An Invitation to a Hanging

We had a client whose family was one of the early settlers in Tucson.  They ran banks, owned stores and hotels and were basically important people in this town.

Among some of his personal possessions, he gave us an invitation to a hanging at the Florence prison dated before Arizona was even a state (still a territory).  It looked real – he took it out of his vault and said it belonged to one of his ancestors, but I knew that there would be plenty of skeptics on eBay.

Unfortunately it wasn’t an invitation to any well known Old West gunfighter, and after a bit of research, we couldn’t find out anything about the prisoner.  There actually is a database of executions in the United States, and this name wasn’t in it.  However, my brother, a wonderful source of historical trivia, informed me that this database  may not be complete, as it is populated by people sending in this information, so just because the name wasn’t in it, didn’t mean it wasn’t real.

When we start an auction on eBay, we first try to find out what the item may be worth.  This was tough – things like this don’t come along often.  So, like the horseshoe story (see my last blog), I started searching other auction houses.  I came up blank.  So I decided to let the market determine the value on this one and started it with a low opening bid.

Auctions typically last 7 days and this was going slowly.  We had a couple of bids, but it was still at about $66.00 with a few hours to go.  Well, about 2 hours before the auction was to end, we got a call from our client asking about the auction.  He then stated that he wanted at least $500 for this!  What?  We generally ask our clients if they have any expectations so we can determine if we can meet them or not before we go forward.  In this case, he said nothing to us prior to our posting.  With a few hours to go and bids on an item, it is against eBay policy to end an auction.  We didn’t know what to do – we thought about blaming our dog, Snowball, if the auction ended this low and telling the winning bidder that the dog ate it.   What a problem this would  cause for us – angry buyers tend to leave really nasty feedback on eBay and we try hard not to get any of those!

With minutes to go, the auction had reached $122.  And then, literally with 3 second to go…..$861.00!!!  Whew – the dog was spared a phony accusation and we pulled it off!  Amazing!

Published in: on May 1, 2010 at 3:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

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