The Bloomfield Auction

It would be true to say that nothing has had gamers' phones ringing like Mr Bloomfield's recent auction. Even now, weeks later, people are still discussing the event, assessing whether Eamon did it right, what he made out of it and whether he should be taxed. It appears Eamon made about £25,000 - I would have put it higher on the day, but this seems to be the official return at the time of writing. Most of all though, I suspect, they are quietly ferreting away those crappy old games in hermetically sealed vaults to benefit from just such an occasion in the future.

So, having spent best part of a fortnight dribbling over the catalogue, speculating on numbers attending, would they fit it all in, who would spend what and whether we'd get any bargains, Mike Clifford, Bruce Wilson and I drove up to the hotel just outside Norwich and arrived with about an hour to spare before proceedings got under way. There were about twenty people already there (which number would eventually double), rummaging around in the room full of 5,000-odd games. We quickly joined them to check on condition and whether some of the more unusual items in the list still looked interesting in the flesh. For me, some did, but most didn't and I managed to prune my list considerably to the benefit of my bank balance.

Within the first few minutes of the bidding, we had some of our questions answered. Postal and subsequent room bids were coming in for strangely high amounts on the most unspectacular games, while other lots were going for much less than estimate. I thought overall they averaged out, but the high prices, while impressive and puzzling, are also more memorable than the many small amounts. Whatever, there are some serious collectors out there and I sat there shaking my head in disbelief as Middle Earth went for nearly £100, Soccerboss for £40, Apocalypse for £80 and Warlock for about £90. Most of these are games I have had trouble selling in the last year! Daftest of all was a copy of Conquistador that went for about £70, knocking off the retail value of New World that went with it. Very strange. Am I missing something or would you like to buy this bridge I have on my books? The real rarities, as expected, went for big bucks. Al Parlamento went over £300, Crude for nearly £400, the Railway Traveller game for £800 (top price on the day) and several other items hit the hundreds of pounds level. By the way, this is all from memory as the promised list of prices has not yet materialised.

All this caused a lot of fevered discussion. Having been essentially cured of collecting mania, it was interesting to watch and listen to the many people who were mentally totting up their own collections at home and working out how they could tap the gravy train in the future, when they decide to sell (though, of course, many never will). Comments were overheard as to how best to preserve games, are they affected by damp and, best of all, 'how much does a shrink wrapping machine cost?'. Grounds for serious worry here I'd have thought - if you buy a re-shrink wrapped game, and keep it that way, how do you know what is inside? Someone could do quite a trade in boxes filled with bits of cardboard. I would think that few other days in history have done more for anal retentives anonymous!

That said, I did of course buy just a few games for myself and a couple of 'overseas bidders'. I made a point of buying, as usual, obscure games and wooden items and I was not disappointed with the selection on offer. A few highlights: Fencing by Passtyme is one I have been looking for since I saw a copied version a year or so back. A card game, nicely made and pretty realistic I think. On oddities, I got a game called Toxins (on nuclear waste disposal), Timbuktu by Imperium, Successor from Commonwealth Games (crediting a certain Gary Graber) and a French game on Motocross that looks interesting. I picked up some unusual Parker games - Coup d'Etat, Waterworks, Mad and Quick 7 (German Pit, by all accounts so this will remain unplayed). I also got two Japanese games, Epoch and Feudal Lords, that look pretty good, though I don't think we will ever see rules for these! The highlights were probably Maze (a hand made wood game), The Stockmarket Game (some of the best components I've seen, but possibly a weak game) and a game in a wooden box from Remy Martin. A good haul.

On the downside, while I thought the auctioneer performed wonders to get it finished, insufficient time was left to settle up and clear the area of games before an impending wedding reception moved into the room. This resulted in the surreal sight of several frantic gamers running around trying to grab their lots, deliriously happy and demented at the same time. Tempers were fraying by the second, legs, games and string were everywhere and a good few items went missing in the chaos (and still haven't turned up). Add to this the wedding disco setting up its speakers at unreal volumes (The KLF, I believe - Moo Moo!), the hotel staff grabbing game-laden tables as fast as they could and various officials trying to make sure no-one was helping themselves, we all got in a frightful state.

The final straw was an obnoxious German goon who decided to establish Lebensraum in the middle of the room by surrounding himself with his boxes. Not content with that, he decided that I had paid for and collected a lot that he believed he had bought. Needless to say, despite the auctioneer's and my records confirming otherwise, I was obviously at fault as far as he was concerned and he bullied away till his face went quite red. Clearly in the right and in no mood for an argument, I directed him to those in authority and scarpered out the back door into the thick fog, and thence to London by Hansom. What a polite man, he really made my day.

Also not good was the speed of the bidding and lot throughput which built steadily to a peak of hundreds of lots per hour. The result was that you could easily lose track of events and I missed two lots as a result of brain meltdown. After almost five hours of incessant numbers, mindblowing bids and rigid self-control (it was hell in there), the mind can play tricks on you. I lost the Nova game set and Games Workshop's Towerblox, but I think I can live without them. More galling was that I cocked up a bid for Mike Clifford as well, on some Gamma Two games, about which I still feel guilty.

The final gripe is two fold; because the games were grouped in lots, most of us ended up buying games that we didn't really want just to get one or two in the batch. Annoying, but we'd have been there all night otherwise. I forecast some strikingly familiar sale lists in the near future. Secondly, in order to distinguish these lots, stickers were placed on every game and (I really can't believe this) they are the non-peeling variety which mean torn boxes or leaving them on - you are completely free to choose. Eamon, you should have known better.

On the upside, it was a pretty exciting (if pressured) day and I think most of us came away with some reasonable bargains and rare items. It was also great to see all those games that you will probably never get to own or even see again. Socially, it was a non-event as there simply wasn't time or the place to chat to the various gamers from all over the country, but it was good to see them anyway and Mike, Bruce and I had a good natter. Overall, I hope Eamon is happy with the outcome and thanks are due to him for organising much of the memorable day. Rumours now abound about Eamon opening a bookshop that will also sell games, which sounds just about ideal to me. We shall see. Now, where is that incomplete copy of Middle Earth and the roll of clingfilm...

On to the Inside Pitch or back to Computer Game Letters.

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