A man who goes by the nickname of Forklift drapes some rusted chains over his shoulder and holds them up for the crowd to see, as if he were showing off a fur.
A little boy holds up a stack of hubcaps, which gleam in the fluorescent lights.
Billy Seats brandishes a Coca-Cola syrup jug from the 1920s with a peeling label. It’s filled with a liquid the color and viscosity of unfiltered honey.
“This is the real thing,” Seats says, alluding to Coke’s advertising slogan of the early 1970s. “This is what they used to have at the old soda fountains.”
He then launches into the auctioneer’s staccato announcements, imploring people to pay $4, then $5, then $6.
It ends up selling for $5 to a man named Jackie Keller, who lives in Statesville. He thinks he might be able to resell the jug for $15 or $20.
Seats runs Farmington Maul Auction, which takes place at 6 p.m. every Saturday in Mocksville. The event draws a mix of antique collectors, bargain hunters, and local residents wanting some weekend entertainment.
The auction has run for close to 50 years, and Seats inherited the auctioneer’s gavel from his father.
“When my dad passed away, the clientele looked to me, they needed somewhere to go on Saturday nights,” he says. “We have executives from big companies that come, blue-collar workers that come, and here they’re like a big family.”
Many of the regulars at Farmington Maul refer to Seats as “Preacher.” For the past 25 years he has also served as pastor at Southside Baptist Church in Yadkinville, to which he donates some of the proceeds from the auctions. He has also been known to visit auction regulars when they’re sick.
“I do work for somebody that’s a lot higher of an authority,” he says. “I always stress that the church is my full-time job. But this brings in some income to help pay the bills.”
The auctions take place in a metal Quonset-type building adjacent to Seats’ home. At the front, behind the auctioneer’s stand, are the wares for sale, along with a Coca-Cola sign on the wall, an old bicycle hanging from the ceiling, and cutouts of a guitar, cello, and banjo. Lining the sides of the structure are quilts made by the grandmother of Seats’ wife Teresa. And in back is a concession stand with ham biscuits, trays of homemade cobbler and banana pudding, and two-liter bottles of soda on the counter.
Seats’ father started putting on auctions in 1970. He would often sell on commission, and Seats recalls that many nights he might not clear even $20 in profits. When he was a teenager Seats got a truck and started hunting for items that his father said were valuable.
Today he acquires most of the auction wares at yard and estate sales on Friday and Saturday mornings.
He and his son Abel are typically out the door by 5 a.m. on the weekends, with a list of sales compiled from Craigslist, classified ads, and social media posts. They like to hit up older neighborhoods.
“If you’ve got a brand new neighborhood that’s been there for maybe a year, it’s unlikely that people have been there long enough to accumulate a lot of good junk,” Seats says. “And from doing this so long, I know who the good sellers are. You can tell from the wording, whether it’s going to be baby and kids’ stuff, or if it’s going to be an amazing estate sale.”
By about 5:30 the dirt parking lot at Farmington Maul starts filling up. Close to 100 are in attendance tonight. Seats dons a headset and opens the proceedings with a prayer.
Among the items for sale are antique radios, a box full of watches, and some old lawn mowers. A “Lone Ranger” comic book from the 1950s goes for $30, a stack of vinyl records for $2, a hefty 30 pounds of tools for $21. Abel and other assistants lift up the items to give people a better view.
Many of those in attendance have been coming for years, and even if they don’t buy anything they say it still makes for a fun night out.
“I remember when his dad ran it, when it was just a little shack here,” says Tammy Plowman, who lives in Courtney. “You can get some pretty good bargains here. But sometimes I like to just come here to listen to him sell.”
The Farmington Maul Auction takes place at 6 p.m. every Saturday at 166 Dance Hall Road in Mocksville.