Last week, Pittsburgh Public Schools netted $750,000 for a French oil painting at a live Sotheby's auction in New York City.
Now hundreds of less glamorous items are up for bid -- shop equipment, sewing machines, sports helmets, upright pianos, motorized chairs and even broken lawn mowers -- at an online auction that runs through Monday.
The items can be viewed from 1 to 6 p.m. today at the Gladstone building in Hazelwood. The bidding, which began May 6, takes place at hostetterauctioneers.com.
The auction has about 700 lots, some of which have more than one item.
Winners must pick up their items between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday. Buyers must pay a 10 percent buyer's premium.
No one is expecting the proceeds to come close to the proceeds from the sale of the painting by Henri Le Sidaner, "Interior, Light from the Window."
The last time the district conducted an auction of surplus property was 2011, which yielded $15,154.
But in a district that expects to go broke in 2016 unless it changes course, every dollar counts.
The 2011 auction was a live, one-day auction. This one is the district's first online auction.
"We're hoping we do well," said Nick Vacsulka, chief of plant operations for the district.
The auctioneer, Daniel Reeder, said he worked the district's last in-person auction as well as auctions for another school district. The trend is toward online auctions.
"It's a better bottom line for our sellers," Mr. Reeder said. "We're getting more money. One reason is you can expose it to so many more people and make it available in their time and their place rather than, 'Here's the day, Saturday,' and you have to be there that day."
The items up for auction are generally used and are sold "as is." School district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said the items generally are antiquated, not suitable for school use or not working.
As the district closed schools, it warehoused some equipment that still could be used and sent other equipment to schools that needed it.
For Mr. Vacsulka, some of the items are a trip down memory lane.
"The shop equipment intrigues me. The lathes and the jointers and things like that. They're just old pieces of equipment. Sometimes you don't even see this equipment around. It reminds me of when I went to high school back in the '70s," said Mr. Vacsulka, a Pittsburgh Allderdice High School graduate.
The shop equipment and kitchen equipment are among the items attracting the largest bids so far.
A Hobart tabletop mixer had the top bid as of Thursday afternoon, $440. Other items with higher bids so far include various Powermatic equipment such as disc sander at $310, a planer at $180 and a drill press at $150. A Miller spot welder has a bid of $150. An Amaco Excel kiln has a $130 bid. A Melco embroidery system has a bid of $270.
But some items didn't have any bids, and some only had $1 so far.
In the $1 group were a tall metal cabinet, a group of 29 stackable chairs, Panasonic VHS recorder, Gestetner 532L copier/printer, Bogen camera tripod, a group of 11 TVs and audio-visual carts, clay spin wheel, salt spreader, hockey sticks, Kent floor scrubber, large lot of silverware, group of five blenders, catcher's equipment, GE electric dryer, vice, hand drills, a group of six saws, square trays, an IBM Selectric typewriter and a large lot of band uniforms.
One item -- Lot 180 -- appears to be so out-of-date it's unclear what it ever was used for. It is described as "??? metal item." It had a bid of $2 Thursday afternoon.
Mr. Reeder said most bids tend to come in at the last minute, so a lot could change between now and then.
The auction is scheduled to begin closing at 6 p.m. Monday, with five lots closing each minute. If there is bidding in the last five minutes before the end time, bidding remains open for an extra three minutes.
If some items don't sell, Mr. Vacsulka said, "Anything we can scrap, we'll scrap. ... If we can't move an oven or something like that that's still workable, we'll probably just warehouse it and try again."
Education writer Eleanor Chute: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1955.