Friday, April 29, 2011

On Conducting an Auction

Part 4, Tempus Fugit

It already seems an eternity ago that this auction transaction started. Four weeks ago the first call, three weeks ago the first visit, two weeks ago the contract, one week ago the first meeting. I am sure that as quickly as last four weeks have passed, next three weeks leading up to the actual auction date will go even faster. Tempus Fugit.

The second trip that I made was a continuatin of the first. It was another day of sorting and preparing the auction ad, This trip I made by myself. Stephanie needed a break and this day would be a long monotonous one. After the initial excitement has worn off the work really begins and this day was going to be spent digging through mounds of just about anything.

Before leaving home I performed all of the madatory double checks to ensure that I had everything that I would need for the day; pens, paper, camera, boxes, flashlight, loop (magnifying eyeglass) and tags, I had them all. Feeling good about myself I hit the road. Since the long drive gives you a lot of time to think things through my plan was to review the steps necessary to complete the auction. My first major thought had nothing to do with the auction. I knew that something was wrong, but what could I have possibly forgotten? Then it hit me, I immediately turned around to go back home, it seems that I had forgotten my wallet and since OPEC keeps us on a short (and expensive) energy leash, going back home would have to be my first stop.

After the sidebar, once again, off I went. Upon arriving the search really began in earnest. For 9 straight hours, no lunch, no bathroom not even a drink of water, I worked. I looked in every single box, every drawer and every cobweb covered corner. I took over 100 photo's and filled 15 pages in a notebook. I detailed each item that I came across. Overkill? Maybe, but I firmly believe that it is my job to at least look at each item at least once before I sell it. The worst possible thing that I could do for my consignors is to be lazy and do incomplete work. It does not guarantee results, but it does guarantee that they will get the best effort that I have.

The amazing thing is I never realized how much time I had spent looking that day. In the early evening the owners looked at me and said "You know that you said you would be leaving over 2 hours ago.". Now I'm no genius but I can take a hint. Then the phone rang, "Where are you?", Stephanie asked. The second hint really hit home, which is where I should have been, so I packed my bags, said my goodbyes and into the sunset I went.

Tempus Fugit, time flies (flees) is a Latin term that is often engraved on grandfather clocks. Sometimes a little noticed an often misapplied term comes into play in life. As a kid growing up in Youngstown time seemed pass like a lazy river, as an adult it passes with a fury and as an auctioneer on this day it passed unnoticed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Conducting an Auction

Part 3

Now the really hard work begins. For anyone out there who has ever tried to sort through a household, we salute you. The morning started around 9:30 am. The owners were waiting at the door for our arrival. After the typical good mornings, the question "So where do we start and what can we do to help?". Stephanie who had made the trip with me glanced over to hear what my answer would be. Of course she already knew what it was, "I don't know." was my response.

"I don't know." I am sure that this type of response is just what the consignors want to hear. I am going to work on my answers, but the reality is when you first go in to a home you really don't know where to start. I started with a 10 minute tour. After the tour, Stephanie and I decided to start with the guns, weapons and military items.

Nine hours it took. We had to find, describe, photograph, tag and sort every piece of military that we could find. We found items in closets, cabinets, drawers and boxes. Although the owners were able to help us in the search it was still a daunting task. Items that they thought were valuable, were not. Items that they thought were junk, were priceless. We took over 100 photo's. We wrote over 300 descriptions. We tagged 90 items.

After nine hours. The first room was done. Six rooms, a basement and garage were all that remained.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On Conducting an Auction

Part 2:

After making it through the initial contact it was now time to speak the the other party. I really don't like trying to make deals over the phone. Its mostly due to the fact that I just can't get a good read through peoples voices. I'm really a visual person. So, the telephone and I just are not the best of friends. But in this circumstance it was a necessity.

The conversation went well enough. Straight forward questions about the hows and whys of an auction. He voice reasonable concerns about the bidding process and even discussed putting reserves on some items. True to form, I had no clue as to whether or not I was still in the game. Now the waiting game really began. What would they do?

