Going once…going twice…SOLD! to the man in the back row. All of us who have attended an auction are familiar with the “roll” of the auctioneer’s call. According to an internet auction blog by auctioneer, Mike Brandly, auctions have been part of almost every century, every industry and every nationality. The auction in the past and even now has been the way people sell or just get rid of items they have either outgrown or no longer need. Auctions have been recorded as early as 500 years BC. The word auction comes from the Latin word Augeo’, meaning to augment or increase. It is the process by which goods or services are offered up for bid, bids are taken, and the item is sold to the highest bidder.In ancient Babylon, according to Herodotus, the father of recorded history, annual marriage auctions were held for women of the age to be married. The auction was held in a descending order, beginning with the woman the auctioneer considered to be the most beautiful and progressed to the least — not the most romantic way to begin life with a new partner. However, as if it made things better, it was considered illegal to allow a daughter to be sold for marriage outside of the auction. Around the time of Christ in the Roman Empire, it was very popular to sell family estates and war plunder to satisfy government or personal debts. Selling at auction was the fastest and most efficient method to convert assets into cash. From America’s earliest days in Jamestown, Virginia and the New England colonies, the sale of crops such as tobacco, cotton, tools, livestock, timber and even entire estates were conducted at auction. Up north, furs collected from Native Americans in the fall and winter were transported to the closest shipping port in the spring of each year and auctioned to European merchants, who arranged the transoceanic voyage to the Old World. Once the ships returned to port in Europe, the furs and pelts were auctioned to manufacturers, who would then process them for the retail market. The early fur trade was very influential in the settlement and development of Northern colonies.
Many have heard of auctioneers referred to as “Colonel”. This practice began during the War Between the States. As armies moved through enemy territory, property was confiscated as contraband and transported to a place where it could be sold to the highest bidder, military or civilian. The catch was that only an officer with the rank of colonel could preside over these auctions. Even after the war, many former colonels continued selling goods and property at auction. The uniform for these civilian “colonels” became a look that until recent years identified them in the crowd. This look was a hat, usually a Stetson, a cane, a gavel and a red flag. The flag noted the location of the auction site.
Today, auctions are held somewhere almost daily. There are numerous different types of auctions. There are auctions for real estate, storage lockers, antiques, entire estates, vehicles, and equipment. As technology advances, online auctions and sealed bid auctions are being utilized. The traditional lanes of sale at auctions are being enhanced and are being seen by more potential customers. With virtual online visits to properties, bids for these properties either by computer or on the phone can be received quickly.
One such company is Bay River Realty in Callao, Virginia. The owner and principle broker is Jason Patton. His business model includes a strong commitment to customer service. Patton, a native of Northumberland County, says he learned a great deal from his grandfather who owned an insurance and real estate company. “As a child and young adult, my grandfather would let me ride with him on his trips to maintain the properties he had for sale,” said Jason. “My duties usually included cutting grass, putting up for sale signs and the most important was observing as he evaluated properties and dealt with his clients and the public in general,” he added. “I learned a great deal from watching him.”
Bay River Realty offers, in addition to regular listing sales, auctions as a way to sell property. “When I talk to a perspective client, we discuss what his needs are. Does he want a quick sale and closing or can he wait some time for the property to be listed, advertised and shown to potential buyers?” said Patton. If the reserve, the agreed price that must be met for the item, is realistic, sale at auction avoids the legal fees, inspections and waiting for the closing. At auction, the seller usually requires ten percent payment the day of the sale with the final closing within 30 days. “This method is becoming more popular,” said Patton.
Further down the Northern Neck in Kilmarnock, a new auction house has emerged, Rivah Auctions. They officially opened on June 24, 2016 with an open house, followed the next day with the first on-site auction. Hunter Hall, one of two event coordinators, said Rivah Auctions was built to meet a need. In the past Kilmarnock had an auction house, but that had closed. Entrepreneurs Jack Blunt and David Dew are partners in developing the new business. David is an Associate Broker with the real estate firm of Isabell K. Horsley, LTD. Jack Blunt is a retired vivacious 81-year-old who is a very good golfer at Indian Creek Golf Club and King Carter Golf Course and does not seem to be the least interested in slowing down one bit. Along with other endeavors, the group took an iconic building, the former office of the beloved local family physician A. B. Gravitt, Jr., and turned it into a very attractive business. The fully restored interior has ample room for customers to come early and view the items up for bid. One of the rare items located in the auction hall is a notebook with the names of babies Dr. Gravitt delivered. The records include births from 1946 until 1978.
Hunter Hall, himself a young entrepreneur, said that Rivah Auctions was designed to meet the local auction needs. He added with a smile, “ … but we planned for other business as well.” Along with the auction room, the Rivah Auction building offers a meeting room that allows for conference calls and a banquet hall which offers a venue for many types of parties to include banquets and dances. The other event coordinator, Mandy West, is the officer manager and helps on auction days
Also on the property is located a high-end consignment shop, River Consignments, which offers customers another option to sell their antiques and other home furnishings. If they don’t sell in the shop, they can move them across the parking lot to the auction house.
Auctions are held when Hall accumulates enough product to sell. “We are always looking for household items, machinery, boats, autos, china and glassware, silver, currency, jewelry and the likes,” he said.
When there is an auction on site, the crowd is plentiful. Brad Smith, a 20-year-old licensed auctioneer, is contracted to call the auctions. While in high school, Brad started his career with The Big Red Flea in Lancaster. He is now a college student at Christopher Newport University, dividing his time in Lancaster and Newport News. He is very interested in the emergence of technology and is planning ways to offer even more to customers by putting auction items online.
While these are but two options in the area, they are new and innovating. They are building from the base developed over the centuries and expanding their reach way beyond the Northern Neck. Longtime auctioneer William “Binkey” Durham has operated an auction in the area for over 30 years and Dean Truax moved here from Rhode Island and operates an auction in King William County with the most square footage east of Richmond. These guys are the models from which the new guys build. To see what auctions are occurring in this area go to www.auctionzip.com. Enter your zip code and a calendar will appear with the information for the next 6 months.
Auctions are a great way of meeting new people, “finding” that long sought item at a steal, or acquiring very interesting items. All of us should attend one live auction to hear the melodious call of the auctioneer and to allow yourself to become caught up the moment.