By John Blankenship
Steve Davis of New River Auction and Sales located near Ansted in Fayette County is a natural when it comes to selling furniture, appliances, antiques, glassware, pottery, coins, memorabilia and other quality merchandise.
“My father used to say we sold everything from toothpicks to tractor-trailers,” Davis recalls. “I wouldn’t go quite that far, but we’ve been known to auction houses, barns, tractors and the land they sat on.”
The professional auctioneer keeps his patrons coming back to his auctions held on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. He’s done his share of selling over the years.
What’s his secret when it comes to auctioneering? “Be prepared to sell anything,” Davis quips good-naturedly.
But, he adds, an auctioneer also has to make sure his customers are ready to let go of the items they are putting up for auction. “I’ve seen many sellers who had tears in their eyes,” he says.
“We auctioned off some cocker spaniel puppies that were just precious. There was hardly a dry eye in the crowd.”
Davis, who has participated in some 500 auctions during his career, attended the Meddenhall Auctioneer School in North Carolina for two weeks prior to turning professional.
His skills as an auctioneer are largely self-taught, however.
“They don’t teach you how to chant (a special way of calling out numbers) in school,” Davis explains. “Every auctioneer is different and develops his or her own style of asking for bids. It just comes natural to you as you gain experience.”
Asked to relate some personal tidbits about his profession, Davis is quick to point out that some patrons of his auctions take their competitive bidding seriously.
“Some even take it personally when another party bids against them,” he says. “I’ve seen some family members get angry with each other. One sewing machine that was valued at about $40 went for $450. When families are involved, you never know what to expect.”
Davis says his first auction netted only about $150.
“There were only three people bidding that night,” he says. “The next night more than 20 showed up.” Now it’s not unusual to have 80 to 100 people show up for a sale.
One of his recent auctions included a farmhouse, barns and farm equipment. Altogether, the sale earned more than $375,000 for one of his clients.
What are some of the most unusual items that he’s brought to his auction house?
“I’d have to say that it’s an outhouse that we have on the front porch,” Davis says with a laugh. “I don’t think it would bring a lot of money, though, even if we sold it.”
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