Going Once

Five bucks for the Joy of Cola? Only at the Boca Auction Gallery.

If you've never been to an auction before, the Boca Auction Gallery in Boca Raton is a great place to go on a Saturday night. It's fun, and it's free -- unless you buy something, of course. Even if you walk out empty-handed, you'll have to marvel at auctioneer/owner Mike Cobosco's breathtaking item-a-minute pace.

Many of the items sell for less than $100, especially early on, when caution rules the roost and would-be buyers have not yet been caught up in a foaming-at-the-mouth bidding frenzy, and at the end of the auction, when the seasoned veterans of the bidding wars have gotten a little gun-shy. At a recent auction, an antique Danish lamp went for $75, six cane-back chairs for $60, and a sectional sofa for $50. A 1994 Woodstock Pepsi can went for $5 to its first -- and only -- bidder.

"Sell it on eBay," Cobosco counseled the high bidder. "You'll make a fortune." Consider the bidder who bought a ukulele for $200 a couple of months ago and sold it online the following week for $3050. Cobosco had thought the instrument in question was a banjo and at the time believed the bidder paid $150 too much.


The Boca Auction Gallery

11 SE Third St. in Boca Raton

Auctions begin at 6:30 p.m. every Saturday and run until the last item is sold, which could be well past midnight. Previews run from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every Saturday. Admission to the auction is free; high bidders pay a 10 percent premium on each item purchased. Call 561-416-0202 for more information.

This country auction usually offers with no pretension more than 600 items without serious pedigree (or as they say at Sotheby's, "provenance" -- a proof of authenticity or past ownership). One recent Saturday Cobosco did mention that a Carl Fisher piano and stool came from the home of a part-time opera singer but then added, "Oh, you don't care."

Despite his rapid-fire delivery, Cobosco still makes time to engage his audience of about 200 people. The piano and stool, the 141st item on the block, went for $850 amid a round of applause; up to that point the highest bid was $400 for a very decent dining room table with two leaves, six chairs, and a china cabinet. When shopping for new furniture, it's hard to find six chairs alone for $400. But the pièce de résistance was still to come: a dining table with three leaves, custom table pads, six ball-and-claw chairs, and a china hutch Cobosco insisted would cost in the $50,000 range brand-new. And in fact it practically was. The auctioneer said the set had been purchased by its former owner in 1995. It went for $12,000, making it the most expensive item ever sold at the Boca Auction Gallery.

Talk about a win-win situation. The high bidders were thrilled. Cobosco was thrilled, too. "I would have been happy with a high bid of $8000," he confessed.

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