A new reality TV series debuting Oct. 9 on The Learning Channel is set to expose the auction business in a way few outsiders have seen: pulse-pounding bidding, challenging appraisals and strange consignors. To Deb Weidenhamer, the new star of the show, it’s just another day at the office.
Weidenhamer’s business, Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers of Phoenix, Ariz., was contacted in 2009 by a production company interested in depicting the auction business in a truthful, yet entertaining way. Much like the protocol for other hit shows such as History’s “Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers,” the production company created a 10 minute “sizzle reel” and took it to the channel. “They bought the show without having us create a pilot,” Weidenhamer told Antique Trader. “Auctioneer$’” reign as the only auction-based show will be short lived, however. The Spike Channel premieres “Auction Hunters” Nov. 9.
The show itself has three focuses that are part of the format. The first is the story behind the sellers, the product being sold and the historical information behind the pieces and the authentication. The second focuses on the behind-the-scenes goings-on at a hustling, bustling auction business. The third focuses on the buyers – who they are an why they are buying the items in the first place.
When all three elements come together, what’s created is a wonderfully entertaining program that highlights both her deal-seeking customers and her energetic staff.
“Because it’s an auction, it’s extremely fast paced,” she said. “And there is a wide range of things from a Tiger Woods signed golf ball to an antique time recording clock produced at the dawn of the Industrial Age. We even have a princesses’ brooch.”
The Oct. 9 premiere features an $8,000 Punch & Judy coin bank, which brought just $300 due to condition issues. A doll house valued at $500 by the auction house staff beats its estimate to sell for $630 and a replica of Princess Diana’s wedding dress sells for its $500 pre-auction estimate.
Since launching in 1995, Weidenhamer’s firm has grown to 100 staff members. It was recently named a finalist of the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year Award in addition to being included in an INC. magazine’s annual roster of the 500 fastest-growing U.S. businesses. In fact, Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers took honors as the No. 1 fastest woman-owned business and the 15th fastest-growing business overall within the inner cities of the United States.
“We have been focused on growth here,” she said. “We’re not sure if we’re ready for non-organic growth and we’re preparing for that as best we can.”
Weidenhamer does not focus exclusively on antiques and collectibles. Staff are adept at managing sales of stolen, confiscated police and law enforcement property, business liquidations, heavy equipment and automobiles for banks as well as high-end estates and fine antiques.
“I believe the show is good for the auction business,” she said. “Often times people really think auctions are for the million-dollar painting or $10 million jewels. It shows people that ordinary pieces can be sold at auction and that will be great for the industry.”
Careful in crafting the message to the public, Weidenhamer sought the consul of the National Auctioneers Association and was very pleased to hear they “were absolutely thrilled and excited about it.
“The auction method is gaining in popularity and the great deal to be had has to do with the downturn in the economy,” she said. “A recent study shows that for most people there is $3,500 of auction value of unused goods in your house. Maybe it’s time for people to get their sweat equity going and get together a group and bring it to an auction house to sell it.”
One innovation the show will offer is a screen tracking the auctioneer’s fast-paced call. “There is a graphic on the screen that shows you where the auctioneer is numerically,” she said. “The viewer will really get use to what the chant is doing and that I think will be big.
The show also depicts actual events at the auction house – one explosive situation in particular was caught on tape. “In one episode, the owner of a Tiger Woods signed golf ball was given the gift on his wedding night,” Weidenhamer said. “His wife told him she picked it up as a child when Woods hit an errant ball during practice and she had it signed. Well, the couple had since divorced and the man wanted to sell it.
“We actually flew in a Tiger Woods autograph expert and found out that it was not Tiger Woods’ signature. He was obviously upset and distraught and flipping off the camera … of course, that got used in the episode.” ?
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