About two weeks ago I noticed an ad on craigslist for an upcoming sale that sounded insane. The ad was titled “42 Room Hotel Estate Sale of Collector of Everything.” How could we not be curious? It didn’t have a location and went on and on about how much stuff there was, that you had to enter at your own risk, no children or beverages or large purses would be allowed in … it was frightening and compelling at the same time. I also recognized the estate sale company’s name from some online drama a few months back where someone kept posting some complaints about his ads that then kept getting taken down. I didn’t remember the details, but that added a little extra intrigue.
On Thursday I saw the ad again, this time with specifics. Turns out it was on Ballard Avenue, right in our neighborhood, and it started on Friday. Meghan and I made plans to go down around lunchtime and check it out. We had to sign a waiver basically stating that we were taking our lives into our hands by entering the building, then we trudged up the stairs. We were greeted with these signs:
They looked old, and sort of permanent, so we couldn’t quite figure out what the deal was. We got even more perplexed as we made our way through room after room, crammed full of all kinds of crusty old junk just as promised.
As advertised, the place was scary. The walls and especially the ceiling were sort of decaying before our eyes.
I don’t think there were a full 42 rooms open (the upstairs was closed off), but there had to be at least twenty-five, all full of stuff, plus hallways with furniture and whatnot. It was crazy. We figured the people running the sale might have brought in some extra stuff to throw in, but from what we could gather most of it came from the estate of the previous owner. Apparently he’d bought the building in the ’50s, then at some point had a secondhand shop up there — although that must have been quite a while ago as neither of us had ever heard of this. He died about six years ago and for whatever reason they were just now getting around to clearing the place out. (Someone said they were going to turn it into office spaces after some extensive retrofitting and renovation.)
The amount of stuff there was sort of amazing. Impressively, it was almost all priced, which must have taken ages. Unfortunately for us the prices weren’t all that cheap. And there was definitely a ton of stuff that we wouldn’t have bought at any price. Like this box o’ chew.
Or this demented picture:
However, I definitely would have bought this king crab mounted on velvet … if it’d been a lot less than $125.
There were a ton of great and weird old signs in the place. I liked this one for some place called The Cedar.
My favorite sign in the place was this one:
I wish I could have taken it home. It was in a room with bookshelves on every wall and a table piled high with magazines in the middle. I got really excited when I started looking through them until I realized they were about $8 each … too rich for my cheese-lovin’ blood.
Paperbacks were a reasonable $1, and I kept grabbing books from the shelves with crazy titles like “White Satin Wench” … but most of them had their covers torn off! It was tragic. I did pick up these four classy titles.
The very last photo I took was this:
Right after the flash went off the guy running the sale walked by and snipped, “Don’t take photos.” Oops. Then someone else said (about the sale guy) “Oh, he was a crank back when he worked at Goodwill.” Not sure what that referred to but I got the feeling there was some history there. In any case, we had both already taken plenty of photos (even more than the ones in this post — check out the whole set on Flickr if you just can’t get enough.)
We headed to pay for our few items. Meghan had grabbed one pattern out of a pile. The guy said “Those are two for a dollar. So you know that’s one dollar, right? I don’t do fifty cents.” Meghan told him he could put it back then, paid for her other stuff, and headed downstairs. I had my four paperbacks, a tiny Jello recipe booklet from 1934, one dishtowel, and a slightly beat-up original Lynda Barry “Poodle With A Mohawk” poster for $10 that I just couldn’t pass up. (I saw something scribbled in the corner and got excited thinking she signed it, but it turned out someone else had signed it. Oh well, it’s still cool.) The total ended up $20 and he threw in Meghan’s pattern. I was happy about that until a few minutes later when I thought wait a minute … did he overcharge me for something? Later I discovered the Jello booklet had been priced at $4. I had thrown it in the pile thinking it would be $1 at most. I totally wouldn’t have bought it for $4, but it was my own dang fault for not noticing! I kicked myself until I finally realized that it wasn’t worth getting too upset about spending three whole dollars more than I’d meant to.
After we left, we went to grab some lunch. Before we even sat down, we marched straight to the bathroom and washed our hands. Twice.