remembering The Silver Fox
Seems like reality TV has now discovered the auction business, the antique business, the pawn shop business, the storage locker business…almost anything to do with buying and selling!
One of my favourites is American Pickers, and it reminds me on a personal note of a very interesting picker from my past.
When I owned my antique store from 1984-94, I had the pleasure of meeting and dealing with a truly interesting person. His name was Bob Jergens AKA “The Silver Fox”, and he was an old time picker.
He was in his early 60’s, had a somewhat colourful past, but had mellowed considerably by the time he decided to buy and sell almost “whatever”, for a full time living. He drove an old van that he paid I think around $500 for, and he was on the road with that van 6 or 7 days a week.
He bought privately, through lawn sales, auctions, and believe it not, from dealer to dealer.
I think he had this uncanny knack of knowing which dealer needed some cash, and which dealer needed some inventory. He could buy from one dealer and run it down the road and sell to another.
His favourite term for a piece he considered “difficult” to sell was “sausage”. “I bought this piece through an auction, didn’t look and what a sausage it was!” I still like to use that term, even though there is only one other person in the business I know, who actually knows what the term means!
Bob was a chameleon of sorts. He could adjust his personality in order to be comfortable with the person he was dealing with. He could sit down and have tea and pie with an elderly female dealer, or be out wheeling and dealing with a crusty ol scrap dealer. He was not insincere, he just knew how to read people and deal with people. I don’t think I ever heard him swear, he did not drink or smoke, yet he could adapt to most people.
We never discussed how much money he made, but I think he turned it into a rather comfortable living. All deals were cash, and if you are on the road 6 or 7 days a week, and making a few hundred dollars a day, it all ads up. And this was in the 1980’s.
I was only in my late 20’s when I met Bob, and rather new to the business, but I never felt he took advantage of me. Yes there were a few pieces I bought that didn’t turn out very profitable, but that all goes with the business.
The last time I saw Bob he dropped into the store, and he really didn’t look very well. I thought he had a rather pale look,, and he told me he wasn’t feeling well. Instead of me making some dumb joke, I told him he didn’t look well, and maybe he should go home and relax. That’s exactly what he said he was going to do, and that was the last time I saw him alive.
A day or so later, I got a phone call informing me Bob had passed away. He was moving a big desk out of a basement, and it appeared he had a heart attack. He was in the hospital for a day or so, but in true Bob fashion, he checked himself out and went home. He then suffered another heart attack and this time it was fatal.
I went to the funeral, and I was a little early, so I got to spend a few minutes alone with Bob before the family and friends entered the room. It was nice to have those few minutes to reflect.
As they loaded his casket into the hearse, I thought it would have seemed so appropriate if they used his old van instead of a hearse. I think he would have liked that.
This business is full of interesting characters, and Bob Jergens “The Silver Fox” is one I will always remember.
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