M.D. "Shorty" Yeaman Auctioneer, Texas License 10693
815 2nd Street Rosenberg, TX 77471
Just say for all your Auction/Appraisal needs!
Going once, twice...
From an article in the September 5, 1999 issue of the Herald-Coaster newspaper - Rosenberg, Texas
Ed Rickey & Gail Lucas keep track of the auction items on the printed handout buyers receive when they sign in at the front desk
Every other weekend, Yeaman holds an auction of items acquired through estate sales or from shopping trips he and his family make in Texas, their eyes always on the lookout for quality antiques sure to fetch a good price.
Their buyers want quality items at a good price, shoppers like Peggy Webb from Sugar Land, a collector of vintage jewelry, who spent time examining boxes of costume jewelry that were on display prior to the auction.
Real and Merrily Ransom have been coming to Yeaman auctions for about four years and both enjoy the fast-paced bidding and spending time with friends in the crowd.
Ruth Fitzpatrick is affectionately known as "Grandma" to all those who attend Yeaman's Auctions
As people visit and wait for their special item to come up for bid, the auctioneer needs a sharp eye to simultaneously keep track of bids, always trying to raise the bid, and keep track of quick waving of a yellow bid card or a raised hand. It also takes an auctioneer with a love of people to keep the crowd interested and happy for up to three hours.
And Shorty's just the cowboy to do it.
Wearing his trademark Stetson hat, Yeaman's down-home style shines through the rapid-fire auctioneering calls he makes sitting high at the front of the crowd while his crew of daughter, Traci, Don Endebrock, Don Guthrie, John Perry and Jack Boyles work the floor.
Yeaman became interested in auctioneering eight years ago when Wharton auctioneer Sherill Speer asked Yeaman's help at his auction on afternoon. Although Yeaman had never attended an auction, Speer told him all he had to do was hold items up for inspection. Yeaman enjoyed the afternoon so much, he worked every time Speer asked him.
When rumors of layoffs were discussed at his office, Yeaman didn't want to find himself out of a job after 20 years of service. He'd always had an interest in auctions and approached his wife, Dianne and his family with an idea.
"I talked with the kids and we discussed my options,"explained Yeaman. " I told them I'd like to go to auctioneer school and get my license," he said. The family thought it was a good idea, so Yeaman attended the IQ School of Auctioneering in Quitman.
"We had to rake and scrape every penny for him to go," says his wife Dianne with a smile. "In fact, we had to sell a horse for his tuition." After completing school, he worked the auctions with Speer, learning as much as he could, all the while searching for a building to open his own auction house.
He found the perfect spot in downtown Rosenberg.
"The building was filthy dirty, but the room is not the most important part of an auction - it's the people bidding and the people working the floor.
Daughter Traci is a sharp and effective spotter, the person with the difficult task of keeping track of bids. All the while Yeaman is calling his cadence of rising bids, the spotter has to keep one hand pointed at the person with the last bid and the other hand in the air to try and entice other buyers to join in.
It's the spotter's job to make sure the right person gets the bid when Yeaman says "sold," crucial when there's a bidding war in the audience. With obvious pride, Dianne said that Traci's one of the best.
She's been with her parents ever since their first auction in May 1993. But they didn't have any consignment lots, so the whole family combed the countryside for items in neighborhood garage sales and flea markets. They even cleaned out their own house, but when they opened the doors the night of the first auction, it was standing room only.
"We thought this was easy," said Dianne, shaking her head. "but the next one was different because we didn't have nearly as many people and we had to scrounge around for items because we didn't have consignments yet."
For auctioneers, consignments are contracts they make with individuals or companies to sell everything in a house or warehouse with the auctioneer receiving a percentage of the sales. Yeaman's percentage in an estate of consignment sale is 20 percent and those who sign with him know everything goes. Everything.
From the brooms in the kitchen closet to grandma's sterling silver bracelets, Yeaman negotiates the best price the crowd will allow. And after three years, the auctioneer still maintains a schedule that would tire most people - he's at his corporate position from 5 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and after that, he's at the auction house until 11 p.m., readying lots for the twice-a-month sales.
During the auction, the whole family chips inDianne's right by Shorty's side keeping track of final prices. Dianne's mother, Ruth Fitzpatrick, is known affectionately as "Grandma" to everyone who walks through the door.
Often their twin grandsons, Ethan and Aaron, enjoy sitting next to granddaddy during auctions, and Yeaman always introduces the boys to the crowd with obvious pride in his voice. Violet Vacek takes care the cash register by the back door and Donna, their daughter-in-law, takes care of buyer registration and computer tasks.
Carrie Taylor with Miss T's Kitchen serves fresh barbecue beef, fried fish sandwiches, home baked pecan pies and sodas to the crowd, and usually a group of curious buyers around the bookshelves reading collector's guides on antiques from Fiesta glassware to Vaseline crystal vases.
The reason the Yeamans work so hard is they want to have a viable business when they retire, and activity that the whole family can partake in and will help supplement their retirement income.
