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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.

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