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It was probably inevitable that the Brooklynian appreciation of vintage would bleed over into the world of auctions. I’ve noticed the advent of mobile vintage stores (as in, vintage clothing and accessories sold out of little mobile trucks (witness this charming event in Bed Stuy next weekend ).  So it makes sense that now there’s Brooklyn Barn Auctions.

Of course there have always been live auctions in New York  - aside from the super-pricey domain of Christie’s and Sotheby’s and the slightly less rarified but still not super-accessible Doyle’s, there are a few more middle-market options, like Hutter.  But none of those auction houses have made any real effort to appeal to younger vintage-lovers who might be habitues of flea markets and curated vintage stores and thrifts shops and like to drink in retro-fab booze dens. Until now, with Brooklyn Barn.

Brooklyn Barn was written up in Time Out New York, and when’s the last time you saw an auction mention in TONY that wasn’t the Elizabeth Taylor diamonds or something?     Plus, it was held in the Manhattan Inn, a sort of recreated 1920s speakeasy, in Greenpoint. I had to check it out.

There were only a few preview items on the website and no indication of starting prices, save an assurance that the items would actually be affordable.  So I had little idea what to expect.

I had never been to the Manhattan Inn before, and it turned out to be adorable, a small narrow front bar leading to a back room  with a skylight and ringed with tables. In the center: a grand piano. On the piano: the assorted items for auction. Not too many, maybe about 30 or 40.  I got there a few minutes before starting time, and the booths ringing the exterior were taken, though I was able to grab a chair.

This is not a classic auction. You won’t be required to give your credit card info to register. Registration involved going up to a woman wearing a beautiful vintage-style dress (the wife of the auctioneer) and giving her your name. In return, you received a paddle (really a piece of printed paper).

The items offered for sale at the Brooklyn Barn auction. The woman behind the piano was registering bidders.

As far as I could tell, the items all came from the auctioneer’s personal inventory. They were indeed priced low, and I don’t think there was a premium (at least, there was no mention of such.) Items sold included a taxidermy quail for $40 (opening bid, as the auctioneer pointed out to much hilarity that this was a low price for taxidermy in Victoriana-obsessed Brooklyn), a really unusual World War II mail sorter, a print of Miss Rheingold 1958, a slightly damaged old guitar, and an etching of an old carriage (?) that I found quite ugly but which sparked the liveliest bidding war of the auction. Sadly, no clothing or jewelry (though jewelry would require monitoring during the preview lest the Manhattan Inn house some unsavory lightfingered types under its skylit roof). Prices were indeed affordable. I think few things even broke $100, and many went for $20 or under. There was some obvious difficulty with transporting larger items, like the chairs and mail sorter for sale, as I presumed the auction was cash and carry.

Miss Rheingold rests on a chair (also for sale). She went home with someone for $15 (the chair was $30)

It’s certainly worth checking out. The next one is August 18th (and I won’t be able to go as I’ll be out of town).  I’m going to contact the auctioneer and see if he’ll answer some questions by phone or email.