Because of their religious beliefs, they start every auction with the first few items proceeds earmarked for St. Jude's children's fund. The first year, they donated $1,000, and last year, they raised over $2,000 auctioning everything from homemade peanut brittle brought in by one of their regular buyers to crystal glassware. And they have been touched by people's generosity for the charity.
"Last year, we lacked $125 to reach our goal," said Dianne, her eyes misting. "Arno Schultz of Schultz Brothers Trucking in Damon said he'd take care of the difference and he did. This year, we'll have raised over $3,000 for St. Jude's research."
Now that they've been in business for three years, Yeaman has built a solid reputation as a fair and friendly dealer. His mailing list consists of over 800 names of previous attendees to the auction, and newspaper readers look for his auction ads, knowing that they'll attend not only an auction but a fun event.
It's not often people who attend an antique auction are treated to birthday cake served in honor Grandma while everyone in the room sings "happy birthday" to her.
"We like people to feel comfortable and have a good time," said Yeaman. From the laughter and constant hum of bidding and conversation, they have accomplished their goal, despite the frenetic pace of the auction and the sometime large amount of goods they have to auction off.
The biggest consignment they've had was an estate sale in northeast Houston three years ago from a couple who'd lived in the same house for 40 years who had been antique dealers.
One of their favorite auctions was when Micky Lane allowed them to sell everything in his pawn shop, The White Elephant, which consisted of hundreds of items collected from over 44 years of business in downtown Rosenberg.
"It took us one month to get ready to sell everything in two days," said Yeaman.
The most unique item Yeaman's auctioned was a pair of Czechoslovakian whale oil lamps circa 1850 that appraised for $1,500.
"We've auctioned off strange things like a 1954 Bengal tiger skull and 10-pound block of pure jade," said Yeaman. There was also a narwhale tusk of pure ivory, but that's part of the allure of the auction - they never know what's going to be on the block.
Although they were not antique dealers by trade, the Yeamans have learned the value of collectibles on the job. At Christmas, the family exchanges books on antique pricing and guides instead of sweaters, and they frequently ask antique dealers for their opinions.
"Most dealers are very willing to share their knowledge," said Dianne. When Yeaman acquires an item for auction, he usually has an idea of the amount that item will bring, and he starts the bidding with that price. If no one in the crowd bites at that price, he'll drop it in half and usually someone in the crowd will raise their hand and get the ball rolling.
"I read the audience and get a feel for what they'll pay," said Yeaman. "We've learned our market and what items will sell for and what they won't."
Currently, Yeaman holds his sales to 300 lots, knowing that auctions lasting more than two to three hours causes the crowd to leave which, in turn, causes the bidding to be low.
Many times antique dealers will ask Yeaman to sell overstocks or items they no longer wish to sell. He charges them a 10 percent buyer's premium across the board. He's often asked to hold estate sales to liquidate belongings in an entire house, a sale that's held on site if deed restrictions allow.
But for Saturday sales, their merchandise is acquired from the over 100 consignors they are affiliated with and from retired citizens who regularly scour garage sales, picking up items like a Mickey Mouse night light for free and selling it for $40 at Yeaman's auction.
Grandma found a broach at a flea market that she recognized as Jasperware, a hot collectible right now. She paid the dealer $2 and it sold for $80 a week later at the auction.
And although profit is the bottom line for any business, Yeaman wants people to have a good time when they're at his auction house.
"We want people to have something good to eat, visit with each other and leave with something they want," he said with a smile.
Always looking to improve his auctioneering skills, Yeaman practices his bid calling skills while he's tagging furniture or driving by repeating tongue twisters. Often Dianne will hear him mumbling "baby buggy bumper" under his breath, and he recently placed fifth in an auctioneer's contest.
He keeps abreast of tax laws and attends seminars at the yearly auctioneer's convention on conducting businesses and other legal responsibilities of an auction house.
He is adroit enough to half bid in the midst of the action, a move many auctioneers shy away from.
"It's hard to have a bid of $50 on the table and have someone in the audience give me the signal to cut it in half,' explained Yeaman. "Immediately, I have to know those halves and keep the bidding going up from that point instead of increasing in increments of ten which is a lot easier."
Yeaman donates his talents to local charities whenever possible such as the Fort Bend Toy for Joy in December and auctions for the American Legion. In fact, his whole staff donates their time for a good cause.
He is the auctioneer for the Needville Harvest Fest and entertains the crowd during the cook-off judging with jokes and down-home stories. Yeaman also donates his talents to St. Michael's and St. John's churches and has traveled to Houston where one of the most unique items he auctioned off was a John Elway jersey for $1700.
He also is the auctioneer for a Mardi Gras krewe in Galveston to help them raise money for their floats.
Besides helping organizations raise money and slowly building a business to sustain them in their retirement years, the main reason the Yeamans are in the auction business is because they love the people and they love what they're doing.
"We've never had a million dollars," said Dianne. "God will take care of us as long as we're honest."