Offline business steady for city’s auction houses

Filed under: Focus |

If eBay and other Internet auction sites have made traditional auction houses obsolete, that’s news to Bill Neal.

“If anything, they’ve helped us,” he said. “There are a lot more people who think of themselves as dealers, so they buy here and resell on eBay. We’re just part of the sales chain.”

Bill and Paula Neal have owned Ross Auction, one of the city’s longest-established family-owned businesses since 1998.

The company at 109 S. Sierra Madre St. has been in continuous operation since it was founded by Jack Ross during 1921.

The company conducts estate auctions every Friday and Saturday and schedules some single-owner and antique sales.

Ross is a classic auction house, taking goods on commission and selling them to the highest bidder.

“We are the market,” said Neal. “We bring willing buyers together with willing sellers, so whatever price the goods sell for represents the market price, according to the classic definition.”

Every week, Ross sells hundreds of lots, ranging from boxes of used kitchen utensils to high-end art, jewelry, and antiques.

Where does it all come from?

“Death, divorce, and downsizing,” said Neal, “and of course we have pickers, folks who go to storage unit sales, garage sales and the like, and bring it to us. There’s one guy who brings in a load of stuff every week, and every week we give him a check for $500, $600, or $1,000.”

Downsizing has become an increasingly important part of Ross’ sales.

“I’m 61,” Neal said, “so I’m right in the middle of that baby boomer demographic. We’re beginning to figure out that maybe that 4,000-square-foot house with the lawn to mow and the driveway to shovel isn’t the best place to be — so we’re moving on.”

Like most businesses, Ross has seen the effects of the recession.

“Or business fell off dramatically in 2009,” Neal said, “We had great merchandise, lots of quality consignments, but our sales were down. I have to think it’s because of the lack of purchasing power of the general public.”

“Remember,” he said, “we’re a very unique business. We don’t set the price-the buyer sets the price. If you find another one, let me know.”

Although Ross is the largest auction business in Colorado Springs, there are two other long-established auction houses in the region.

Gorman Auctions, in the former race-car museum in Manitou Springs, holds auctions twice a month. On Feb. 13, Gorman will auction off a collection of 500 radios, including antique floor models as well as Bakelite and plastic examples from the 30s, 40s and 50s.

The company’s Web site points out that auction houses are, by definition, “green” businesses.

“Auctions provide a market that gives pre-owned items a second home, instead of letting still-useful items go to landfills.”

Holt Auctions, based in Colorado Springs for more than 30 years, specializes in on-site auctions, holding periodic sales of industrial and/or farm equipment.

During the weekend of Feb. 26 and 27, Holt is conducting an estate sale near Rocky Ford. The sales brochure which can be viewed on the Web at holtauction.com, promises an interesting experience.

“There is something for everybody in this auction!! This farm has been in the same family name for over 100 years. You won’t want to miss this auction not everyday can you come to an auction and buy good modern farm equipment and in the same day buy a piece of history!! Don’t miss this outstanding auction!! We’ll be pleased to see you there!!!

— Richard ‘Horsebite’ Delong estate”