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July 27, 2014

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At Darwin’s Auction, the fun starts when the bidding begins

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Keith Shimada / Special to the Sun

Karen Bornsend bids on an item during an antiques auction at the Boulder City Antique Mall.

Darwin Bible

Linda Dennen looks at her listing of items to bid on, during a monthly antiques auction at the Boulder City Antique Mall. Launch slideshow »

Boulder City Antique Mall

Some come with their eye on an old violin or a stamp collection, but most show up just for the sport of it. At Darwin’s Auction in Boulder City, lighthearted goading between friends is more frequent than bidding wars.

A crowd of regulars shows up every month for auctions at Boulder City Antique Mall on Nevada Highway, a sprawling trove of books, oversized Western movie posters, jewelry and furniture. Darwin Bible, who owns the store, auctions off antiques every month in the back room.

On a recent Thursday night, a crowd of about 50 people bid on a Civil War-era drum, old pocket watches, stamps, ceramics and coins.

“Eight interesting books,” Bible announced early in the 430-lot auction, to laughs.

Bible turns off his motor-mouth sometimes to chat with his regulars, some of whom he refers to by their names instead of their bidding numbers. An auction card doesn’t cost anything, so some just come to watch, Bible said.

“Probably 90 percent come for the fun of it,” he said. “We always have fun.”

As a child, Bible’s family packed picnics and spent Saturdays at farm auctions.

“They’d sell everything in the farm house and everything in the barn — chickens, cows, pigs, ducks,” he said. “I absolutely loved it.”

In 1978, Bible, a real estate broker, attended the Missouri Auction School, where he learned how to value items and practiced tongue exercises to learn to speak quickly and clearly.

Patrick McManus, an amateur auctioneer, said he never misses Bible’s auctions, where he not only casts bids, but picks up auctioneering tips.

“Darwin’s a real expert,” he said. “He’s so professional. I learn so much here, it’s like going to school.”

McManus, who ended up buying some stamps, a doll and a scooter, said he sometimes spots items he previously sold at other auctions.

“Sometimes for more and sometimes for less,” he said. “It’s a gamble.”

On this day, the 2 1/2-hour auction netted about $18,000. Two years ago, the number would have been double, Bible said.

“The economy’s so bad, it brings a lot of people selling through the auction, and also people looking for buys,” he said.

Mike Mikhael lives in Henderson and is on Bible’s mailing list, so he knows what’s being sold at every auction. He bought a violin for $50 for his children, who play in a high school orchestra. He’ll have to take it to a specialist for tuning, but it was still a bargain, he said.

Barbara Haskett sells antiques from Bible’s mall and helps with auctions.

She bought piano rolls for a player piano she’d previously purchased at auction.

People have fun at the auction and walk away with something they never knew they always wanted, she said.

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