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We Went To The Oprah Auction And Left With Nothing

By Jim Bochnowski in News on Apr 27, 2015 3:30PM

In 1984, Oprah Winfrey moved to Chicago to host a low-rated TV show called "AM Chicago." Over the ensuing 27 years, until she signed off the air for the final time in 2011, Oprah became an institution in the city. She employed thousands at the Randolph Street Harpo Productions studios, fundamentally transforming a once barren neighborhood, and quietly becoming a force of good for the local landscape.

Yet all good things must come to an end, and like so many cold Midwesterners before her, Oprah set her sights on a permanent move to California. She sold Harpo Studios in March, announcing that "Chicago was not just my home but also my life for nearly 30 years. I’ve spent more time there than anywhere else. I am so proud of what we created [with Harpo Studios]. It has been a blessing in my life and I thank everyone who has been a part of this great run. I am now looking ahead to inhabiting the new space on The Lot in California and carrying on the legacy of Harpo Studios with OWN programming."

So in one last gesture of generosity to the city that meant so much to her, Oprah took the items left in her Water Tower apartment and put them up for auction at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, with all proceeds going to benefit the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, a school for young women in South Africa. And that's where I found myself early Saturday morning.

The doors opened for the auction at 9 a.m., giving spectators plenty of time to peruse a number of the items up for sale. Sadly, Stedman was not included. Approximately 100 people filled the room to start bidding, and around 500 people logged in to the auction house's website to bid remotely.

Part of me was intrigued by the possibility of owning one of Oprah's household goods, but then the first item came up for auction. Three candlesticks, which the auction house valued between $300 and $500, sold for $1,200, and my dreams of owning an Oprah item went up in the flames of reality. I then observed a man aggressively bidding on a tea set, but gave up when the price eclipsed $800. (The set eventually sold for almost twice as much). There was also a waste basket, which eventually went for $310, and led me to wonder, 'What exactly can you throw away in a $300 trash can?' The answer, of course, is diamonds. This auction was pretty clearly not for people who are as cheap as me.

But I did manage to snap a few pictures of items sitting around the storeroom. Here they are, with a few comments.

One-of-a-kind item! Oprah's weight set. Here's a fun thing: I quickly searched on the Internet for a similar set, and found one for around $400. Oprah's, though, sold for $1,188. But at least when you're working out, you'll have her spirit to inspire you to greatness.

Oprah's bike! Did you ever see Oprah cruising around downtown Chicago on this bike? If so, please contact me. I have so many questions. Bike valued between $200 and $400, sold for $875.

Oprah's shot glasses! Or, "cordial glasses," if you are a classy person, which I am not. Impress your friends as you're ripping Jager shots. Valued between $300 and $500, sold for $688.

Oprah's hair brush! I don't want to judge your life, or how you spend your money, but I will say this: If you spent money buying another human being's hairbrush, you are a weirdo. Sold as part of a "Dressing Set," valued between $800 and $1200, sold for $813.

Oprah's sunglasses and pens! All of these sunglasses were valued between $50 and $70, and all sold for at least $200. And, again, I don't want to judge how anybody spends their money, but I could show you a guy outside of U.S. Cellular Field who can sell you replicas of those sunglasses for one tenth of that price.

As for Oprah's pens...well that's where things get truly insane. Did you know a human being would be willing to spend $1,125 on a pen? When it says the word "Oprah," all logic goes out the window, apparently.

Oprah's dog figurines! No sarcasm here: These are excellent. But too expensive for my blood. Valued between $50 and $70, sold for $406.

Oprah's dinner set! For the price of one semester's tuition at any number of excellent universities ($20,000), you could have received a bunch of Oprah's old plates.

So thanks for the memories and all of your old stuff, Oprah. We appreciate everything you have done, and will continue to do for our city. And a special thanks to everyone who clearly has entirely too much money who donated to a very good cause.