If you are looking for a bargain, a “hidden treasure,” or just an entertaining night out, you can venture over to Golden Gavel Auctions on a Thursday night. Once there, you might bid on a bicycle, a diamond ring, toys, tools, farm equipment, artwork, dishes, or even a car! You name it, and they probably have it, or will soon, at this facility in East Windsor. Mr. Patrick Soucy is the President, appraiser and auctioneer of the 25-year old business, and has been assisted for over 20 years by Ralph Labozzo, also an appraiser and auctioneer, as well as a staff of 7 full-time and 8 part-time employees. According to Soucy, the public may bring items into the facility to be consigned and sold at auction, or the company will meet with home or business owners who wish to liquidate an estate. Note that due to COVID, appraisals may be obtained by emailing pictures of items to goldengavel@ATT.net. Their specialty, Soucy says, “is helping a family through the entire process of liquidating an estate. Any auction house can sell something great. We specialize in selling whole estates, and helping the family liquidate their assets and leaving the house broom clean and ready to sell.” Their six step process for any home or estate includes an appraisal, assisting the family with the disbursement of items, the auction of saleable items, the donation of unsold items to charity, broom cleaning the house, and providing realtors for the sale of the property, if desired. They are also the official auction company for the state of Connecticut and the F.B.I., selling anything that has been stolen and is unclaimed, seized, or abandoned. This can lead to some rather unusual items coming up for sale, such as cartons of deodorants or toothbrushes (yes…unused!), as well as the fine furniture, art work, jewelry, rare coins, and other collectables that are part of estate sales.
On Thursdays, a preview period of that evening’s auction items begins at 2:00 pm, when you may wander amongst the wide variety of goods. An “early bird” auction is held outside beginning at 5:30, with Labozzo auctioning off everything from outdoor furniture and vacuum cleaners to tools and the aforementioned toothbrushes, stating with humor that “oral hygiene is very important and this will keep you stocked with toothbrushes for the rest of your life!” The main auction inside begins at 7:00 pm, and you only need your ID to obtain a numbered card which allows you to bid when items of interest come up. Purchases may be paid for with cash, credit, or debit. Soucy is the auctioneer for this part of the evening, and as he says, “you have to keep the attention of the audience and put on a show to entertain them, but at the same time, you’re doing serious business.”
When asked about some of the most memorable or profitable items that have come their way, they tell the story of “The Buddha,” a 16th century wood-carved, life-size statue. The owner had set a reserve price of $10,000, meaning that was the minimum amount they would sell it for. As it turned out, the largest collector of Oriental items in the world flew in from England and purchased it for $86,000! Another memorable sale came from a hoarder situation in Manchester, in which the house was full of “good stuff,” including a Tiffany lamp that sold for $23,000 and a Tiffany fire screen/fender that sold for $38,000.
In general, key markets now are jewelry (both costume and fine,) sterling silver, coins, and vintage toys. Particularly “hot” items right now include vintage comic books; video games (ie. Atari, Sega, and Mario Bros;) G.I. Joes; Tonka trucks; and matchbox cars. Hmmm…maybe we should have let our kids keep that stuff in their rooms when they moved out after all!
In addition, Soucy says that guns, knives and military items are doing very well, as are automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles from estate sales. The Oriental art and porcelain market is also doing well, since “the middle class in some of those countries has grown and they are buying back a lot of antiques that were sold over the years.”
Before or during the auction, you can avail yourselves of a simple homemade meal and /or a tasty dessert. The Golden Gavel Grille is managed by Ted Jarrett, and much of the cooking is done by Joanna Dube, who has also done the baking for the past 19 years. A meal, none costing more than $9.00, may consist of pasta and meat sauce, meatloaf, or a variety of chicken dishes. Also available are grinders, hot dogs, soup in season, and desserts such as coconut cream or chocolate cream pie, cheesecake, carrot cake, or brownie sundaes. Desserts are also very reasonable at only $3.00 a piece, and they sell out quickly.
Soucy says he has three favorite parts of his business. One is when he goes to appraise someone’s collection and he realizes he is looking at someone’s life work in putting it together over the years, and hearing about how much they have enjoyed it. Two is helping families and their loved ones sell their items and collections, while helping to empty the estate and bring closure to that chapter of their lives. Lastly, auctioneering is a great experience and a lot of fun, he says. “The most fun I’ve ever had at an auction was a charity event for a school in Union, Connecticut. Charity auctions are a lot of fun because there is no pressure about how much the items are going to bring for a consignor, like a normal auction. Everybody is there for the same purpose...to raise money and have a good time. At this particular charity auction, I had not seen the list of what I was selling prior to the event. I was about 20 items down on the list when I noticed the next item was …a dog wash? I didn’t realize this was a real thing, and I started laughing and could not stop. The whole audience joined in and we just laughed for the next several minutes, while I pulled myself together.”
Soucy noted that they do 12 to 15 charity events in a “normal” year, where they donate their time to auction items for a specific cause or group, such as schools, churches, local soup kitchens, People to People, and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. He said, “this gives me great joy, and when you do good things…good things come back to you multiple times over.”
People interested in having an item(s) appraised for sale can email photos to goldengavel@ATT.net. In another nod to COVID, several auctions are being held on-line. See their website for details
Golden Gavel Auctions is located at
149 North Road (Rte. 140) in
East Windsor, Connecticut