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I travel a lot. For the most part, I fly to auction locations, but occasionally I drive.

When driving my “somewhat” older Cadillac, I have the need to stop periodically for gas for it — and coffee for me.

As I finish filling my tank with gas, I almost always walk in to the gas station store for coffee, and note that they are trying to sell me all kinds of things: snacks, drinks, candy, cigarettes, gum, magazines, sunglasses, trinkets … a true immense variety in some stores.

For one such recent trip, I went in for that cup of coffee, and ended up buying a couple batteries and a candy bar.

As we take a look at a specialty auction, I think back to my stop at the gas station, and know that I had no intention of buying those batteries nor candy bar — and in fact, wouldn’t have stopped to buy just them.

However, I was there getting gas and coffee, and ended up buying things I didn’t know I needed until … I saw them.

Homer and Dee Pollack are moving to Arizona and taking very little with them. They have a house-full of furniture, collectibles, tools, antiques … and about 100 collectible cameras including Nikon, Leica, Zeiss and others.

The Pollacks want their auction held live, on-site at their home. They talk to several auctioneers about their auction and seem to get basically two distinct perspectives regarding the best way to market this inventory:

  1. The best way to sell this is to separate the camera collection and sell it in a “camera-only” auction, and sell the rest on-site.
  2. The best way to sell this is to sell it all on-site, including the camera collection, keeping the entire collection intact for the auction.

The argument for the separation of this inventory seems to be that the camera collection will sell for more in a “camera auction,” where camera collectors will be more likely to attend. Further, the balance of the inventory will sell for just as much with or without the camera inventory.

The argument for keeping this inventory intact seems to be that people who come to buy cameras may well buy other things (or at least bid on other things) and the people who come to buy non-camera items may well bid on or buy a camera. Further, the camera collectors will participate in this auction no differently than they would a camera auction.

As I leave the gas station with my gas, coffee, batteries and candy bar, it seems most likely the latter argument makes more sense. A prevalent retail store model appears to be: Put as much variety in one store as you can, and keep them in your store.

Retailers such as Walmart, Home Depot, Kroger, Lowes, Meijer and others offer a tremendous variety of products, and seem to profit from people coming in their store to buy one thing, and end up buying other things?

Assuming the right answer for Homer and Dee is keep the inventory intact, is the answer the same if there are 1,000 cameras? What if there are only 20 cameras?

As the inventory grows, in quantity and in importance, it may then be prudent to break-out the cameras for a specialty auction, where other cameras can be added in, and camera collectors would pay more attention.

Further, with only 20 cameras, would it make sense to add those 20 into an auction with over 500 other cameras? Possibly, as the 520 camera auction would undoubtedly attract much interest. Yet, would the other 500 cameras overshadow these 20, or would market saturation negatively impact price?

However, could Homer & Dee’s auction be 1,000 cameras and their other household furnishings? Could it be 20 cameras and their other household furnishings? I think the answer is “Yes” in both cases.

In fact, auctioneers have “specialty auctions” within their other auctions all the time — such as a second auctioneer selling the cameras in another separate ring while the other auctioneer sells the household items.

The benefit of this multiple ring auction seems to be that the household items gain the benefit of camera bidders’ secondary interest, and the cameras gain the benefit of the household item bidders’ secondary interest.

I suppose similarly, the battery and candy bar market was effected by my need for gas and coffee. And I suspect there are customers who go in for a candy bar and end up buying some coffee.

While I’m not opposed to specialty auctions, I think auctioneers should weigh the benefits of such against the benefits of keeping those specialty items intact with other dissimilar items from the same estate in the spirit of maximizing the seller’s position.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Greater Columbus Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction and. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.