NEW YORK, JUNE 13 -- Thousands of bargain-hunters bought office equipment, furniture and a bit of history from Drexel Burnham Lambert Group Inc. today at an auction to liquidate the fallen investment firm's property.
Many buyers, hoping to find a deal among Drexel's wares, complained that prices were too high, thanks to the firm's notoriety and much-publicized downfall.
''It stinks,'' said Jim Gavrity, a dealer in used computer and telephone equipment. ''It's nostalgia buying. The prices are running away. Drexel Burnham Lambert should have no problem paying off its debts after today.''
More than 8,600 people registered to bid at the auction, which was staged at the cavernous Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.
Organizers estimated it would take at least eight hours to auction off Drexel's property, which included thousands of pieces of furniture, personal computers, paintings and even kitchen appliances, brass coat racks and stock trading desks.
Proceeds of the sale are to be used to help pay off Drexel's debts. Once one of the most powerful and aggressive investment firms on Wall Street, Drexel filed for bankruptcy protection in February and now owes creditors more than $2 billion.
''I felt there was a certain amount of arrogance there,'' said Linda Armani, whose market research firm was hoping to grab 10 personal computers. ''Everything was in fabulous shape. Meanwhile, the company was teetering.''
Drexel had estimated reaping about $1 million from the auction, but the prices seemed to indicate the firm would take in much more.
Conference tables and chairs were fetching thousands of dollars, while even used television sets went for as much as $350.
Lot 1, Power Shred model 410 paper shredder, went for $450. Bidding was brisk.
''Now Drexel never had to shred any documents, so it's probably never been used,'' motor-mouthed auctioneer Ross Dove said to laughter from thousands of potential bidders.
''The prices are definitely high, and that's great for us,'' said Gerald Batton, who was working as a spotter for the auctioneer.
''It's Drexel,'' he said. ''That definitely has something to do with it.''
But buyers such as Steve Bondi, who paid $5,000 for a rolltop desk and chair once used by Frederick Joseph, former chief executive officer of Drexel's brokerage unit, said the Drexel name made no difference.
''I heard it might be his, but it doesn't matter,'' Bondi said. ''We like the style of the desk.''
Scott Rudnick, shopping for a personal computer to use at law school in the fall, said he was looking for a good deal. ''I just want to get a good computer at a good price ... '' he said. ''I don't know if it's going to happen, with these prices.''