The answer was both quick and good. They wanted to meet again, all of us, to discuss dates for the auction. This one piece of good news does one thing and one thing only to an auctioneer anticipating a potential good sale, it makes them even more nervous than before. Everything switches from I hope I get it to "lets get it going!". Of course you cannot let this out so inside it stays until the most important day of all, signing the contract.

In the old days of auctioning, people met, agreed to terms, shook hands and held an auction. In Ohio, its not quite so simple anymore. When I first started selling even the written contracts were very simple. Sellers name, auctioneers name, date of the sale, percentages and signatures. Easy. Not anymore. My current contract is three pages long. It is filled with required statements such as who is responsible for unsold items and do you really, really intend on selling this stuff.

Explaining the contract and setting up the necessary grounds for preparing the auction took over 3 hours. Sounds silly doesn't it. The reality is that explaining all of the terms of the contract takes time. I really spend a lot of time making sure that they completely understand what is going to need to be done to conduct the auction. I don't know what other auctioneers do but if they aren't going through this phase, they are just asking for trouble.

Contract signed, set up planned, family advised, GAME ON!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On Conducting an Auction

The next few weeks I will be spending a great deal of my time preparing for a pretty significant antiques and collectibles auction. It will most likely in the end be one of the better auctions that I have had the opportunity to conduct. Over the years I have spent a lot of time just listening to what auction goers are saying before, during and after the sales. Usually the comments revolve around complaints about how the auctioneer called the auction, how disorganized the auction was or about how much money the auctioneer must be making.

So, what I am going to give you is an inside view of how it really works. The time, effort, headaches of putting an auction together. It will be at times a play by play view of what really happens, the rest of the time it will be an expose of my feelings about the sale.

Part I

The entire process begain inauspiciously enough with a simple phone call. A simple inquiry about me taking a look at some "estate items" that the family was no longer in need of. Through the conversation I prospected a little as to what I would be looking at. This is important because any auctioneer, picker or salesman will tell you that a lot of time is wasted on bad leads because they just didn't ask the right questions up front. I asked how they found me, "My cousin used to work for you", good answer. "What type of stuff?", "Lots of antiques, military and tools.". "Where is it located.", "Nice neighborhood."

There were of course many other questions but the quick analysis was..."Get out of bed you arrogant nut case this sounds like a good one.". So I scheduled a meeting. When I first told my wife that I would be traveling out of town for a day to look at an auction her reaction was pesimistic. We have things to do and your going to look at junk again was pretty much how it went. Don't judge to critically on this one because 98% of the time this is exactly what these trips turn into. But I just had a feeling.

So, the trip planned off I went. It is a one hour and forty five minute trip that I have made several hundred times over the last fourteen years. The approach to the house was intriguing. Although the home is a pretty typical ranch it just had the right look. What is the right look? I don't really know how to tell you, it just plain had it.

My first meeting in the driveway was both positive and pleasent. The family husband, wife and two kids seemed really nice. The kids were extremely well behaved and from the outset it was obvious that the kids (9 & 11) knew more about antiques that people who have been it this business for their entire lives. From the first glance into the living room I was in a state of antiques euphoria. The worst part of being in this as a business is trying to keep the "Oh my *%&king God, !@$tty grin" off of your face when you first see a fantastic collection like this one.

It was a antique afficianado's dream. Stuff piled everywhere. Walls hung with antiques that numbed the senses. Now I am sure that my voice crackeled, my ears turned red and my normally alto voice turned into a squeaky 5 year old girls voice. And this was just the living room.

As is my standard we conversed about the household and its former occupant. How he aquired the items, their relationships and the reason for the potential sale of the iems. We then went on a tour of the home. Kitchen...full of stuff. Bedrooms...full. Basement...really full. Garage...really really full. GULP!!

So we talked. We discussed all of the potential possibilities. Tag sale, auction and buyout. I strongly recommeded the auction route. This household was perfect for one. The owners listened intently and agreed. There was one problem, a second owner. Now anyone who has ever been in business knows that the most deflating thing that can happen to you in a transaction is the introduction of a second "unknown, unseen" person. They are often deal breakers. The family did tell me that they all wanted to finish up the household, so there was some ray of hope for me to still get the sale, but I was a little worried.

