The rusty Indian

Most of my friends are always on the outlook for old and interesting cars or motorcycles. They usually send me a text message with a couple of pics and the question, “what do you think its worth?”. When I started in the auction business, I worked as an appraiser. I’d help the auction consignors establish a value, so they could get an idea of what their car might be worth before putting them in the auction.

I thought I was pretty good at that job.

But in today’s vintage car/bike market I can’t even come to understanding the market. This 1944 Indian Chief showed up on a local tow company website for their weekly auction. It was hard to get a good look at the old Indian with the posted pictures, so I went out to look at for myself. The Indian Cheif has been neglected for the past 60 years, it was rusty and had been disassembled. It was loaded with what is referred to as patina today.

It was an ex military bike bought in 1950, and by 1953 was put away. Needing a complete restoration, I thought it was worth $5-8,000 in present condition. On Ebay you can find fully restored ones priced from $15-40,000. It sold for $14,600 rust wins again.


Arizona Bound

Last week marked my first return to Arizona for collector car week in over a decade. I went to work for my old boss, Mitch Silver, to help him sell some of the six hundred plus cars he was offering over his four day auction. It had been thirteen years since I had last worked at the Silver Auctions annual collector car auction in Fountain Hills, Arizona. It sure felt good to be back amongst old friends and on familiar ground.

If you're not familiar with what auction week is in Arizona, it's basically when the whole of the Scottsdale area gets turned into a huge week of collector car auctions. There were seven different auction companies in Scottsdale this year offering over two thousand collector cars for sale! It started on Monday, January 16th and continued the entire week right through to Sunday, January 22nd.

Our days would start at 10am. Each day would go on for about ten hours. That's what it would take to run two hundred collector cars across the auction block. I worked with three other auctioneers each day. We worked in shifts, each selling ten to fifteen cars before rotating out. When we weren't on the auction block, we would work in the auction ring to spot bids and to assist the auctioneer who was onstage selling. By the end of the three days, my feet and legs were killing me. I must be getting old!

The collector car business is forever changing. Cars go in and out of favor, depending on market conditions. But as always; the best quality, most rare and uniquely interesting ones, never have a problem finding a new owner.

Everyone has an opinion of the health of the collector car market. From my perspective, it looks pretty darn healthy. It was really great to work with my old mentor, Mitch, and to see all of my old friends who have been some of my best supporters throughout my career as an auctioneer.

This impressive 1960 Chevrolet Bubble Top, sold for $50,000.

This impressive 1960 Chevrolet Bubble Top, sold for $50,000.

This nice 1934 Ford Roadster sold for $34,500.

This nice 1934 Ford Roadster sold for $34,500.

Who doesn't love an E-Type Jaguar?

Who doesn't love an E-Type Jaguar?

Happy Holidays

With Thanksgiving turkey in the rearview mirror, it's a quick countdown to Christmas only three weeks down the road.

Waterwatch wrapped up this year's fundraising with a bang. Thanks to Nina Johnson for sharing her photography skills. Next year is already looking to be a Happy New Year filled with fun fundraisers. Good to have our loyal repeat customers back and a warm welcome to new clients joining our team. We look forward to starting the 2017 fundraising season right with a new-to srdorsey auctioneering not-for-profit group. Revving up in February and gearing down in November, there is still lots of availability remaining in the first and last months of next year's auction calendar. If you have a specific date in mind, best to get on the stick!

A couple of notable upcoming events is auction week in Arizona, January 18 to 22. You will see a record number of cars consigned this week in 2017, with seven auctions competing for your business. Even I have been eyeing a few auctions I may head down to. There are some worthwhile cars to bid on. Of course, don't forget to check out the first motorcycle auction of the year too.  Mecum returns to Las Vegas January 27 to 29. I'm planning to make it down there for at least one of those days.

So happy holidays to you and your families. Thanks for a tremendous 2016! I wish you all the best in the new year and am excited to see what 2017 has in-store for us all.

