Interview with an Auctioneer: Daryl Bagwell
I had the opportunity to chat with a real live, 100% genuine auctioneer who lives and plays at The Bagwell & Associates Auction Company in Fletcher, North Carolina--just 20 minutes shy of the Storage Unit Auction List headquarters in Asheville. Meet Daryl Bagwell—everything you'd expect from an auctioneer—friendly, talkative, and a great sense of humor. Mr. Bagwell was kind enough to give me a behind the scenes look of what it's really like to be an auctioneer.
The Beginning of a Passion
Daryl Bagwell is a natural born picker. He grew up in the military and moved frequently until he was 20, even living in Europe for 9 years. During his travels he collected tons of things, including war memorabilia from all over Europe. After getting involved with flea markets and working for a group of auctioneers, he decided to pursue his own career at the Southeastern School of Auctioneering—one of only a handful of accredited auctioneering schools in the country. Along with completing the 80 hour course and passing the state exams, Daryl tells me that in the state of North Carolina, he is required to take 4 hours of continuing education a year to maintain his license.
For those of you thinking that auctioneering school is all fun and games, learning the auctioneer's chant and perfecting your jokes, that's not the case. Daryl says that much of the workload is very technical, and pertains to laws involving auctions. As for the auctioneer's chant, they offer a couple of classes, but it's more something that's learned with experience.
Daryl’s secret to learning the chant? “I mostly counted telephone poles, and I sold my dog a couple hundred times.”
What Does it Take?
I asked Daryl what he thought makes a good auctioneer. His humble response: “You have to have fun doing it, you have to like to laugh and joke. There’s no script, just be relaxed, and people will spend more money.”
He goes on to tell me that you have to be able to “read” people. There’s no intimidation involved in selling, it’s more about observing people and knowing how to speak to them. The auctioneers are the face and the voice of the product, whether they’re selling a storage unit or an antique vase.
“But these are things they could never teach you,” he says, “only experience can do that”.
How Do Storage Auctions Stack Up?
Daryl deals with all sorts of auctions; from estate to storage and many in between. He prefers specialty auctions, however, since collectibles always have value.
Even still, Daryl is no stranger to storage auctions. “I’ve done them in the past, and I’ve started doing them more recently since the reality shows have picked up. Storage auctions are nice because the atmosphere is relaxed, and there’s not a lot of pressure on the auctioneer. But they’re not where the meat and potatoes come from”.
Getting Real With Reality TV
Daryl has a very positive attitude about reality shows such as Storage Wars. “It has definitely impacted the crowds, but it’s an excellent crowd”, he says. In his experience, a lot of people saw the shows, didn’t have jobs, and started doing auctions full time. But it’s true—only 20% of the crowd buys 80% of the units. The units at his last auction sold for $800 average, so the shows are only helping the auctioneers and facility owners.
He goes on to tell me, however, that the shows can be intensified—most of the units he sells have a lot of junk. Very often, people will come remove their valuables before the unit goes up for sale. “They’re called ‘Midnight Movers’”, he says, laughing, “They come in the middle of the night and get everything that’s worth something”.
The Best Part of the Job?
Daryl’s favorite thing about being an auctioneer is what he learns. He’s constantly researching and learning new things all the time. “Nobody knows everything, not even the people who wrote the books. Even the guys on American Pickers—they research it, then they film it”.
Not only does he love the research, he also can’t stress how important it is as an auctioneer—and an auction buyer. He once saw an original Charles Schulz illustration go for $50 at auction, because the auctioneer wasn't sure if it was authentic. Turns out, it was… and was resold for a whopping $20 grand.
Daryl’s Advice to You
To close the interview, I asked Daryl to give our readers some advice.
“It’s not gonna be like the shows. Do your research. Go to other auctions—estate auctions, live auctions, see what things sell for—you might see similar things in storage units. Go to a few storage auctions and just watch before you buy anything. Remember: you make your money when you buy, not when you sell.”
To get in touch with Daryll or to see a list of upcoming events (as well as some incredible items he’s auctioned), you can visit his website here.