CENTRAL POINT — Bob and Bambi Eggel hit auctions the way car aficionados follow auto shows — here, there, everywhere.
The Ferndale, Calif., cattle ranchers play both sides of the equation, sometimes selling, but usually buying.
The Eggels were among hundreds of bidders and gawkers milling about The Expo Saturday looking for deals at a consignment farm and equipment auction, testing the market and trying to gauge what a particular item might cost them down the road. "We go to 40 auctions a year," Bambi Eggel said. "It seems like a hundred. There's a little auction house near where we live, and we see it as free entertainment, even when we don't buy."
While Bambi Eggel gobbled up plants and trees along with sister-in-law Kay Scheckla from Redding, Calif., Bob Eggel mulled over scores of odds and ends at a nearby tool venue. "Going to the bidding preview is critical," said Bambi Eggel, as she admired a collection of forsythia plants she had just acquired. "I set a price before I come in and will not go over it. It's easy to get into a bidding war, where you get excited and sometimes pay more than retail."
The strategy the couple have adopted is to slow down the bid when possible. "People don't have time to think," she said. "If you can get a person to catch their breath, it works to your advantage. But you can tell when a person really wants something and they are going to pay whatever they have to pay."
The give and take between auctioneers and bidders is a nuanced dance. When bidders stuff hands in their pockets, it takes a little boost from the man up front. "I'm gonna start at $20 and watch all the hands go in the air," auctioneer John Pearson announced before launching into a nondescript tool lot.
Pete Lopez, who lives on 7 acres near Brownsboro, bought seven pine trees to serve as a buffer along the road that runs by his property. It was also a scouting mission for later purchases.
"Every auction is different," Lopez said. "Sometimes the prices are too much and other times they're real cheap and things go real quick. You never know."
He had his eye on a plow blade but realized that might be a challenge.
"It's springtime, and everyone is excited, so you see higher prices and more bidding," Lopez said. "Later on, people stop buying and start selling."
Because it is early in the year, there were plenty of first-time bidders.
John David of Merlin latched on to some laurels and rhododendrons to landscape his 20 acres near Merlin.
"Auctions are tempting," he said. "You can get real caught up in things and then end up paying the same price as you would downtown."
Many people simply strolled about Saturday, coffee cup in hand, inspecting goods of varying quality as they would museum pieces.
J.D. Davis, who bought a 30-acre parcel outside Cave Junction last August, was on a mission of discovery.
"I'm checking prices for welding equipment, tractors and a lot of things," Davis said. "I've been sitting on a bulldozer in L.A. the last 25 years, but I have no idea what it's worth here. I'm going to figure the cost and start looking and buy wherever I can."
While some people carried bidding lists compiled during Friday's preview, others simply relied on personal tastes and a keen eye.
Fruit trees were of special interest to Vicki Brookins of Eagle Point, especially the Fuji apple variety.
"These are bare-root trees," Brookins said. "You want to make sure there is no mold. I've bid on some other things, but I'm too cheap to keep going when the bid goes up. It's easy to get in that 'he's not going to outbid me' mind-set."
Like others, she checked prices with retailers to determine her limits.
Auctions tend to attract folks who like to engage in small talk, exchange tales and compare notes on the goods being offered.
As a general practice, the Eggels stay till the final "sold" of the day.
"A lot of people leave as soon as they find what they want," Bambi Eggel said. "It's hard on you physically because you're on your feet all day; it takes endurance. A lot of people bring a chair and sandwich and just watch."