Bigger Is Not Always Better

At the end of November, we will be finishing up our final fundraising auctions for the year. The last one on our roster is slated for the Soul River Foundation. Chad Brown is in charge of this not-for-profit aimed at helping inner city kids and veterans who suffer from PTSD. To learn more about the good work he is doing, you can check him out at

This year has already been a big year for growth. All-told, eight new clients joined the srdorsey fundraising team. A couple were very large auctions with over 300 people in attendance and more than a $150K raised in one night! Though the majority came to us as grassroot groups starting up with their first fundraising auctions. Most had limited to no experience in organizing a fundraiser. So we were able to guide and coach them into holding their first auctions, which turned out to be better events than they had imagined possible.

On average, we managed to raise between $20,000 and $50,000 on auction night, which was enough to cover their expenses and provide much needed revenue for these kickstart non-profits. Our success didn't surprise me; but what did, was how difficult it was for these small groups with limited resources, to find an auctioneer who was willing to be paid less to work a smaller auction.

In my experience and opinion; it is even more crucial to hire a professional auctioneer for a smaller and newer auction, than it is for a well-established auction that has been running year upon year. Most auctions take at least three years to establish themselves. Usually in year one, we establish a baseline of funds raised. The next year, we improve a bit more by raising more than we did at the inaugural event. Then by the third year, the tendancy is for the amount of money raised to plateau. But not to worry; because by year three, we have typically tripled the amount we have raised from the first auction!

So whether you are considering your first ever auction or you need to spice up your tenth annual one, we are glad to help you out!

Chad Brown. Photo compliments of

Chad Brown. Photo compliments of

Tick Tock

The clock starts now. We're already a month into the new year. Time is ticking away for the upcoming 2016 fundraising season. This year is already turning out to be even better and busier than it was in 2015! I'm proud to say that each one of our clients saw an increase in attendance and in dollars raised at every event at which we auctioneered last year.

I would encourage anyone who is thinking of holding an elaborate auction gala or just a simple event with a special appeal, to start planning as soon as possible. If you haven't booked a venue or an auctioneer yet; at this point in the game, you may not get your first pick. Those choice weekends book up fast, so make sure you have your favorite ballroom and professional auctioneer lined up ASAP!

You can never be over-prepared for success.


Cars Yeah: Podcast 345

This past summer, I recorded my first podcast. It was fun and a really good experience.

Basically it started as a connection that I had made through LinkedIn. I noticed a guy named Mark Greene, also from the Pacific Northwest. We had some contacts in common. They were mainly collectors of vintage cars and guys in the business. So I reached out to him. We emailed back and forth. Then he asked, "Would you be interested in joining me to do a podcast?" I wasn't sure what I had to offer compared to all the well-known car guys that he had interviewed and recorded in the past. I felt pretty honored to be invited to do that. I thought to myself, I'm just another car guy!

So we went through the process. Mark did his magic on the editing side. Then early this fall, my first ever podcast hit the internet. Check it out here for yourself at Cars Yeah:

Graphic by

Strike the match

Too many organizations look at the paddle raise or special appeal as a separate item of the auction. I prefer to look at the paddle raise as the central part of the evening. Typically, no single auction item will ever sell for as much as you could raise through the appeal. Using your pre-committed dollars as a match creates an exciting and interactive way for donors, patrons and the auctioneer to grow the appeal by as little as 25% from the year before to a whopping 100%.

These kind of increases are entirely possible to obtain. With some good preplanning, this could be a reality at your next auction.  It's what I call the Magic of the Match.  What is more exciting than announcing to your audience that you have a $10,000 gift waiting in the wings? Maybe challenging everyone in the room to try matching it his own donation? I think most would agree that the second scenario is just a little or a lot more exciting. Instead of a simple ask, we have created a bit of excitement by whipping up a little bit of a competitive frenzy. There's nothing wrong in a little bit of friendly competition in a crowd that's working together towards a common goal.

While corporate and personal matches at the higher levels grab most of the headlines, it is the donors in the room who are giving at the $250, $100 and $50 dollar levels who we really want to engage in the matching process. Recently, at a smaller event, we used a $1,000 donation as a match at the $100 level and ended up raising another $3,000. We did the same with a $500 gift which brought in another $1,500 via 30 separate donors at $50 a piece.

Raise more of those bid cards high up in the air at your next auction!











Appeal? This is what it looks like

With spring break behind us now, it's time to start again where we left off. In my experience, spring time auctions are typically smaller scale events, with some as simple as just a special appeal. If you and your cause or not-for profit group are considering having a special appeal fundraiser; something you might want to consider is a weekday night like a Tuesday or a Thursday.

