My wife and I have a small sheep flock. A friend has cattle and timber. He tracks down hay and straw for me and helps me get it home each year. We stay in touch.
Earlier this spring, Kelsay Farms sold a large amount of equipment after selling their dairy herd. Both my friend and I noticed in the sale ad that they were selling lots of gates. I was about to build ram pens, and my friend always needs gates to corral his cattle in various places. I had stopped by the Kelsay farm during preview days and checked out the gates.
“I see they have old gates listed,” my friend said on the phone one evening.
“Yes, and I’m going to go watch the sale anyway,” I said. “I could use some gates, but they’re selling in lots of 10, and I don’t need 10.”
“What if we split a lot?” my friend asked. It sounded like a deal to me.
Me and hundreds of other people showed up on a rainy morning for the sale. My friend stopped by just after it started. The gates wouldn’t sell until late in the sale. We went and looked at them together. They were heavy-duty, well-aged gates but had lots of life left. Some stacks had 12-, 14- and 16-foot gates. The stack that suited me was mostly 10-foot, solid gates — ram-tough, I figured.
My friend rubbed his chin. “What do you think? Maybe we go $250 on a lot?”
“We could probably go $300 and be OK,” I said. My friend agreed, noting he had priced new gates at a big-box farm store, 16-footers, at just over $100 each. I found out later, though, that those were utility gates. The gates we were looking at were likely heavy-duty gates, worth another $50 bucks or more new at the big-box stores.
“Tell you what, I’ve got to go do some business,” my friend said. “If you’re staying, just let me know if we get them. I’ll come get them with my trailer.”
That seemed like a good plan to me. I wanted to watch the bigger equipment sell anyway. He left, and more than three hours later, they finally got to the gates,
“Where do you want to start?” the auctioneer began. Suddenly, he was chanting $250, near our top price — then $300, then $400, then $500.
He didn’t stop until he reached $1,000 — per stack! “Sold, and the buyer takes all four stacks,” he said.
Are you kidding me? Even the auctioneer mumbled over the microphone, “That’s $4,000 worth of gates.”
I called my friend on the way home. “Well, you don’t have to bring your trailer,” I began. “We didn’t buy any gates today.”
Then I told him the price.
“No way, you’re kidding!” he responded. Yes, way, I replied. He must have been sitting down, because I didn’t hear him fall over. “The last time I left a bid for something, it sold for over twice what my buddy and I were going to bid,” he said. “I just can’t believe it.”
Now, if you are the one who bought the gates and you need them, it probably was a decent buy. If you’re part-timers like my friend and I looking for decent buys more on the bargain-side, well, we’re glad you got the gates, not us! Aren’t auctions fun — always a surprise!