy size 38 sandals, 8 unpaired new sandals in various sizes, one child’s trainer, a bag of 59 clothes pegs from a shop in the Lebanon, a battery charger and a pair of size-tiny jeans. Most looked knicked to me.
On my way to the clothes-bank my disappointment at not finding treasure was offset by the thought that I will not feel obliged to resort to the devil’s market, Ebay, in an attempt to sell anything of value and get a return on my un-disclosed investment.