Archive for Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Calling all auctioneers

Tonganoxie Days event designed to introduce public to ins and outs of auctions

March 19, 2003

Chances are at Tonganoxie Days this year, the words will fly fast and furious.

The best of the best Kansas auctioneers will be in town that weekend, said John Shoemaker, this year's president of the Kansas Auctioneer Association. The organization's members will hold a special Tonganoxie Days auction in conjunction with KAA's annual summer convention in Tonganoxie.

"The association members will bring in 50 to 60 items, new and old, to auction," Shoemaker said.

One KAA member, Mike Gatlin, said he and his family plan to drive from Liberal for the weekend.

"It's 350 miles away, but we'll be there," Gatlin said.

Gatlin credited Shoemaker for helping him establish his own auction business.

"They helped us a lot when we were getting started 15 years ago," Gatlin said. "He's been my mentor."

Gatlin was one of the KAA members who two years ago came to Tonganoxie and voluntarily ran several sales for the Shoemakers when John had surgery. So of course, that means he and his wife, Becky, are familiar with the area.

"We've always felt welcome in Tonganoxie," Gatlin said. "It's small-town America outside the big town."

The goal of the Tonganoxie Days auction, aside from supporting a local event, is to introduce the public to the auction process.

People who have never participated in an auction may feel intimidated about going to one, Shoemaker said. They may not know to register for a number when they get there, or know that to bid, everyone needs to hold up their numbered card.

"We want to take them through the auction process," Shoemaker said. "Show them how an auction works, sign them up, give them a bid number and show them how to check out."

A special guest at the June 14 auction will be Mike Bailey. From Jennings, Kan., Bailey was the 2002 winner of the Kansas bid calling championship, an event held at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson each year.

Although quick to praise Bailey's auctioneering skills, Shoemaker himself is no slowpoke. In the past, he has placed second and third at the state bid-calling competition.

Shoemaker, who has been an auctioneer for 26 of his 52 years, said his grandfather piqued his interest in auctioneering.

"He wasn't an auctioneer, but he got me started into tinkering around and buying and selling stuff," Shoemaker said.

Later, when a Springdale auctioneer, the late Raymond Zimmerman, ran Shoemaker's father's farm sale, Shoemaker helped.

"Since then I've been hooked," he said.

Cutting back on work

Although still hooked on auctioneering, Shoemaker plans to slow down. He expects that in 2004, he and his wife, Jan, will stop taking items on consignment.

"We'll probably just start doing estate sales, farm sales and real estate," Shoemaker said.

And, he added, they'll continue to hold three holiday antique sales -- sales that draw such large crowds that they are held at the fairgrounds instead of at the couple's auction barn.

Two years ago, Shoemaker didn't know if he'd live past his 50th birthday. A lump on his abdomen turned out to be a grapefruit-size tumor on his pancreas.

The surgery to remove the tumor, which was benign, required extensive "replumbing," as Shoemaker says. And, a year later, surgeons had to go back in and make more repairs. Shoemaker is lucky to be alive -- and he knows it.

It's that awareness that last week led the couple to buy their first recreational vehicle. They plan to take to the highways this year and visit as many auctioneers at auctions as they can.

On the office bulletin board is a Kansas road map, marked with dozens of upcoming auctions the Shoemakers plan to attend.

There are 220 auctioneers in the state association, Shoemaker explained, adding: "We hope to hit at least half of them."

He's looking forward to traveling.

"I'm on chapter two of my life," Shoemaker said, smiling, "And I'm going to see what's out there."

Learning never ends

There's more to auctioneering than most people think.

The schooling can be completed in two weeks.

But Shoemaker chuckled at how long it's taken him to know what he's doing: "Two weeks and 26 years."

Auctioneers must keep up on ever-changing laws, for instance, such as those that regulate the sale of vehicles.

"How are you going to know if there's a lien on it -- you can't sell mortgaged merchandise," Shoemaker said.

Also, auctioneers have to know liquor laws. Unless there's a liquor license -- empty liquor decanters can be sold -- full ones can't. And, of course there are real estate laws to keep track of.

But, the most important aspect of auctioning, Shoemaker said, is the people for whom he is selling.

One day's auction represents more than it appears.

"You're dealing with a person's whole lifetime usually when you do an estate sale or a farm sale," Shoemaker said.

It's important, especially in these instances, that a new auctioneer work with one who is experienced.

"They don't want to give that to a rookie -- so we always suggest a new auctioneer get someone and work with them for a while," Shoemaker said.

As for the Tonganoxie Days auction, Shoemaker expects that the 100 or so auctioneers who come to town will enjoy the weekend. He's reserved all the rooms at Amanna Ãlan for the get-togethers, and knows the visitors will want to check in on the car show, barbecue contest and other events.

He's planning a trip to the Agricultural Hall of Fame and plans to organize a hayrack ride.

Shoemaker said he's looking forward to the event: "I think the Tongie Days thing is going to be a hoot."

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