Weekly auctions give Lombard woman outlet

Published3/29/2008 12:09 AM

Got stuff?

Jennifer Selcke of Lombard knows what to do with it.


If you've reached the point where you're ready to get rid of some of your stuff, or maybe buy someone else's, you can attend Selcke's weekly auctions at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the Wood Dale VFW Hall, 510 W. Irving Park Road. Visitors are welcome to preview the offerings as early as 1 p.m.

How do you become an auctioneer? Selcke shakes her head and smiles.

"I just fell into it. My dad owned a video store and I started working for him during high school. He decided to try selling used videos at flea markets and I was his clerk. Then he started selling other things, too."

Selcke said her father, Kenneth Hickey, went on to establish an auction house on North Avenue in Villa Park called World Auctions, and then opened an antique mall next door. He decided to leave the business in 1998, leaving Selcke scrambling for her next auction.

"I didn't go to college and this was the work I knew. I checked with the Wood Dale VFW and they offered me a decent rate," she said. "They also let me have the hall all day long on Wednesdays. And I've been there ever since."

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For the past nine years, her typical Wednesday auction offers "a little bit of everything." Folding tables line the walls of the long, narrow hall, stacked with baskets, boxes and containers filled to the brim.

Within the containers are endless collections of vintage and not-so-vintage goods. On any given day, you can come across vintage pottery and glassware, old magazines and postcards, gold and silver jewelry, as well as army boots, blankets, bikes and broken stuff. Another surprise you might discover is that the auction habit can be addictive.

As the auction begins, Selcke sits on her stool near the front of the room with the audience facing her and the hundreds of lots that will be auctioned. She begins with lot number one and doesn't quit until it's over -- whether that's 9:30, 10, 10:30 p.m. or even later. Throughout the night, participants come and go, talk, laugh, eat popcorn and, of course, scrutinize the merchandise.

What does Selcke advise the seller who believes they possess an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, a Van Gogh painting or other highly valued collectible?


"If it's a good antique or collectible, it will sell. But don't have a pre-conceived notion of what your items may be worth. That way you won't be disappointed."

Selcke says television programs like "Antique Roadshow" have given some sellers an inflated sense of what their items are worth.

"Now, everybody thinks what they have is valued at $10,000. The show's producers look at thousands of items before they find someone with an item that's actually worth something."

Of course, Selcke admits she still gets surprised, usually at least once a night.

"We had a painting that I thought was junk. The bidding started out at $5 and the painting eventually sold for $500. That really got the crowd going."

As Selcke looks to the future, she hopes to see an auction site in hers.

"I'd love to be able to get our own space. It's a lot of work to haul all the offerings in and out in one day."

Until that day, you'll find Selcke and her regulars sitting at the Wood Dale VFW every Wednesday night.

"We have about 50 regulars who are here without fail. If we don't see them, we start to worry."

In the end, auctions are about surprises, Selcke said.

"You never know what you're going to see."

And, as many attendees find out, you never know what you might come home with.

For details, visit auctionsbyjen.com or call Selcke at (630) 400-4391.

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