To my advantage a former employee had recommended me to the family, but you still just plain don't know. I remained hopeful as the waiting game began. We said our goodbyes and the family assured me that the third party would be contacting me soon. I left for the 1 1/2 drive home.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Painesville Auction

This is a very short update...we will be conducting a HUGE antiques and collectibles auction in Painesville, Ohio, on the weekend of May 20, 2011. This will be one of the best auctions that we have had in a long time. Keep an eye on www.dangerfieldauction.com for photos and updates. Plain and simple, its going to be a great two day sale.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Muddy Spring Day at the Auction

This morning when I woke up it was raining. Not a mild sprinkling rain, it wasn't even thunder storming, just rain. The kind of torrential rain that God has reserved to transform the landscape and to cleanse the world of evil. The rain was steady, hard, and constant. It was accompanied by a cold 20 mph wind that made umbrella's useless. A beautiful Ohio morning. Being the fool that I am, out into the deluge I went The quarry, a farm auction.

This was a typical Ohio farm auction. Old equipment, farm antiques, piles of junk and at least 10" of mud everywhere and on everything. Possessing an exceptionally high IQ I determined that tennis shoes, T-shirt and baseball cap was the best way to dress. It didn't work out so well for me. Cold, soaking wet and covered with mud my determination unfazed, I stayed at the auction for three hours.

Three hours of being tormented. Three hours of being poked with folded umbrellas. Three hours of being crushed between people who should all be finalists for Americans Biggest Loser's next season. So why did I stay?

Simple, it was a pretty good sale. I managed to purchase a 4 piece bedroom set, an early painted corner cabinet, an Atwater Kent radio and several small items that I can sell at the Antique Mall. Overall, it was a pretty good haul.

For all of you out there really paying attention, everyone goes to auctions on pretty sunshiny days, very few on crappy, muddy rainy days. So when the weather looks bad; get up, get out and be ready to buy.

Oh yea, it was a 1/2 mile walk through a muddy field to the parking area.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sterling Weighted Candlesticks

Gold and Silver have gone wild! Prices for gold and silver items are reaching record highs. This pair of candlesticks sold on ebay recently. They were advertised as weighing 2 pounds and they brought $200.00. Thirty two ounces of sterling would scrap out for around $1,000, so you would think that someone had made a great purchase.

Wrong. These candlesticks probably do weigh around 2 pounds, the problem is the sterling content equals around 1 1/2 ounces. The other 1 3/4 pounds is either wax, cement or plaster. Be careful when buying sterling candlesticks. Most of them are weighted and the actual sterling is a fraction of the total weight. Typically on a short set of candlesticks the sterling weighs around 1 1/2 ounces. One and a half ounces of sterling is going to be worth around $55.00 at today's market price of 40.00 per ounce.

Things to remember:

Sterling is .925 pure

Most candlesticks are weighted

Sterling is weighed using troy ounces (31 grams per ounce)

800 is marking that is commonly referred to as Coin Silver, it is 80% pure

Do the math

Silver spot price $40.00

Sterling (%) X .925

Cost per ounce 37.00

Weight (troy oz) 1.50

Value $55.50

**Your actual selling price will most likely be lower than this figure. This is because the person purchasing the silver needs to make a profit too. Use this as a base number for calculating your return.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Four Seasons Flea Market

Woke up this mornin with a wine glass in my hand...really appropriate for my first flea market of the year. For any of you who have ever been to this market having a hangover is one of the first and foremost necessities of selling there. It is simply like no other.

I loaded up my trailer with what amounted to a load of trash it items and off I went. I arrived at 7:10 am in a misty fog (the weather not me). I paid $30 for a double booth and shortly after arriving I unloaded my trailer. At first it was very slow, but once the patrons saw the wonders that I had we were off to the races. Some of the finer moments, 3 light sockets $2.00, a set of chipped up dishes $5.00, box of train parts $50.00 and on and on it went.

