On most days, you'll find Joyce Gore either behind her desk in the D.C. Office of Finance and Revenue at Municipal Center on Indiana Avenue NW or, in her usually prosaic job as a revenue officer, out seeking to collect overdue or delinquent city taxes.
Yesterday found her playing another, sporadic role as auctioneer.
Pointing to a row of 13 pairs of colored shorts displayed on a clothesline in a cranny of the old Lansburgh's department store building on lower Seventh Street NW, she set an opening bid of $8 for the lot.
"$8, $8.50, $9, $9.50, $10," she called out as customers bid up the price by flashing hand-held number cards, "$10.50, $11, $11.50, $12, $12.50 -- $13? -- $12.50, gone."
The event was an occasional auction held by the finance office to sell items seized from businesses that fail to pay their taxes and then fail to redeem the items. In this case, it was the possessions listed by the office as having belonged to Ca Fam III, a variety store.
According to Dorothy Funderburk, assistant to the director of delinquent tax collection, the auction sale was advertised only in the small print of the legal notices in this newspaper. The ad, offering "one electric typewriter, one cash register, file cabinets, desks, assorted African beads, prints, jewelry, statues, incense and assorted African apparel," drew about 20 spectators, among them Sandra Battle.
Battle, flashing card No. 7, bid for a carving that could be hung on her wall. "$5 -- that's you, baby, No. 7, $5," Gore proclaimed.
"Now let's go with some hair," the auctioneer called, holding up several packages of dark two-foot strands. "25 cents, 50 cents, 75 cents -- want some hair baby? -- 75 cents, $1. $1, you got it," with Battle again the winning bidder.
If there are several items of similar nature, as with the dark hair, other spectators can bid, too.
Battle, incidentally, said she entered the Lansburgh building on another errand and was told of the auction by a security guard. "I like it," she said of the auction. As I talked to her, auctioneer Gore continued selling hair: "I have some blonde for a dollar. Anyone want blonde? No? Okay," she said, putting it back on the table.
Gore, quipping that "we're gonna chop someone's head off," unsheathed a copper-colored sword blade from a carved wooden scabbard. "Look at this, isn't it gorgeous?" she asked, as an onlooker quipped, "Sharp, too." It seemed a bargain at a $10 minimum bid, but nobody met that price. The sword was set aside for sale after the auction.
Such auctions are held, typically at intervals of months, Funderburk said, in hope of recovering what the city is owed by tax defaulters. She said figures were not immediately available on how much is redeemed in this way.