CLEVELAND — The setting didn't exactly rival Christie's Auction House in New York. And the 145 potential buyers weren't looking to buy a piece of history.
But injection molders who came to I-X Center near Cleveland Oct. 28 were able to snatch up some bargains on new and used machinery in what organizers are calling a historic public auction.
Many of the buyers from 32 states, Canada, Mexico and Central America consulted with their home offices by cellular phones as auctioneer Tom Gagliardi of Thomas Industries Auction & Liquidation Corp. of Guilford, Conn., cajoled and schmoozed bidders into offering higher prices.
At stake were 54 injection molding machines, the vast majority new or slightly used models from Van Dorn Demag Corp. of Strongsville, Ohio. Arburg, Milicron, Toshiba and Newbury presses also were up for grabs.
More than 140 pieces of auxiliary equipment such as dryers, grinders, mold temperature controllers and sprue pickers also vied for bidders' money. Conair equipment, some still in its original packing crates, dominated that scene.
Competition for some items was fairly hot, and bidding wars raised some machines from bargains to merely discounted.
An unused 1997, 300-ton Van Dorn listing for $145,150 went for $105,000. A similar model with a smaller shot size but newer control unit fetched $90,000. A used 1995, 100-ton Van Dorn sold for $30,000. Van Dorn gets to keep the selling price, while buyers pay an additional 10 percent of the selling price to the auction organizers. Buyers also had to figure out a way to get their purchases home.
For Van Dorn, the auction was a way of moving languishing machines.
As Van Dorn's product line has moved on, its stock of unsold, demonstration, lab and repossessed machines were left behind.
``We knew we wanted to get these machines out of the warehouse,'' Van Dorn spokeswoman Patrice Aylward said at the auction. ``Most are brand-new, but not what you would buy new from the factory today.''
So Van Dorn provided its excess machines on consignment to Plastic Asset Solutions, also of Guilford.
At least one Van Dorn fan was happy about the chance to get new and like-new machines on the cheap.
``I'm a dedicated Van Dorn customer,'' Charles F. Beck, president of Autech Plastics of Auburn, N.Y., said at the auction.
Beck said he bought two Van Dorns ``the normal way'' last year. ``Today I bought three, and honest to goodness I got three for less'' than what he paid for the least expensive of the other two.
Beck picked up one 25-ton and two 50-ton Van Dorns. Autech custom molds lenses for scientific and medical uses.
Beck said he has attended other auctions, such as bankruptcy or going-out-of-business sales, but machines at those are ``usually in scratchy condition. This stuff is new and in wonderful condition. We're going home happy.''
Van Dorn was happy, too.
``We're thrilled, absolutely thrilled. For trying to step out of the box and doing something new, it was a big success,'' Aylward said. ``It was a great way to clear the path for next year.''
All told, the auction netted more than $3 million in just a few hours, Bob Risbridger, president of Plastic Asset Solutions said.
``It was a tremendous success,'' Risbridger said. ``It was a first-of-its-kind sale.''
But not the last.
``We've leased space long-term here at the I-X Center,'' he said. ``The next sale here will be in May, and we hope to have even more consigners and equipment.''
The next sale, as well as a West Coast event in the preliminary planning stages, will have a little more variety in terms of manufacturers, Risbridger said.
``We don't anticipate having any one particular manufacturer supplying a majority of the equipment,'' he said. ``Because of the large amount of equipment attracted from one supplier for this sale, we didn't contact very many other OEMs. We'll contact many more for the next sale.''
But Risbridger still is basking in the success of the first auction.
``It's a totally new concept that may change the way machinery is sold,'' he said. ``The annual market for injection molding machines is about 6,000 per year. What we sold here yesterday was a 1 percent market share of whole thing, and we sold them all in three hours. We sold absolutely everything.''