Down but not out!
With lockdown over, the Australian Outback is open for business – tourism and opal!
I have it on good authority that the 2020 sales days in Winton (July 10/11) will go ahead albeit on a smaller scale.
The first opal auctions were held in the Royal Theatre, the local open-air picture show, in the mid-1980s.
The seats were cleared, and tables set up for the miners to display their ‘lots.’
In the past, miners relied on buyers to travel to their mines to view parcels and buy.
A buyer will usually line up (telephone ahead) a few parcels to inspect, and when they embark on the four/five-day round road trip, they will go from one mine to the next looking, haggling and buying.
In short, until the rough opal sales days, it was a buyers’ market as miners, strapped for cash, would be forced to take the best offer they could get, to put food on the table and keep their operation going.
The sales days gave miners the opportunity to put their ‘finds’ up for sale to the highest bidder.
The sales days turned what had been a buyers’ market into a sellers’ market.
From the picture theatre, the opal auctions moved to the Shire Hall then down to the main street where they are found in the present day.
July is a great time to visit Winton, and, with the added bonus of taking part in the boulder opal sales days, why wouldn’t you!