Going once, going twice...

June 7, 2014

You’re not going to find anyone around nowadays who speaks Modern Gutnish, Mahican, Jassic, Polabian, Sowa or Arwi.

Those are all languages that were used within relatively small communities and, for all intents and purposes, have become extinct.

And, after a story in last week’s Observer-Reporter, we’re starting to wonder if the auction chant – that rapid-fire succession of numbers and filler words an auctioneer rattles off before proclaiming, “Going once, going twice, sold!” – will eventually be joining Modern Gutnish and Jassic on that tally of vanished vernacular.

Last Monday, Business Editor Michael Bradwell reported the Three Rivers Auction Co., a 25-year-old business that has been headquartered in Washington since 2003, will be closing. A liquidation sale is set for June 17.

The owner, Tripp Kline, said his work was transformed by the Internet, just as it has reshaped publishing, travel agencies, television and a host of other industries. Rather than take their family’s unused wares to the auction house, many people are now putting them up for sale on eBay, Amazon or Craigslist, opening up the bidding to a much wider public. When Kline started his business just a quarter-century ago, all of those were but glimmers in the eyes of fledgling techies.

Kline also cited changes in how families now deal with life transitions in his decision to shutter the Three Rivers Auction Co. Rather than older folks selling off most of their goods in one caboodle before heading off to the nursing home, they are now prone to sell off their heirlooms and treasuries bit by bit and piece by piece as they gradually downsize.

“Years ago, people would call an auctioneer or have a garage sale,” Kline said. “Now they can market things to the nation.”

And though it may be convenient to bid on, say, a vintage Red Ryder BB gun while you’re sitting in your boxer shorts and sipping orange juice, the pulse-quickening thrill of bidding on an item against other people in real time is hard to replace.



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