In my 25-plus years of experience; I have found that inviting your charity's biggest supporters, bringing in a powerful speaker, combined with a well-defined appeal run by a capable auctioneer; you can sometimes achieve the same revenue objective as you would with a traditional fundraising auction. That is, without the added expense and manpower hours that it takes to pull off a typical Saturday night gala. Plus, special appeal-only auctions are also an effective way for you to keep in touch with your patrons and for your patrons to keep involved with your cause and organization througout the year.

A well-defined appeal looks like this:

You state to your audience what you are raising funds for. It may be for continued research to cure a disease or educational funding for a child's tuition. Maybe you are raising money for a specific project or a special piece of medical equipment?

You have the support of a major corporation which plans to match tonight's actual funds raised to double the final event tally. A long-time, loyal patron has been approached or volunteered to start the night's special appeal with a special bid.

You plan to start the night with a $10,000 bid and move down the line till you hit $100. I notice that once my audience gets into a groove with me, the momentum carries itself. So that by the end of your special appeal; we'll find that the majority of the room has participated by making a donation. And in this case, size really doesn't matter. A hundred $100 donations is still a decent chunk of change at $10,000.

Re-ignite the fire

Have you been watching as the attendance to your annual benefit drops year after year? Are you resorting to comping tickets just to put bums in chairs? Does anyone laugh at your MC's jokes anymore? Is the crowd tired of listening to the live auction drag on and on?

Maybe your event is suffering from BAS, the boring auction syndrome. Typically, the first call to action is to get rid of the MC and the auctioneer you've been using forever and replace them with professionals who have proven results. You will notice the difference immediately on the stage, in your event revenues, and even on your invoice from your auctioneer. As they say, "You get what you pay for." Someone who can turn your event around or grow your fundraising revenues year after year is worth his weight in gold. I've been on both ends of the stick and typically; if you've done your homework, you'll notice improvements in your event right away, whether big or small. Though if the core components of your benefit remain unchanged, so will your results. Auction prizes are typically the same at most fundraising events: art, wine, trips, special dinner and hotel packages or maybe even a one-on-one meeting with a B-list celebrity. While auction prizes make up some of the building blocks of your benefit, they are never going to be the components that bring your special event to that next level.

So how do you make the leap? While not a new concept, it's the people who make the event. Whether it's the tireless dynamos who sit on your fundraising board, or the generous patrons in the audience, or even the best audio-visual techs in town; it all comes down to the people. Brainstorming, event-planning, ticket-selling - every component it takes to put together a successful event, requires the person who best fits the job! Have you ever been successful at putting a square peg into a round hole? Shaking things up on your planning committee and on your stage may be just the changes your event needs. Heck, move the stage and change the venue while you're at it! This may be just what it takes to get your auction rocking again. Ask the members of your board, the loyal guests people who have been coming to your event year in and year out, maybe even some of your event volunteers. A cross-group brainstorming session may reveal the answer or answers you need to reconnect with your audience or to re-energize your planning committee. There is no end to the resources or ideas that can re-ignite your auction's fire. Give one or all of these ideas a try as you begin planning for your next benefit auction.

Happy new year!

Happy new year!

The holidays are behind us. The kids are back to school. The auction business is back in full swing.

In the month of January, there are no less than five auction houses, which will sell over $200million worth of classic cars in the matter of a week. If you happen to be in the vicinity of Scottsdale Arizona between January 10th through till the 18th, that's where the first big auction events of 2015 will take place.

If you are a fan of vintage motorcycles, Las Vegas Nevada is the place to be. With Bonhams and Mid-American offering up close to a thousand bikes starting January 8th and ending on the 11th. I'll be at Bonhams checking out some of the rare bikes that will be crossing the auction block into the garage of some lucky collectors.

Then by February, fundraising season starts up again. Most not-for-profits have their spring events booked. Now is the time when autumn fundraising committees are securing their dates for venues, entertainers and caterers.

