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.