FAIRBANKS — Standing next to a large, flatscreen TV on the back of a flatbed truck in the city’s Department of Public Works garage, auctioneer Lee Schultz looked at a picture of a Smith & Wesson .357-caliber pistol that appeared on the screen.
“Item number 128,” Schultz said to the crowd of about 150 prospective buyers who showed up Saturday for the Fairbanks Police Department’s evidence locker auction.
“A Smith and Wesson .357,” he said. “It comes with a holster. It’s a nice one. Who will give me $200?”
A man held up a yellow bid number card and the bidding began. The numbers rolled off Schultz’s tongue in classic auctioneer fashion — fast and furious — as bidding cards or hands were raised and the price climbed to more than $300.
The gun sold for $375. It was one of approximately 200 guns the city sold in Saturday’s auction, ranging from .22-caliber Derringers to .38 specials to .357 Magnums to 9 mm Glocks to 12-gauge shotguns.
“They’ve got something here for everybody,” Jim O’Neill, a 61-year-old pilot and aircraft mechanic from Fairbanks, said after paying $325 for a Taurus .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol.
“I kind of collect .45s,” he said, adding that he paid about half of what he would have at a gun shop. “They’ve got a couple more .45s I’m interested in.”
While guns were the main attraction for most people at Saturday’s auction, there also was jewelry, gold, coins and other trinkets.
The highest-selling items of the day were two gold nuggets, one of which weighed 1.496 ounces and the other of which weighed 1.303 ounces. Each nugget sold for $1,700, not bad considering the price of gold on Friday was $1,580 per ounce.
All the auction items came from the police department’s evidence locker and were confiscated as evidence in criminal investigations or had gone unclaimed, though the history behind auction items was not provided.
It was the first evidence locker auction in about 10 years, the city’s purchasing director, Tony Shumate said. The money raised goes into the city’s general fund, he said.
The guns were laid out in a row on tables in front of the flatbed truck Schultz was standing on. Pictures of each gun appeared on the TV screen as they came up for bid. Gun buyers were required to have background checks before they could take possession of any firearms they purchased.
Jevon Davis couldn’t have been happier after buying a purple semi-automatic .380-caliber pistol for $100.
“I got it for my wife; she loves purple,” the 39-year-old Army medic from North Pole said with a smile. “The fact I got her a purple gun, she’s going to be ecstatic.
“Now we’ll have his and her .380s,” Davis said.
Most people at the auction weren’t concerned where the guns came from, they were just looking for a good deal.
Gerald Snider, a 37-year-old soldier stationed at Fort Wainwright, bought a .45-caliber, semi-automatic Ruger for $275.
“We priced them out beforehand and this one priced out between $325 and $569,” Snider said, consulting his cheat sheet. “I picked it up for $50 less than the cheapest listed price.”
Ray Hollinrake, 62, bought a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson for $350 that he said probably would cost him $600 in a gun shop.
“It’s a good gun,” said Hollinrake, adding that he bought it for “protection.”
Jeff Rady, a 26-year-old North Slope worker, paid $295 for a .45-caliber Ruger.
“It’s something new,” Rady said. “Something I don’t have.”
Jo Carawan, 27, of North Pole, was one of the few women bidding on guns at the auction.
“I just bought a .22-caliber rifle with a scope for $320,” she said, holding her fidgety 21-month-old daughter, Alannah. “My husband and his son are coming home and they’re going to use it for practice.”
Her husband, Richard, had given her a list of guns to bid on but hadn’t set any price limits.
“He said to use my discretion,” Carawan said.
When it was over, the auction had generated $51,291.50 for city coffers — $23,370 worth of guns and $27,921.50 in gold, jewelry and coins.
Richard Hudson, 66, of Fairbanks, bought the bigger of the two $1,700 nuggets, as well as a 1.275-ounce nugget for $1,400 and a 1.256-ounce nugget for $1,500.
“I’ll probably give them to the kids,” Hudson said of his plans for the nuggets. “Drill a hole in them and hang them from a chain. They’ll like that.”
Bob McClintock bought a gold nugget watch for $700.
“I’m replacing one I sold in 1980 when we were having a daughter,” the 67-year-old retiree said. “I sold that and a dirt bike because we were building a house and needed the money for construction.
“I sold the other one for $900 and this is almost the identical watch and I got it for $700,” McClintock said.
There was a buyer for everything that sold.
Travis Upchurch, 33, an Army scout stationed at Fort Wainwright, bought 10 Lincoln wheat pennies for $4. Wheat pennies were minted between 1909 and 1958 and sometimes can be worth a considerable chunk of change.
“I’ll look on the Internet and see if they’re worth anything and if they’re not I’ll put them in the penny jar,” Upchurch said.