Reinvent and resize

In my last blog post, I talked about rethinking how to go about planning your next fundraising auction. One of the main points I covered was the size of the event. It really comes down to the ROI, return on investment. What if I told you that in the following year, you should only invite half the people AND double your ticket price? Your first thought would probably be an emphatic NO. I'll let you in on a not-so-secret secret. As with most other sales transactions, the 80/20 rule applies. This is true for most things in the world of business, auctions included. What is the 80/20 rule? Also known as the Pareto Principle, it is the rule of thumb that 80% of your output is determined by 20% of your input. For example, in business it works out that 20% of your customers represent 80% of your sales. Or in our case, 20% of your event's patrons are bidding for your auction items 80% of the time. That means, in a crowd of 300, there are really only 30 actual serious bidders!

Let's do the math: starting with 300 people, divide that by 2 because most people come as part of a couple, apply the Pareto Principle by calculating 20% of 150, you are then left with only 30 true bidders in the room. What if, instead of trying to accommodate a lukewarm crowd of 300 at $250 a head, you double the ticket price and halve the number of guests? That translates into $75,000 in ticket sales right off the bat! Plus your fundraiser is left with only your most committed of patrons. Isn't it likely that the guy/gal who already spent $1,000 to attend your fundraiser with his wife/her husband, be the same guy/gal who takes home the grand auction prize?

Do your own little study at your next fundraising event and then give me a call.

Size doesn't matter. Really

We live in a world where if it's bigger, it must be better.

In the fundraising world, that axiom is not always true. Sure, it's exciting to be in a room filled with hundreds of other well-dressed and like-minded people thrown together to raise money for a shared cause, while also being entertained by the theatrics of the auctioneer. But the reality of large fundraising events is that only a small portion of those in attendance are actually active participants in the live auction. In my experience, I would venture to guess that only about 20% of the room is doing 80% of the bidding and buying. Yes, it does seem that more people tend to join in on the bidding for a special appeal. Though often, that may be the single occasion of the evening when that specific bid card saw any action.

So my question to event planners out there is, "How much thought and effort do you put into the process of guest selection?" Like most not-for-profit organizations, do you simply send out invites to the masses hoping to fill the huge ballroom that you have rented for the night? Or do you pick and choose those patrons who have potential in their pocketbooks and the ones with proven buying power to contribute to your night's cause? What if you could cut the cost of producing your event in half and at the same time, double your audience participation? Wouldn't you be interested in knowing how? Stay tuned for some hints in my next blog. 

Estate sales

How would you like someone, anyone to take off your hands, a dearly departed family member's house filled to the rafters with stuff? In return, you've saved a ton of time and still end up with money in the bank.

A real estate auctioneer can do that for you.

Instead of you and your siblings having to coordinate a time to meet, in order to sort through an entire household of remnants from the past and take carloads of used clothing to goodwill. Then empty, clean, stage and list that old house in wait of the right buyer to make an offer acceptable to you. Why not hand that task over to a licensed broker slash auctioneer to liquidate your shared family home and its entire contents? Even that old car that hasn't been started for years, collecting dust in the garage, can be taken care of in one fell swoop.

I happen to be one of a very few professionally-trained auctioneers in Portland, who is also a licensed real estate broker in the state of Oregon. If an estate sale auction peaks your interest or sounds like it might work well for you and your family, ask away. I will try to answer any questions you might have or be able to point you in the right direction.

School fundraisers

School fundraising auctions are some of my favorites amongst the variety of events that I do. They give parents and teachers an opportunity to socialize outside of the school environment. You have a highly motivated captive audience. Everyone in attendance has a student who benefits from the proceeds of the evening. It's a winning combination.

With smaller budgets and fewer subsidies, more and more schools are required to do their own fundraising - from kindergarten to high school, private and public school. Academic institutions are raising money for sports fields and equipment, international exchange trips, scholarships. The list goes on.

I'm a part of the fundraising team at a local private school's annual gala. For the past few years, a table of desserts made with love by the school's teachers goes to auction after the dinner portion of the night. The parents get pretty competitive. Little Lisa wants to hear how her dad made the highest bid for everyone's favorite teacher's triple-layered chocolate cake. I've seen bids go as high as $1,000 for a homemade cake. This year, the dessert auction raised $7,500 for the school's foundation!

Something to think about as yet another school year comes to a close. Have a fun and safe summer out there.