“Ozzie Guillen would like you to bid on this banner,” announces Gary Metzner as he holds a cardboard mask of the White Sox manager in front of his face. Metzner is a fine-arts specialist for Sotheby’s auction house, but at the annual City of Chicago “Sharing It” auction, he is hawking old banners—from the White Sox, Bears and scads of museums and festivals—to the highest bidder.
“When it’s million-dollar paintings, I’m a little more serious,” he says. But profits from these banners will go to Chicago’s hungry, so Metzner wants people to get excited about spending money—and about the free Ozzie masks left over from the World Series that everyone will receive—as long as they buy a banner.
“That’s a fun-looking banner, and you can advertise Best Buy at the same time!” Metzner says when a Chicago Blues Festival banner comes up. Daniel Furjanic doesn’t mind the free advertising—it’s going in his basement—and he snaps it up along with his mask for $50.
It’s still early, and most of the bidders are in line at the bargain table, where workers in latex gloves unfurl their banners for close inspection before shoppers plunk down their cash.
“Feel free to bid if you’re alive,” Metzner says, vying for their attention. A double banner adorned with Leonardo da Vinci goes for $75. “It’s bargain day!” Next up is a set of mini LaSalle Marathon banners, and the price jumps to $150. “Look! It’s an auction!” The banners sell for $175.
Finally a White Sox banner from their 2005 World Series victory appears on the auction block. The price soars to $700. “This is what auctions are all about,” Metzner says. All but two bidders drop out as the price climbs above $1,000. “Anybody want to jump in?” No takers, but the bidding duel continues. “His arms were getting tired,” Metzner says, when the battle ends at $2,200.
The victor is Mark—who keeps his last name secret, since the banner will be a surprise Christmas gift for his Sox-fanatic friend who missed the series while caring for a sick father-in-law last year. Mark bought himself two already—bargains at $350 and $100—but his friend is the bigger fan, he says. He’s not exactly looking forward to giving his gift, however. “[My friend] will probably kiss me, unfortunately,” he says.
While Mark celebrates and pays up, Metzner presses on. His banter continues through more banners—including old Cubs regalia and an autographed Bears sign—until the moment for redemption arrives. It’s another White Sox World Series banner, and Leah Anderson, who bowed out to Mark in the first round, claims it with an $1,100 bid.
She’s overjoyed, but her battle isn’t over yet. “My husband is a Cubs fan,” she says. “He told me not to place it anywhere in the house.” Her solution? The banner is going in her private bathroom. Ozzie would be proud. (Julie French)