Cindy Koch is a soldier, and her weapons are a cash register, a price tag, an eagle eye and, when necessary, a cold heart. So next Saturday about 11 a.m., when you're downing your third mimosa at some twee bruncherie, think of her out there shivering in some old house with the heat turned off and piles of other people's things stacked all around like a packrat's wet dream. As the cashier at estate sales every weekend from Fullerton to Riverside to San Pedro, she's been up since dawn, amped on black coffee and donuts, waiting to take your money.
OC Weekly: What's the weirdest item you found when going through someone's house to set up? Cindy Koch: There was this dresser in the corner of a bedroom, and a little box in the corner. I open it up, and I'm pulling it out, and it's the mother's ashes. The father had gone blind, and he couldn't see stuff. The daughter comes in Saturday, and I go, "You're looking for your mom, right?" And she goes, "Yeah, I'm so embarrassed, yeah." Have you let anything get away from you at a sale?
We had a necklace for sale, $14, and it was sterling silver. [This woman] goes, "Oh, I'll take that." She didn't haggle; she said, "You don't know what you have here." She said, "I'm not going to tell you until I put it in my purse." So she did, and then she said, "You have a $400 Tiffany necklace, it's signed, it's from the '50s," and she showed me how it was signed.
So when did you get into this racket, and why?
I've only been doing it for two years, but I would say I've been (selling on) eBay at least five years. That's made a big difference. It's kind of ruined (the) business. I liked going to them, so one day, I asked the lady who was doing it if she needed any help. There are other companies doing it, but I think our company [International Auction Gallery] is the best. The trouble is that the owners take all their stuff. They take the better stuff.
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What's the toughest part of your job?
Putting up with all the people who want lower prices. It could say, "Free," and someone will always ask me, "Is this the best you can do?" But the prices are whatever's marked.
So the old stuff is still out there?
Yeah, it's still out there. We just got done having an auction of '50s modern furniture. Check out our website, www.international-auction-gallery.com.