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The Case of the Man with a Wooden Leg


It’s been 15 years since I started VanDerBrink Auctions, and I can say that I’ve seen a lot of interesting things. We love when people come to our auctions to buy and have a good time, and I enjoy talking to people and listening to their stories.

Our sellers also enjoy you coming to take home one of their treasures, AFTER YOU PAY FOR IT! It just blows my mind that sometimes people actually come to car shows and auctions with the intent to steal. I tell you what, if you don’t have the money to buy, just stay home instead of stealing.

I’m thinking that there is a special angel in heaven that is the “auction” angel and keeps track of those people who just take a hood ornament, radio or shifter knob, or nab a little piece of chrome. I can imagine, when those people get to that Judgment Day and that roll call in heaven, the auction angel says, “Excuse me, God, yeah this is Bob. He took that 1953 Chevrolet hood ornament off Lot 97L at the Lambrecht Auction in 2013.” Wonder what will happen.

Stealing is NEVER acceptable at an auction or in life. We do everything that we can to protect our sellers, but occasionally that one bad apple shows up and ruins things for everyone. I’ve looked back at my inventory pictures from the Lambrecht Auction, and yes, including my 1953, and hood ornaments disappeared from my initial inventory pictures.

In 2007, we had a large auction in Illinois for the Lloyd May Collection. Someone actually removed the chrome spears from the side of a 1956 Nomad. Now where are you going to hide that? We announced at the start of the car auction, asking for them to returned to the car and avoid arrest. Some good ol’ boys from Kentucky, and I’ll never forget this, had rope and were ready to hang the sucker. There was a $1,000 reward for catching the guys. Well, it must have scared them, because next thing we know, the Kentucky boys announced that the spears were returned and they were. Amazing. Lloyd and his crew were up all night protecting the cars at gun point before the auction, and actually had to chase off guys from stealing again! Amazing.

There are many auctions that nothing happens, but there is one that I will never forget. The man with the wooden leg.

We were doing an auction in Dexter, Minn., for Antique tractors and stationary gas engines. We were getting ready and I was setting up a display of “oilers” and we had some very valuable oilers in the mix. A Ruby oiler was one of them. Next thing I know, one of the family came over and said they saw this man steal one of the oilers. I said, let’s confront him. Well, he was in the porta pot. When he came out, he was confronted by me and one of the relatives. The man denied it and they even frisked him. They were sure that he took the Ruby oiler. It was gone off the table, and had no idea where it went.

I told them to call the cops. He had gotten a bid number, and I had all his information. Sure enough, the sucker came back the day of the auction. The cops were waiting to search his car and person. I was over by the engines, and some guys said, “Hey Yvette, what’s going on with John?” I said the guys saw him take an oiler and we can’t find it. They then proceeded to tell me the wildest tale.

They said, “Did you check his wooden leg?” What? “Yeah, he’s been thrown out of many shows for stealing parts and putting them in is wooden leg.” I ran over to tell the officer, but it was apparently too late, nothing in his leg.

The auction was hot, long and really crazy. I was driving home and exhausted and telling my husband that there was a man who stole parts in his wooden leg. My husband said, “What did you say. Did you say a wooden leg?” he was laughing his butt off, while I was just stressed and wanting a little comfort. Then I started laughing realizing how goofy this was. Imagine that, he had hollowed out a wooden leg especially for stealing small parts. Now how in the world would you ever find that? I guess someone had before and he was caught red “legged” with parts in his wooden leg.

Well, who’d have thought?

Well, we’re not going to start searches or anything, but just remember those Golden Rules and Ten Commandments and we’ll get along just fine. There is no room for crooks at car shows, auctions or in life for that matter.

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