For more than a decade, buying and selling old treasures was nothing more than a profitable hobby for Deb and Mike Cady. But when the time was right for them in February 2009, they jumped at the opportunity to make a business out of it.
Their venture, Cady Auction Gallery & Appraisal, is based in Cedar Rapids and specializes in premier, custom and quality items. Among their most common sold are antiques and firearms.
“We do mostly specialized, high-value selling, including pocket watches, high-end glassware, even old medicine machines,” Deb Cady said.
Mike and Deb are graduates of Continental Auctioneers School in Mankato, Minn., both having earned their certification as auctioneers, real estate auctioneers and personal property appraisers.
Finding a niche
For the couple, finding their niche with specialty items has been a good model for business.
“We tend to stray from the general auctions because if you have a more specific collection, it draws a much bigger crowd — national and even international collectors,” she reasoned.
And that worldwide market of buyers is exactly where online bidding comes into play. In general, the Cadys take 10 to 12 photos of each item, then catalog and list them online for bidding to take place for 8 to 10 days before the auction is actually held.
The bidding process, according to Cady, is comparable to online auction sites such as eBay.
“Buyers can pre-bid their maximum bids online prior to the auction, and then we have someone at every auction who accommodates for the online bidders,” Cady said. “The highest bid — online or in person — takes it.”
Darrell Cannon, who has owned Cannon Auction Services in Cedar Rapids for the past 18 years, also uses website bidding in auctions.
Those online auctions, he added, has helped him expand his business.
“Now we can work with buyers and sellers from California to Maine, which really allows us to spread the market across the country,” Cannon said. “In the old days, you were limited by who would come to the auction, but the online trend has really gotten big over the past five years.”
Any time of the year
Cannon is a graduate of Worldwide College of Auctioneering and has been an instructor there since 2005. Since then, he has become an expert in the industry by earning his Certified Auctioneers Institute designation from the Auction Marketing Institute, as well as his Certified Estate Specialist designation.
Cannon focuses mainly on estate work. The company also auctions farm equipment and even real estate, which keeps the business busy year-round.
“Estate sales can really happen any time of the year, depending on when the services are needed,” Cannon said. “For more specific items, we sometimes have more seasonal times. For example, farm equipment auctions pick up in the winter or early spring, and then again around August and September for the harvest.”
Like Cannon, Cady sees spikes throughout the year. For firearms, auctions are typically held between September and March, which is when most gun shows are held nationwide.
But beyond seasonal trends, auctioneering tends to be a roller-coaster from year to year.
“Things cycle — something will be hot this year and not the next,” Cannon said. “For us, the big thing right now is farmland real estate because prices are going up.”
But interest in some categories are just going down.
“A lot of Victorian antiques and collectibles have gone down in value recently because the buying trend has changed,” Cady said. “The older generation is downsizing, and the baby boomers don’t want what their parents once collected.”
While she did stress that high-end, quality items always will have value, it’s the low- to mid-value items that drop off in popularity and appraisal, she explained.
“Things can quickly go from heirloom to burden for some people who don’t want all the stuff,” she said.
Both companies work mostly with clients seeking to downsize, to sell off collectibles or are handling the estates of relatives.
Over the course of the year, Cady holds around 18 auctions at their Cedar Rapids location. For Cannon, the number of auctions varies greatly each year, depending on the scope of work for each one.
“It’s not uncommon to hold two-day auctions sometimes, so there’s really no telling how many we will hold from year to year,” he said.