By Yvette VanDerBrink
One of the biggest honors that I have gotten in my auction career is to have been appointed to handle an estate in a will. Yup that’s right, that that customer that said, "I’ll call you later" unfortunately does not make that call until it's too late. Sadly, it sometimes ends up being a call from the grave.
I’ve spent many hours visiting and looking at collections of cars, tractors and motorcycles with a lot of older gentleman. It’s their pride and joy and they love telling stories of their treasure hunts. I have to admit, I love hearing those stories and remember almost every one of them.
One such instance happened recently. I remember going to Stillwater, MN where Mr. Seefert called me to “come and look” at his collection inquiring about a possible auction. I drove up and walked into the house and he was on oxygen surrounded by his family. He told his kids to take me on “the tour.” Building by building, we squeezed between the cars and peered under the blankets and car covers. There were many years of treasure hunting and collecting tucked away. A 1961 Mercedes-Benz roadster, a 1947 Hudson pickup and many more were part of Ken Seefert’s collection. We talked to Ken about an auction and even got as far as talking terms. Apparently a spark of life came back into him while talking about his collection, and he didn’t seem as winded. Ken answered with, “Well, I’ll think about it and call you later.” That call didn’t come until later, much later. It seems that there is something to be said to the ol’ saying, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Well it seemed Ken had won. Ken passed away last fall and his kids called me... The call finally came. The ol’ boy had put me in his will to sell his collection. This isn’t the first time that I was named to sell a collection, but this one meant a lot to me. It was the call that "came much later," as Ken said.
We are now moving his vehicles around, pulling out the tractors and going through the piles of collectibles. Many years of treasures will be headed to auction. I can always tell what meant the most to these gentlemen. They kept their most valuables close to them. By close, I mean some of them had them between the mattress and in the bathroom. It never fails, every collection is the same. The most treasured possessions are always kept nearest to us in our homes. In 2005, We were working with an estate in Ohio. I was using the bathroom and looking for toilet paper in the cupboards only to find vintage Ford speed parts. I found rare flathead parts, but no toilet paper. Quite often, I find parts on the dresser next to treasured pictures. I even had one seller, Mr. Toppy Clark from Missouri, buried with my auction hat that I gave him. He was alive when we had his sale in 2008, and he was so happy, that he wanted to be buried with his hat on. That brought me to tears. I’ve worked with some wives that were not quite so happy with all the mess that their husbands had left them. While going through the cars and buildings with the wives I have often learned more about their spouses, and in return, have been able to tell the wives of what I have found while letting them know how much these things meant to their husbands. Most of the time they are pleasantly surprised as to finally figure out what their husband was doing in that garage and learning it wasn’t all junk. Plus, the check from the auction is a surprising reward.
When I get those calls, I know that it’s up to me to “tell the story” and organize the collection as well as finishing that last leg of work. You might call it “building the legacy.” All while I can faintly hear, “remind my wife it’s not junk” echoing from the grave. I can also attest that I’ve had some weird things happen that can only be attributed to someone trying to point out something that I had missed. I recall once I was working with the Reitz MoPar auction in South Dakota, and I couldn’t get this hood open on this Duster. I went and sat behind the wheel and said out loud, “Alan, I can’t get your dang hood open! Little help!” It wasn’t more than 30 seconds that I heard the hood latch go "click" and the hood opened. NO kidding! As I went for a look, I realized it was a 6-cylinder. All I could say, and I did so out loud, “Good one Alan! Why no V8?” At the same sale, I was working in the house sorting out his MoPar parts. I was looking for a 3rd carb for a 6-pack set up, and "poof" there it was! It was like he was helping me “tell the story.”
I’m very thankful and honored for the privilege that these guys thought so much of an ol’ gal to handle their car and parts collection. All I can say is thank you, and I’ll do my best to “tell your story.” Maybe give me a call sooner, but I’m OK with if the call comes much later.
Yvette VanDerBrink- Auctioneer
The Lil’ Nordstrom’s Gal