Friday, April 29, 2011
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
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
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
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.
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
Saturday, April 16, 2011
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
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
**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.