Posted on December 21, 2011 by Indiana's Cool North
By Kath Usitalo, contributing writer to Midwest Living
Nearly 90 years ago, an Indiana man sold a half dozen pigs, seven cows and some cattle in an auction that launched a Shipshewana tradition that has grown into weekly auctions of livestock, horses and antiques.
Although I don’t have a quirky assortment of vintage aprons or prized pottery collection to enhance, I love browsing antiques shops. This auction is a shop on steroids. on my first visit to the famous antiques auction at the Shipshewana Auction and Flea Market.
While the flea market operates from May through September, the antiques auction is a year-round event. Every Wednesday, the 16,000-square-foot white barn becomes a bustling, colorful and noisy scene, but the action really starts when buyers scout the goods—sparkling glassware, stacks of cigar boxes, once-loved dolls, handcrafted wooden tools, rusty signs and 1970s wedding china—on Tuesday and early Wednesday. When the bidding opens at 9 a.m., throngs of buyers circle eight to 10 auctioneers who simultaneously begin the process of selling treasures to the highest bidder.
Wagon wheels, a commercial sewing machine, bicycles and a model canoe attract moderate or little interest and the occasional well-tempered bidding war. Exchanges are quick, lively and good-humored. Someone walks away with a framed print for $5 (hoping, perhaps, to have scooped up a long-lost masterpiece). A woman is thrilled with a piece of nautical-looking equipment that I’m sure she’ll display in some creative way.
A rustic wooden rake sparks my interest, but I’m not certain where I’d display it so pass on bidding, which I regret later. The people-watching and energy at the auction—and the hope that there will be another handmade rake for sale—have me planning a return trip.
The antiques and livestock auctions are Wednesdays; the horse auctions are Fridays. No auctions on Christmas and New Year’s Day.