Ten Years Ago: Getting the Hammer at Manion’s International Auction House

It’s been a while since I’ve done a TBT, but today is too good to ignore. In early 1998, I took a job in the ‘description department’ at Manion’s International Auction House. The company specialized in historical militaria and for a time dominated that collecting field on a truly international scale.
Unfortunately the company was not able to harness and ride the Internet as well as might have been expected. A devastating tornado in May 2003 further hobbled Manion’s at a time it should have been making progress, and in the mid-aughts, the namesake of the company abruptly retired, even as the firm found itself on a slide into shabbiness and eventual collapse. Hmmm.

When I started with the company, there were around 50 employees. When I and several others were laid off on March 31, 2006, there were perhaps just 25 remaining. The numbers sank from there until the company officially cried uncle in early 2014.

Yes, this was for internal use only.

For all of the company’s failings – some being considerable, I look back on my time there very fondly, especially remembering my department, which was manned by a well-educated freakshow of the eccentric and genuinely unsane: Former Smithsonian Institute archivists, Johns Hopkins staff, authors, Fort Leavenworth Command and General Staff College instructors, etc. I’ve never felt more comfortable, professionally speaking, and in time I became the department’s head weirdo.

Starting around 2001, I kept a series of notebooks at my desk so I could record the random outbursts of the staff, and I maintain that in the unthinkable event of a house fire, they would be among the few items I would try to save on my way out. I sometimes think I should publish them…with names redacted.

Anyway, it has been ten years to the day since my days there ended. The company is now gone, which is a good thing ultimately, but its memory lives on…infamously to those burned in its declining years, famously to those of us that inhabited that twilight zone.