looking back…I can’t believe I was that young!
So, another year rolls around and another anniversary auction. This is very cliché, but it is hard to believe it has been 18 years since our very first auction!
I was the new kid in the business….in the auction business you can be 40 and still be considered the new kid.
I honestly don’t remember a lot about the first auction…I was nervous and very serious…but I got through it, and overall the auction went well! Since that day there have been over 230 more auctions, and more than 120,000 pieces sold…so it has worked out!
We started out in the Bond Head hall, which is about 1/2 the size of the Pottageville hall…and it was mostly a stand up auction with no air conditioning, and almost all the sales were packed! Always over 500 lots and people stood shoulder to shoulder for hours on end. I would get to the stage and look out over the crowd, and actually feel badly for the people crammed into the hall!
We worked out of the Bond Head hall for almost 14 years, and then started doing summer sales in the Cookstown Curling Club. We moved from about 2300 square feet to over 10,000 square feet, and started doing even larger sales!
At the curling club, we had two rings running for most of the auction, and at one point we were selling over 200 pieces of furniture per auction. I cut that back to about 120-130 pieces of furniture, just to make the sales a little more manageable. I have been very fortunate in getting quality and quantity for the auctions!
For a year or two we did summers in Cookstown and then back to Bond Head for the rest of the year. However, when we could no longer use the curling club, we moved to the Pottageville Community Centre, and have been there ever since.
Looking back over the years I have sold a lot of good stuff…a lot of marginal stuff…and some outright junk! There have been a lot of highs, and only a few lows…and no regrets.
I’ve met some great people over the years, both as buyers and sellers. There have been 100’s of consignors and thousands of people to our auctions, and I don’t think I could count on one hand, the problems I have had dealing with consignors or buyers. It’s been a pretty smooth ride.
Looking back, the thing I am proudest of, is our staff. The first few sales, myself, David Beasley and my mom and dad set up the auction. Carol Beasley and Patti Vanderdonk did the cashiering. My brother Brian did hold up the night of the auction and my sister Kris and brother in law Gerry did the food booth. Dad helped doing the setup and auction until he passed away in 2004.
Over the years the staff has continued to grow. Don Garner came on board about 12 years ago, and then a couple of years later Charlie McAteer. David and Sue Niven help out when we need an extra hand, and now Lisa Ferrie works with us during the sale. My brother Brian worked with us until last year, until the demands of his full time job conflicted with the auctions. Pretty well the same staff for the last 18 years, and I think that says something.
We work hard setting up the auctions but we usually always have fun while we work. If you think the staff can be funny during the auction…you should hear what goes on during the setup! (or maybe not).
The auction business has changed over the years and I try and adjust to those changes. Started the website in 2007, and that made a huge difference in my business. I now spend a lot of time doing photos, working on-line, doing facebook etc,, and that’s a change in the business I really do enjoy.
I adjust to changing prices and trends. Prices have plummeted on some items and gone up on others, and that creates some challenges. Too often I now turn down items I would have gladly taken into the auction ten years ago, but if there is no longer much demand for those items, it is no longer practical to take them into the sale.
It is expensive to put on an auction, and in order to make it work financially, we have to average about $70 a minute in sales! Of course that is just an average, but it points out why I have to be careful of what I take into the auction. We have to work hard and sell fast, for at least 6 hours…and you have to have the right merchandise in order to do that.
I am working on some changes in our business. This past year I have been doing new furniture auctions for Spring Furniture in Barrie, and on June 1, William opened the Spring Auction Centre in Barrie. That’s kept me very busy but it will also allow me to try and make our antique auctions just a little smaller, and focus more on quality. That’s something I have been wanting to do for several years now, so hopefully over the next few months I can make that happen.
So once again I look forward to another year in this auction business. When I wrote my anniversary news and views blog one year ago, I had no idea of the changes that were coming, and as I write again this year, the same is true. That’s one of the things I love about this business!
So I will wrap up by thanking all my consignors, all the great people who come to our auctions, and my wonderful staff!