After 4 hours my total was $632.00, my total investment unknown. And why didn't I know? Because it was leftovers, these were items that at one time were part of a box lot that I purchased for something else. Did I sell some bargains? Absolutely, I really didn't care. Since I had very little in it all I really wanted is for it to be gone. Under normal circumstances I would have put many of these items into either the trash or I would have given it away to some unsuspecting auctioneer. Today however, Four Seasons.

So, if you are ever bored and have a pile of worthless junk head out to the local flea market. For a low cost you can usually turn junk into cash. For me today I left with a 10' x 5' foot trailer plus my mini van loaded to the brim. I came home with about 1/4 of the trailer filled the van empty and $632.00. Not bad for stuff that should have been put out to the curb. Remember one important thing, If you are selling with the intent of not bringing it home, make deals and sell cheap.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Glass Eyes

Sammy Davis look out (just kidding) people collect (or use) antiques glass eyes. Sometimes my searches turn up some eye opening items that people are selling. This vintage glass eye that was attributed to the German army after WWI sold for $100! So make sure that when you are looking through those box lots that you don't make any incorrect assumptions on the values of the items you are looking at. You could easily look past a bargian like one of these.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

1971 Hummel Heavenly Angel Collector Plate

At one time this was the holy grail of plate collecting. The Hummel 1971 Heavenly Angel annual plate brought prices exceeding $2,500 back in the early 1980's. Today's prices for this plate usually range between $50 - $100. Why such a decrease?

Economy, changing tastes and Ebay are some of the major reasons, but I feel that ulitmately it is a matter of supply and demand. Antiques and collectibles tend to be generational. In simple terms items that people collect have a life span that typically follows that of the collectors. Hummel plates (and for that matter Hummels in general) were collected by people who are now in their 80's. They started collecting in their thirties and forties and now as they begin to age they are divesting themselves of their collections. This creates an inequity in the collecting field that did not previously exist. More plates and fewer buyers has created a huge decrease in the value of this type of collectible.

So as a buyer and seller of collectibles you should be aware of these buying cycles. Realization that this type of supply and demand curve exists for collectibles can make you money. What do you think will be the next group of collectible to die in value? Which group will be the next to escalate? Keep your eyes and minds open to the changes in supply and demand.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sippy cups

I spend my days seeking out antiques and collectibles. My searches put me into places that most people would never consider going into. I have crawled into dirty attics, feces covered barns and water filled basements. I regularly get up a 4:00 am to start my days so that I am the first one at the estate sale or garage sale. I am involved in daily duels with other dealers who are as intent on getting the items as I am. Last night one small child missing her sippy cup showed me just how incompetent I am at finding and digging out these "lost" items.

Vera had come to spend the night. Sweet, happy and two years old. Her evening was spent laughing and running around the house. She played with the dogs. She played with "Nanny". She watched videos in a space specially set up for her. Her special evening ended with a quiet ease brought on in its final stages with a visit from the Sandman. Anyone who has ever spent time with a two year old knows about them waking up in the middle of the night needing a drink of water, Vera's wake up call required that the drink had to come from her sippy cup. The now missing sippy cup.

The search was on. The now screaming child could only repeat "siiipppy cuuup" over, and over, and over again. The tears were prolific, the anxiety intolerable, the time 2:45 am.

The obvious answer was it was in or near her bed, nope. Next the search proceed throughout the house where she had been wandering all evening, nope. I knew where it was the car! No go (due to some good fortune none of the neighbors were up to see me half dressed in the driveway). Meanwhile "siiipppy cuuup" and even louder crying.

Since beatings, tranquilizers and muzzles are frowned upon by the local children's services (though my parents used them quite effectively) all we could do is comfort her. Finally after 45 minutes she fell back to sleep. But not for long. Apparently when you are 2 once something is on your mind it just plain doesn't stop. So just for good measure she woke back up at 4:15am, for another agonizing 45 minute rendition of the new hit song "siiipppy cuuup". For a moment I considered recording her for American Idol, but my recorder was as lost as the sippy cup.

