I have known about Dixon’s for years. But until one recent overcast Wednesday, I had never been, never bid, never bought.
In a gigantic hangar of a building and in the field in front of the auction house — and on a field down the street — all kinds of wares await the regular Dixon’s Furniture Auctions, AKA the Crumpton Auction. The dish auction — which really includes every kind of household item you might want — begins inside at 8 a.m. The furniture auction outside and the $10 household item auction down the street both begin at 9 a.m. You have to wait until 12:45 p.m. for the jewelry.
An array of chests and chairs from the full range of the 20th century drew us to the furniture auction. There were stoplights and chandeliers, rugs and ornamental iron gates. Some people hovered around a piece they coveted. Others — dealers who knew their way around the place — followed the auctioneer scooping up chests for a song and bidding up if a piece looked particularly inviting.
The auctioneers weren’t what I expected. In the movies, they stand at a podium and speak their singsong gibberish until the gavel comes crashing down. Here they ride (or are pushed) around on wheeled stands with loudspeakers and accompanied by an assistant with a laptop keeping track of every transaction. The crowds follow them through the merchandise.
Before you can bid, you have to go into the office and register your name, address, phone number, and leave a deposit on your credit card. They promise it is removed if you don’t buy anything. You get a number which the assistant with the laptop will need if, when you buy something. New visitors should go to the website to find all the rules about using checks, cash or credit cards, along with the schedule.
Back outside, rolltop desks, Art Deco dressing tables, hand painted chairs — even two chairs with labels for Mrs. Hubert Humphrey and Gen. Alexander Haig on the back — it was too much to take in.
Then I saw the brass floor lamp with the jade trim. It was as if the wicker chairs, side tables and china closets fell away until that tall, quirky lamp stand was there alone. And I knew it had to be mine. As the bidders drew near it, I clutched that number, made sure it would be visible to the auctioneer and waited for the bidding to begin.
“Twenty dollars!” he called. I raised the number. “I see you, honey,” I think he said. I was so excited I don’t really remember.
“Five! Twenty-five!” I couldn’t see who bid.
“Thirty,” he called and this time I nodded when he looked my way. He turned to the other bidder.
“Five! Thirty-five! Thirty-five!”
When there were no takers, he called out for me to show my number. His assistant found my name on her laptop and the sale was made.
Make a day of it
Dixon’s Auction House in Crumpton may seem far off the beaten track to most of us. But it’s just off Route 301, 35 miles from the Bay Bridge and 10 miles outside of Chestertown. Auctions are held every Wednesday — with a few exceptions. It closes for the week of the Fourth of July, Labor
Day, Thanksgiving and two weeks at Christmas. These off-weeks depend on when Christmas and New Year’s fall. This year Dixon’s will be closed the last week in December and the first week in January.
If you are going to set aside the time to go to the auctions, you might as well make a day of it. You can stay at Dixon’s all day. There’s a snack bar and a deli counter. In the summer, farmers have their produce for sale outside.
Better yet, head to Millington for lunch or dinner at Two Tree Restaurant, a stylish cafe with great food. It’s a seven-mile drive. And don’t forget Chestertown is just 10 miles away. An old colonial capital, it has lots of shopping, more antiques and historic streets made for strolling.
Keep it country by stopping at Godfrey’s Farm for local produce, an ice cream or slushie. If the season’s right, you can pick your own berries or asparagus or flowers, too. While you’re driving through Sudlersville, you might be interested in the statue of the town’s own baseball hero, Jimmie Foxx, a seven-time All Star. When he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951, he was one of the youngest players to be so honored.
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman