ON THIS DAY: 6 April 1787 

Sales by Candle, as reported in The Times at the New York Coffee House, Sweeting’s Alley, announced the availability of the following goods by auction: 30,000 fine parchment beaver skins, 1,000 beaver coats, and 30,000 ‘Deer in the Hair and Shaved’ [this means the deer skin has been cleaned of flesh].

Sales by candle were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. First documented in 1641, candle auctions allowed bidding to continue until a candle, lit at the start of the auction, expired. Samuel Pepys witnessed an inch of a burning candle being the measure of time when the Admiralty sold surplus ships on November 6, 1660. A variation of this type of auction involved sticking a pin or horse shoe nail in a lighted candle; bidding ceased when the pin falls out. This is where the term ‘you can hear a pin drop’ originated.