Finally, mercifully the morning arrived. A tired looking, somewhat grouchy 2 year old faced all of us. The accusing eyes watching the expert who could find a wheat penny in a bag of Goodwill clothing but was unable to produce her sippy cup. Then all of the sudden it dawned on all of us where the sippy cup was, Nanny's purse! That's right Nanny's purse. It seems that Nanny (Stephanie) had picked up her sippy cup and put it into her purse so that it would be forgotten at the restaurant. It is amazing how happy the 2 year old was upon seeing it. All of the problems of the previous night disappeared in an instant. The sippy cup now refilled with chocolate milk made the world a wonderful place again.

I pride myself in my ability to find those hidden items at auctions. No item is so small or so well hidden that I can't find it. Sippy cups however, not my thing. Vera went home this morning with her mom and dad, she carried her stuffed toys, her new video tape from Uncle Justin and Aunt Renee, her blanket safely in hand she was again the happy go lucky 2 year old.

After they left we performed a quick clean up of the house. The beer cans were put to recycling (did I mention there was a small celebration going on) and the rooms picked up. The sippy cup was found laying on the floor near the dogs bed in the living room...Vera was already well on her way home.

Good luck tonight kids!

The World is Full of Idiots

There, I've said it. The world is full of idiots. The terrible truth of it all is that these idiots even know that they are idiots. So, if you are an idiot its time for you to stop reading. But, since idiots probably cannot read anyways, nor would they understand what they were reading I'll allow all idiots to continue on with reading this idiotic article. So who are these idiots? They are anyone who would dare bid against me at an auction. Since everyone on the planet seems to bid against me at auctions I am making this blanket statement, "The world is full of idiots.".

So, do I think that everyone who reads this blog is an idiot? Have you ever bid against me at an auction? Some of you might say no, but that's only because we haven't been to the same auction at the same time, anyone who answered yes, your an idiot and reading this won't matter anyway.

The truth is some idiot bid against me on an item that I wanted at an auction today and I'm reacting like an idiot would. As an idiot myself this person is now and forever more on my least liked list. This list is just full of idiots. The idiot who bid against me on the car I bought last month, the idiot who outbid me on the set of china the other day and the idiot who in 1977 outbid me on a stereo that I wanted. These idiots and many others are on my I have to bid against them list. In short, I will overpay for items that I purchase at auction just to keep some other idiot from owning them.

Does this sound stupid? Of course it is. What I am really telling you is that in the course of auction going you will be bid up and outbid on items. The goal of this business is not revenge. It is about one thing and one thing only, MAKING MONEY. So don't let the idiots bother you. With rare exceptions there is not a single antique or collectible that will not be available to buy in the future. So why waste your time overspending just to prove a point. Raise yourself above the idiot game and concentrate on buying bargains, remember, any idiot can pay too much for something.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Metal Sculpture, update!

When I purchased this item at a local auction it was purley on a gamble. It was so unique and with a purchase price of $200 I just couldn't resist it. It is made out of solid bronze and at $2.50 a pound it would be worth around $500 in scrap metal alone. So I pretty much knew that I couldn't loose money. Just for the heck of it I sent photos off to Sotheby's African and Oceanic sales department. I thought that the inquiry was free and after their assessment I would know for sure on whether I should scrap it for the $500 or try to sale it as an antique whatever. Today I got my answer.

Hooray for our team. It turns out that although it isn't worth millions it is worth thousands. Their estimate was between $16-20,000. This estimate was based on the photo's and could possibly be higher or lower upon the actual physical inspection. They said that they felt that it was most likely Ivory Coast tribal from the mid to late 1800's. They further stated that it was probably imported into the U.S. market in the 1950's. I replied to them that the previous owner had stated that he purchased it from a museum in the 1970's and that he had paid around $2,000 for it.

I have to admit that this descriptive story is so convincing that I'm beginning to believe it. Anyways, enjoy your April 1.