Learn More About Bob

(taken from article published in 2012 winter Edition of the Michigan Auction Gavel)

My first Auction was an antique auction held on Labor Day in 1977 at the fairgrounds in Charlotte MI. I had attended the Missouri Auction School the summer of the same year.
While it seems that auctioneers wear many hats and I have sold every kind of sale imaginable, antiques and jewelry are what I have significant knowledge of. I have also worked very hard to learn to conduct successful charity auctions. I have taken a proactive role in advising and conducting a significant number of large auctions to bring non-profits organizations better revenue.
I started attending auctions in 1973 and was immediately hooked! Specifically, the journey started with the purchase of a painted oak commode at a local estate auction. That same week I attended 3 more auctions and at each I found an antique commode that I liked better than the previous. After doing this for a few months I had accumulated far more than I could ever use in my home. I decided to have a garage sale. I remember selling a trunk I had bought for fifty cents for $18.00! With that I decided to buy and sell more deliberately, which fed my addiction to auctions and made a little profit along the way.

I began with a booth at an antique market in Mason MI. I then opened Brother Bob’s Antiques in Aurelius MI. As I accumulated excess or stale inventory I hired an auctioneer to turn it into cash to reinvest in the business. Being a business minded person I decided that I was outgoing and knowledgeable enough to become an estate and antiques auctioneer.

I attended Missouri Auction School in 1977 and started Brother Bob’s Auction Service. The name came from my youngest sister, she always called me Brother Bob. After a few years of successful business and making the right decisions I renamed the company Heritage Auction Firm.

An unexpected and devastating business fluke in the late eighties reduced my auction business by 65%. I went back into education administration and kept the business part-time. I sold the business in 2004 and stayed active in the charity auction business.

I have had the privilege of serving as a teacher, coach, middle and high school principal, superintendent of schools and an executive director of a state-wide principals association. I have retired from the education industry in June 2012 and have returned to my true passions, auctioneering and estate liquidation. I am presently “Back in Business” and loving the new challenges of the industry. I especially look forward to helping mentor young professional auctioneers as they embark upon helping other people solve problems.

I wanted to be a “Professional Auctioneer” and learn as much as I could from those who were experienced. The seminars were invaluable in the beginning years. I learned so much serving on the Board of Directors and also as Secretary/Treasurer in the two years immediately prior to the hiring of MSAA’s first executive director. That led to my serving on the National Board of Directors of the Certified Auctioneers institute of which I was in the second or third class. It was through these leadership positions that I made friendships that I will honor for a lifetime. I currently again serve on the Michigan Auctioneers Association Board of Directors.
Take the time to organize, clean and promote properly; it’s called work for a reason, do it!

Look professional! My crew of auctioneers and I always wore ties in even the muddiest of barn yards. You are doing business with thousands of dollars of other people’s money. Look like you are doing business and that you are appropriate for the job. Bid calling is only a small part of running a successful auction company.

And finally treat people the way you would want to be treated. It is not always about the money. Sometimes a little give will earn you a hundred times later on.


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Tell Us A Short Auction Story

I was on an auction call visiting with a widow who wanted to sell her husband’s tools and downsize quite a bit. There were many tools, antiques and useful items. While in the basement I noticed a mobile which she had constructed out of fishing lures. She asked if she should trash it and I responded that I would like to sell the lures. After deconstructing the mobile I took pictures of them, uncertain of their value but knowing the market had gone up on such items. We had expectations the seven of them would bring $10 to $20 each. I published the photos and never got time to research them. On auction day I was interrupted by several folks inquiring as to when the lures would be sold, sensing they were better items than I originally thought I set a time. At the appointed hour there was a very large crowd around the showcase containing the lures. I opened it and pulled out what I thought was the best of the bunch.

I explained that I wasn’t very knowledgeable about the items so not to waste any time I would appreciate it if someone would give me a starting bid. Someone in the crowd yelled out 50 dollars, another followed and said 100 dollars followed by and immediate voice bid yelling 200 dollars. I said, “Well let’s go.” The first lure brought $1,650.00 with all seven “Peterson Lures,” in various conditions, bringing nearly $4,000. It was both exciting and reinforcing in regards to the importance of photos in auction ads.

On one occasion I had signed up the auction, listed the items and taken the photos and was on my way to my car when I passed a fiber barrel full of trash in the garage. I noticed a rusty toy and asked the estate representative where it was going? He said, “To the dump.” I asked him to allow me to sell the item whereby he replied, “Why do you want to sell that rusty old junk?” “Take my word for it,” I said, it will bring money on auction day.” On sale day the rusty cast Iron 1930’s Ford toy pickup truck brought $185.00. Had it been in original condition it may have brought nearly $500.00.

On another occasion I was walking the house to see what was to be in the auction. They had “cleaned up” the estate for the auctioneer. When we got to what is usually the honey hole for antiques, the attic, I found it broom clean. I did notice under the eaves one old basket which one of the relatives retrieved upon my inquiry. Someone said, “We missed one.” Upon questioning them I learned that the attic had been full of similar baskets which took them two days to burn. I said, “Please don’t burn this one, I want to sell it.” On auction day antique buttocks basket brought $165.00.


Tell Us About Something Unique You Sold

Since 1981 Bill Sheridan and I have partnered to sell the MI Oil and Gas lease Auctions. It is a very specialized sale requiring knowledge of Michigan geology as well as the industry players and trends. In the beginning years the sales were huge with 500 in attendance and including real oil tycoons from Texas and Oklahoma. During the one of those premier auctions I had the privilege of selling the highest dollar single lot I have ever sold. The bonus bid for the right to sign the lease for drilling rights on 80 acres in Missaukee County was $998,000.00. The lesson learned from that single item is that “It’s not where the bidding starts that is important, but where it ends,” as the starting bid was a mere $10,000.00. Recently, one of these sales brought $178,000,000.00 + which was the highest total bonus bid auction ever conducted by the state and was equal to the sum total of all previous lease sales conducted by the state of MI since its beginning in 1929.

A long time Lansing area auctioneer, provided me the very first Item I ever sold at auction. I was attending one of his auctions and he learned before it started that I was about to attend auction school. As is often the case he started on the “jewelry wagon.” I was reasonably well known as an auction attendee so he introduced me to the crowd and indicated that I was about to become an auctioneer. He then asked me to step up and sell and item. I was both nervous and excited. Once on the wagon I turn to him and ask what I should sell. He then called out to someone in the crowd who hands him my very first auction item, a six week old male mongrel puppy. I didn’t get a lot of practice… as he brought only a dollar. My career could only go up from there.