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When the "kids" are in the middle

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Just like in a divorce case, quite often the “cars” and the “collection” can get caught in the middle of a firestorm. Just like in a divorce, it can get “hot” between the family and parents. I have worked with some estates like this. As an auctioneer, we are the stabilizing agents. We go in with an honest, open and fair method - the auction. I love my job, and as an auctioneer I need to look out for the best interests of the “kids”- the cars. I grew up with cars around my car-collecting dad, and I understand how this situation can happen. But as an auctioneer, we are the official problem solvers. It’s our job to do the best job for the family and obtain the best results turning assets into cash. There is another aspect that auctioneers deal with which seems to get lost in the chaos - the legacy of the cars.

I have worked with many collections and families. I’ve had siblings that wanted the same car and couldn’t sort it out. This is why the auction is the best option, it's fair, open, and they get a chance to bid and buy the car in an open, free and public environment. Often, they aren’t actually paying cash; the payment comes from their share of the inheritance. The auction method also sets a basis for the estate for probate or trust for tax and asset evaluation. I have witnessed collections where the family or friends fall short on projected money for the estate. I ran an auction in Nebraska where a friend had sold 31 vehicles for a widow over several years. He was a family friend who sold the cars and gave proceeds to the widow after taking a cut. We sold the last car of the collection, which was a 1932 Ford 2-door sedan. It was rough, but all there. We sold the car at auction for $42,000. I looked over expecting to see a happy response with our widow and she was crying. I thought tears of joy, but then she informed me that the most she had gotten for the others was under $20,000 and they were better! I later learned the friend wasn’t a friend at all, and in fact, kept a large portion of the proceeds. She would have made thousands more if she had called us right away and had a proper auction.

Greed, all to often, places the cars in the middle. In the last 5 years I have seen more cases of cars not truly being wanted, but with the perception taken from TV shows, and recent strong prices, has brought to light a “fake” compulsion to own the cars. In reality this is an orchestrated plan based out of greed to extort more money out of the sale. It wasn’t the loving memories of their dad or mom, but making cold hard cash from something that was "just sitting out in the shed."

Most people don’t know that we actually had this happen with our 2013 Lambrecht auction. A person that was “helping the family” relocated a lot of my day 1 inventory and the family had to pay a storage fee [I say ransom] to get them back home for the sale. I worked with the family and got them all back together eventually having a hugely successful Lambrecht Chevrolet auction. I had another auction in Ohio that I had to escort the sister and her husband off the auction premises because they caused such a disruption. Later, I had to testify before the court because we caught them on camera stealing items from the auction. Just recently, I visited an estate where the older man had a great collection, and unfortunately was very ill. He never had children, so his cars and tractors were his kids. He was a gentle soul, and a joy to visit with. We walked through his sheds and talked about his cars and tractors. It was really fun and I already knew that he needed an auction. There was family, but they didn’t really come around or associate with him. That was until several weeks after he was diagnosed with his illness. That’s just wrong in my book. I witnessed “fake care” and they actually were vocal with their plans about his collection. They had no idea what they were looking at or how to market it. That did not stop them from writing down their assumed sales on a piece of paper and what the take would be for actual owner of the cars and tractors. They were far from chartable with only 45% going to the ill man. Wow that’s caring! I couldn’t believe it. I felt sorry for this man in his last days as he lamented about where his “kids” would end up. I wanted to tell his story so his legacy will not go unnoticed and give a dog his day in the sun. We will see what happens.

It’s my job to tell the story for the seller and their collection. The owner’s story is an important part of the sale. As an auctioneer I have to think of our assets and the legacy of our seller and what’s best for them by imparting their story. This is the part of being an auctioneer that can be hard and rewarding at the same time. I hate to see treasured memories being thrown away for a stack of Benjamins. I have said to a family member before, “What would your dad do if he was standing here and heard you say that and see you guys behaving like this?” I suppose that isn’t politically correct, but come on… this was a human being that owned this. THIS IS ABOUT FAMILY!

We often work with lawyers, judges and executors to keep the peace and settle the estate and try and keep the kids calm. It always comes out in the wash, but it’s sad when the cars – the “kids” get caught in the middle of a fight. The worst thing in the world to me is the sin of greed.


Yvette VanDerBrink- Auctioneer/Broker-VanDerBrink Auctions, LL
The Lil’Nordstrom’s Gal
The Salvage Princess

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