Welcome to the inaugural blog post of Doran Auctions! If you’ve ever read any of our descriptions, you know by now that we have a lot to say. Today, we’re going to start at the beginning. Many people have asked us just what made us open an auction business in the first place. It’s an excellent question that we felt should be expanded upon at some point. No better time than the present.
Neither of us grew up in auction families. We didn’t attend them as children and we weren’t related to any auctioneers that we’re aware of. In fact, both of probably had the same incorrect thought as to what buying at auction was. Lee’s family tells a story about his grandfather buying a city parking meter for $50 back in the 1950’s when he scratched his head and accidentally bid. My cousin, the consummate animal lover once purchased a baby got at a farm auction. Maurice was an intentional bid and he was a beloved member of the ever growing menagerie of farm critters my cousin owned. He was also a fantastic play mate.
Fast forward many years to a time when a friend of Lee’s invited him to his first auction. He went and decided that not only were auctions something he enjoyed; they were something he wanted to be involved in. Auctions had changes since that long ago day when his grandfather accidentally bought a parking meter. No goats were sold that evening to the best of anyone’s recollection. As for me, I was a social worker. Ask me another day how that factors in to being involved in the auction business. Surprisingly, it really does factor in. I came along for the ride. That is essentially it. I came along to help make a dream come true.
Becoming an auctioneer in the State of Pennsylvania isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are only two ways to do so. One way is to apprentice under a licensed auctioneer for a period of two years. The other way is by attending an accredited auction course. These courses are offered at only three institutions of higher learning in the entirety of Pennsylvania. Lee chose education. There is an apprenticeship component to the course work as well.
Despite what people probably perceive as an average course of study in the auction business, it’s not all standing around and talking fast. The courses work covers things such as appraisal techniques, the types of appraisals which can be performed, property law, real estate law and contract preparation. Of course, auctioneers do practice the talking fast part as well. That’s called the chant for those of you who were wondering. There is a fairly comprehensive exam at the end of the course of study. This exam is conducted by the state board. It’s not dissimilar to a cosmetologist taking their licensure exam.
Once all of that is completed, it’s really a waiting game. An auctioneer can complete the course and take the exam and still not jump right in to conducting his own auctions. He must wait for his license to arrive. Then there’s the bond. You simply can’t operate as an auctioneer without a bond. It takes a great investment of time and money to become licensed in this state.
So, all of those things finally came to pass. The right numbers of checks were written to the right agencies. The proper forms were filled out, signed and dated and mailed away. The correct bonds and insurances were in place and a license finally arrived. Now what?
Now comes the hardest part. Now consignors with items to sell and customers with a desire to bid must be found. All of the education, bonding and insurance really don’t serve you well when you’re trying to actually do the business of selling items. They give you a good foundation in the law and the knowledge of how to operate legally and soundly, but when it comes to finding consignors you’re on your own, kid. As we’ve mentioned, neither of us came from auction families. That little tidbit makes it a great deal harder to find consignors and customers. We simply didn’t have the connections to fill an auction house with items and the seats with bidders. Through some hard work and endless hours of promoting, networking and more promoting, we did find those consignors. We found bidders too.
This is the point in the story where we talk about what it truly means to start a business from the ground up. It’s fairly easy to come in to an established business and take the reins, it is much harder to first find the reins and then scramble to hold on to them. This is true in any business. Whether you are a second, third or 12th generation mechanic, veterinarian or auctioneer, people just assume that you are more knowledgeable because you’re one of a long line. We had to essentially prove that we were knowledgeable and trustworthy over and over because there was no name recognition. It’s something we still find ourselves doing four years later.
Our first few auctions taught us that space is our friend. Most people aren’t familiar with daily operations of a business that deals primarily with larger objects. Since technology is not what we were promised it would be in films like “Back to the Future,” we can’t shrink things down and then make them bigger again. Space was important. Space was limited. Too much stuff in not enough space and you end up with damage, loss, hazards which are many and possibly a phone call from the production company at “Hoarders.” Space being at a premium is what prompted us to buy a beautiful old bank building in Beaver Falls. Now, keep in mind that we still didn’t have our “wings” yet. We had a dream and some goals and we went for it. Go big or go home.
Thus began long hours of lifting, moving, photographing, cataloging and uploading. Running a fledgling business is much like caring for a newborn. You stay up with it, you nurture it, you guide it along and you pray that it will sleep for a half hour so you can take a shower. When you’re two people doing your best to run everything, you pass exhaustion on the way to another form of tired science has yet to name. We spent several anguished days worried that our first online estate auction would be a flop. Being that we had both embraced technology, we took to digital means to get the word out. Craigslist, Facebook and various online flea market pages became our best friends. That auction, by the way, was a large success. We’ve had many hits and misses since then. We’ve had many “what in the world are we doing?” moments. We’ve met some really interesting people with some really interesting stories.
I don’t know that either of us imagined four years ago that we would be where we are now. We sometimes lament that we don’t feel we’ve come far enough. But one look back at the sheer volume of what we’ve sold normally puts those issues to rest. In four years, we’ve sold thousands of items. We’ve had the pleasure of hearing some amazing stories from some wonderful people. We’ve gone from “stuff peddlers” to curators. Yes, I used the word curator. We curate peoples’ memories as we catalog their items. We curate a time long ago when this piece or that was brand new and the first piece of “good furniture” a newly wedded couple bought. We don’t just sell items, we sell history.
If you’re still with me, first congratulations; I like words. We hope this first post entertained you. We hope it shed some light on why we do what we do. But most of all, we hope it inspired you. We hope that whatever it is you wish you were doing but aren’t, you take a gamble and do it. We did. It isn’t always easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. We hope the spirit of going out and taking that first tiny step even if you stumble a bit has been instilled upon you while reading this. That is what we did and what we continue to do to this day. Each day, each auction is another tiny step. Those tiny steps make up an amazing journey.