Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What go me started doing knife auctions.

It's hard to believe that we are in the middle of our 50th knife auction, closing Feb. 23. Now that doesn't include the live auctions we've done in Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Nashville, Atlanta, Dallas, and here in Chattanooga. It doesn't include the Flash Auctions that we've just started.
I might mention here how I started doing auctions. It was back in the days when I still owned Blade Magazine, traded knives on the side, sold knives on Shop at Home Television network. I got a call from a lady who said she wanted to sell her husband's knife collection, and would I be interested in looking at it, and of course I said yes.
"How would you like to make arrangements for me to see it?" I asked.
"I'm at a motel here in Chattanooga, come see them in the morning."
I agreed, she met me at the check in desk in the small lobby of the Day's Inn that contained only one chair on the public side. She led me out to a large new yellow Caddy, opened the trunk -- and there spread out in the trunk was a couple of hundred knives. Some good, some bad, a lot of used things.
On each knife was a 1" square of masking tape with a number written on it in marker.
"How much do you want for them?" I asked.
"What's on them," she said. I gasped. If that was indeed the price (and it was), every knife in that car truck was about 40% above what anyone could ever hope to pay.
"How'd you determine these prices," I asked.
"A couple of my husband's friend's came over and priced them before I left," she said.
She was from Houston, and she had decided to sell her husband's knives, so with the knives priced she had taken her husband's roledex and had set out up the highway to sell knives. I was on the roledex.
I don't know if the husband's friends were trying to price them so high that it would be impossible for her to sell them, or they were just trying to make her feel good about her husband's judgement in buy knives, but the reality was the knives were vastly overpriced.
She did have four Winterbottom bone Queen trappers in the original box, and they were priced at $45.00, which is about what they were bringing at the time. I did have in my mind that I at least wouldn't go home empty handed, and vintage knives in the box in mint condition are worth holding on to and letting the price catch up even if one is paying top dollar.
"I will take these at your price," I said.
She huffed, "All or nothing."
I told her that I didn't think I could buy the knives and make it worthwhile, but I did wish her luck. I asked her if she was going back to Texas.
"No." She said, "I'm going toward Florida, and I am going to spend 10 more days on this trip or until I sell the knives. I'll go back home out I-10."
I excused myself, and as I drove back to my office I said to myself that there had to be a better way than the options left to that lady, driving for days across the country, staying in not-to-good parts of town in a new Caddy. And the saddest thing of all was even if she sold the knives at the price marked, after traveling on the road for two weeks she wouldn't have any money left.
I determined to find a better way for a widow to sell her knives.
I was still worrying on the subject when I opened my mail, read an article in an antique magazine how the fishing lure business had taken off when a collector started fishing lure auctions, and by doing so allowed collectors to see an established real-market price on lures. And with that knowledge available, vintage lures had jumped 40% in a couple of years.
I don't think that article was before my eyes by accident, and I took the hint. Within a few weeks I was en route to Missouri to attend the Missouri Auction School, called the Harvard of Auction Schools.
That was over 50 catalog auctions ago.


  1. Hey Bruce, just discovered your Blog, nice. Started one myself this past Dec (09). Don't know if it is followed much but kinda fun to do. Check it out http://knifeologycustomknives.blogspot.com/. I'll keep my eye on yours.



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