The queen of country auctions is always on the lookout for the next yard full
Yvette VanDerBrink has carved out a unique place in the old car hobby and auction landscape. The Hardwick, Minn.,-based auctioneer has become the queen of salvage yard sales and private grass-roots collections. She shuns the glitz and bright lights of the live TV sales, instead preferring to happily clamber through barns, sheds and overgrown fields often filled with relics that haven’t moved under their own power in many years.
Yvette has been a longtime friend of the staff at Old Cars and her enthusiasm for her work and love of the old car hobby never seems to wane. We recently made her sit down long enough to answer 10 questions:
Old Cars: You appeared to have a very busy year, but you don’t have any sales scheduled during the middle of winter. Was that break by design?
Yvette VanDerBrink: I try to have down time in December and January so I can go ice fishing. I love to go ice fishing and we have a cabin and we go up there a lot in the winter. And now is a good time of year to plan ahead and get ready for next year. Also in winter is when we sell farms and land if they come up and we have a chance to do that.
This year was crazy. By the time I got done with the last one I was ready for a break. It was wild, but it was fun. The thing this year is we were chasing weather, and the weather was chasing us. But this year was a dream year. It was fun. It was awesome because we had four different barn find auctions, and those are my favorite. Like the Coyote Johnson sale we had … those kinds of sales are my favorite.
Old Cars:: You have found a definite niche doing sales nobody else seems to do a lot of — salvage yards, crazy on-site collections, big parts stashes. How did that evolve?
Yvette VanDerBrink: I grew up with this stuff. My dad was a hoarder [laughs]. I did his auction in ’03 and he had 60 ’57 Chevys at his place! So it was not abnormal for me to see that. When I did his auction, nobody had ever done one like that. We developed a recipe for doing those and a following and when we do things we do them a little different. It just kind of caught on.
I love working with people personally, and I just throw my heart into it. That’s part of the success, I think. I definitely fell into a niche and have to blame my dad for that.
Old Cars:The big Lambrecht sale (from 2013) gave you a lot of notoriety and made national news at the time. Was that a big boost for your business?
Yvette VanDerBrink: Absolutely. That was such an immense challenge and it really taught me a lot — streamlining, media, how many porta-pots you need for 25,000 people! That was a Noah’s Arc miracle in itself. I learned a lot from that auction and it kind of gave me a better cookbook for handling these [sales]. Yes, it got me in front of a bigger audience and people who knew who I was, but they didn’t go to my sales before. We’ve gained a little more of a followingand people wonder what I’m going to stumble into next.
People have heard of us and have these collections they need to sell, they call us and say ‘What are we going to do with all this?” They call us and wonder what to do … Each one has their own challenge. Like one I just looked at is by a river. There is so much stuff, what do we do, what if it rains? Those are things we have to keep thinking of.
Old Cars:You gravitate toward selling off entire collections and seem to stay away from individual consignments. Why is that and do you plan to stick with that plan?
Yvette VanDerBrink:I have done [consignments].I don’t mind doing that. But would rather do what I’m doing [laughs]. I would rather stick with being dirty in the barn. That’s more me. Most people that know me know I’m more of a dirt than diamonds kind of girl.”
Old Cars: Are there enough collections like this out there? Are you worried the well will run dry?
Yvette VanDerBrink: Actually, we’re gonna get more. There will be more because baby boomers my dad’s age is where a lot of the collections and land and farms are. The biggest transfer of wealth ever is going on right now in America, so there is going to be more and more of these collections coming up I feel. My dad is 76, and a lot of those guys still have their collections. And I hate to say it, but it, but a lot of these guys 40 and under don’t have an interest. A lot of people only have an interest if they grew up with it, or always wanted one… If you always dreamedabout something, you have a connection. If you don’t’ have a memory or connection to an old car or tractor or something, you’re not going to buy it.”
Old Cars:What buying and value trends have you seen recently?
Yvette VanDerBrink: We have seen an affect in ’40s and ’30s — they have dropped a little bit. And ’50s cars are down, too, unless they are customized, all done, ready-to-drive, turn-key. Muscle cars are strong. People are buying back our glory days and that market is exceptionally strong. It dropped off there for a while. The recession corrected everybody, but the muscle cars have really come back. Before the recession guys might buy 10 or 15 cars in a day. Now they might by five. They are being more selective in what they buy.And the price of iron was so high, it really cleaned out a lot of old yards. A lot of that is disappearing. I know a lot of old yards, there was nobody to buy it, nobody wanted it, and they are crushing [the cars] out.
Salvage yards [sales] still do really well. They just can’t be picked apart. They need to be complete. And those are always fun. I’ve done many, many of those, and they are always fun.
Old Cars:Do you still take any flack for being a female in this business?
Yvette VanDerBrink: I still do. I just rip of their bidder numbers and tell them to go home. I say, “Hey, what’s your bidder number? OK, it’s time for you to go home. Bye! And yes I can do that because I own the place. You’re done! I’ve done that probably in 19 years maybe six times. I’m real polite like a stewardess. “Bye-bye, time for you to come home. You’re done here. You’re not bidding.”
Old Cars:What was your first car?
Yvette VanDerBrink: A ’79 Monte Carlo. My dad gave it to me on my 18th birthday. It was a rebuilder because my dad had a salvage yard. It was black with a red crushed velour interior. It was loaded out. I loved it. I absolutely loved that car. I had a lot of fun with that car. I was pretty naughty in that car … Before that we drove whatever ran in the salvage yard. Some of them didn’t make it to school! [laughs]
Old Cars:What was your favorite car that you have owned:
Yvette VanDerBrink: I had a ’69 Chevelle Super Sport convertible way back when. I loved that. Sold it. Wish I had it. Right now the favorite one that I own is a ’65 Chevelle Super Sport two-door hardtop. I’ve had that since ’03.
There was one other car that I had that I loved absolutely loved: an ’85 IROC Camaro! I loved that car!
Old Cars:You can have any car for a day. You have to give it back at the end of the day. What are you driving?
Yvette VanDerBrink: Hmm. I’ll say a ‘69 Camaro, four-speed, 396. I don’t have one. I’m working on it! I’ve probably had six Camaros. I always sell ’em and I don’t like to bid on the block. I think that’swrong … I would buy Phantom Green or White.