In days of yore (see the article from Fancy 2, below) auctions were a major fundraiser for conventions. The prozines and artists and professional writers donated drawings, paintings, and manuscripts which were auctioned off to help pay the bills. This was a significant revenue source for the con. (Consider that the membership rate would be $1 or $2 and there might be 100-200 members, or up to ca. 1000 for a Worldcon. Auction revenue of $300 or $500 was serious money.)
By the late ’60s, auctions had moved to a focus on selling art for the benefit of the artists, though sketch tables were still common. By the ’70s, auctions were no longer normally used to raise money for conventions, though they continue to this day to be a major source of funding for the fan funds, clubs and fannish charity projects.
Art and fan fund auctions remain a standard part of the convention program and, as such, are frequently done with a degree of theatricality. In some areas (traditionally, the Midwest), auctions continue to be a source of entertainment, with much clowning by the auctioneers.
Today, some auctions have moved online, and old fanzines and fannish memorabilia are, regrettably, often sold for profit via eBay.
At conventions, fans bid on professionals, buying an hour of their time. It is named for Robert Bloch who popularized it in the 1950s, when he would auction off an hour of some well-known writer's time at a to raise money for a worthy cause. (The time gave the winner an hour of personal interaction with the writer at the convention.)
|From Fancyclopedia 2, ca. 1959|
|One of the chief sources of money for fan gatherings is an auction of collector's items, usually contributed by pro editors and fans. All conventions, most major conferences, and some large meetings of local groups are scenes of auctioneering; at conventions, the auction is usually not completed in a single session. Most popular auction pieces are original illos. Back issues of the prozines and some fanzines are sold (frequently in sets in the case of famous serials) and a few books, original manuscripts, and odd items appear. Prices paid vary according to supply and demand - also according to the time of night, falling as money runs low, auctioneers get hoarse, and most of the best items vanish. The highest price recorded is $70 by Harry Moore for a Finlay cover (for Theodora DuBois' The Devil's Spoon, from FFM); and some items have gone at three for $1.|
Arrgh! --A collector.
|From Fancyclopedia 1, ca. 1944|
|One of the chief sources of cupiditas-stuff for fan gatherings is an auction of collector's items. They are usually contributed by pro eds and fans. Not bid for, but also on sale at fan gatherings, are special convention publications as well as current issues of subscription fanzines. Give-aways also are distributed.
Auctions are held at all conventions, most major conferences, and at some large meetings of local groups. At conventions, the auction usually is not completed in a single nite. Most popular auction pieces are the artist's originals of illustrations for the prozines, color covers going highest. Oldies of the prozines and some fanzines are sold, frequently in sets in the case of famous serials, and a few books. Original typescripts of stories and such odd items as a piece of a costume also appear. Prices vary according to supply and demand, and also according to the time of nite, prices falling as money runs out, the auctioneer/s get/s hoarse, and most of the best items are gone. The highest price recorded is $25 for a Finlay cover; and some items have gone at three for 1¢.
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