First of all I need to start today’s post by wishing a very Happy Birthday to our very own Noah Ehlert! Which makes today’s continuation of interviews very fitting as we have spoken with Cheryl Todd of Pot of Gold Estate Liquidations, LLC, where Noah happens to be their Auctioneer. So if you decide to head down there to pick up a few items you are sure to see him.
Pot of Gold is a great auction house located in Avondale, Arizona. It is a family owned business and when we say family, we mean family. Dan and Cheryl Todd are the owners, their daughter works for them (their new grandchild makes regular appearances as well, I’m sure she’ll be working there in no time), various other relatives, and really everyone who walks in that door is treated like part of the family. They have many regulars that frequent all their auctions and when you go there it’s like you get to spend the evening hanging out with friends. And did we mention they always have cake? They do, and it’s always delicious. So read on to learn more about Cheryl and Pot of Gold.
F.I.N.D.S.: How did you get started in the Auction business? How was Pot of Gold born into what it is today?
Cheryl: Danny & I just celebrated our 30th (yes, I said THIRTIETH!) Wedding Anniversary, which also means we have not only been partners in life, but also Business Partners for three decades! Let me pause and catch my breath from all the memories that just flooded my brain. We have been into antiques and collectibles of some sort with each of the different business ventures we have shared over the years. Our first store back in 1986 was “American Slot Machine Sales” on the I-17 and Bethany Home Road, followed by a Baseball Card Store at 107th Ave & Indian School Rd in Phoenix, an antique store called “Collectable Collectibles” in the Historic “My Florist” building at 7th Ave & McDowell Road in Phoenix. We took a break from retail brick-and-mortar-stores and sold exclusively on Ebay for a few years, and in order to have items to sell on Ebay we would shop Yard Sales, Estate Sales, and Auctions. We even purchased a little Summer Home in North Dakota and would spend several months each year near friends in Petersburg, ND going to auction during the day and listing our “finds” on Ebay at night. After a few years of experiencing what was out there we felt that we could offer a few important improvements to the marketplace. In the late 1990s we started Pot Of Gold Estate Liquidations, LLC. We chose the name because we wanted to honor the owners of each Estate by declaring that they indeed had wonderful items to sell, as well as convey to the shoppers that they would find treasures hiding inside each home we liquidated! We were very successful and often had to turn down Estates because we simply didn’t have enough manpower to give our full attention to each one. Out of this realization the idea of auction was born! Estate Sales are limited by geography and time…people will only drive from a certain radius to arrive at any given Estate…and there is a permeating mindset that if you weren’t the first person in the door when it opened at 7:am that everything would be picked over and leftovers would be all that was waiting for anyone unfortunate enough to arrive an hour into the sale. Also, everyone wants a bargain…especially when they drove all the way across town before dawn…so, prices were traditionally bargained down the later in the day or weekend the sale lasted. With Pot Of Gold Auctions, which began in September of 2006, we were able to improve many of those variables for both the sellers and the buyers! We opened competitive bidding (which drives prices up – thus making our consignors happy) to the entire nation via the Internet! Shoppers can sit in the comfort of their homes and view all of the items we have in each auction online, fully research each item, and place the bid price they are comfortable paying (which saves time and gas – thus making our shoppers happy). The name Pot Of Gold has been the perfect description of our business mindset, the wonderful items we have been honored to sell, and the great people we have been fortunate to serve over the years!
F.I.N.D.S.: What advice would you have for someone who has never been to an auction and isn’t really sure how it all works?
Cheryl: Auction is a fun and exciting way to buy and sell items! It is easy to get caught up in the competitiveness as a bidder, so doing your research, research, research (did I say research?) on each item you are interested in before you begin bidding. Items sold at auction are As-Is, which means that it is up to the bidder to know what they are bidding on. Research maker marks, research the tell-tale signs of reproductions versus originals, look for any damage or repairs, invest in a magnifying glass, and ASK QUESTIONS of the auction house before you place any bids! Not only will this help a smart bidder buy only the items they really want, in the condition they wanted, but also it is a great way to be sure you don’t end up paying more than you budgeted. And as a seller, be sure to research the auction house’s Better Business rating, online Yelp profiles, and meet the owners or managers to ask questions directly. There are, unfortunately, many stories of unscrupulous owners of auction houses, but there are also many reputable and fine business people running auction houses in the Phoenix area and all across the country. Pot Of Gold has a tutorial on our website, and our fine staff members are happy to talk to both buyers and sellers to help you understand the entire process.
F.I.N.D.S.: How do you go about getting items for your auctions? How do you choose which items will be in which auction?
Cheryl: Consignors (or sellers) come to us for a number of reasons. Some people have a true Estate, meaning that someone in their family has passed away, the family has taken all of the mementos they want to keep, and now the rest of the Estate must be liquidated (or sold). Other consignors are Dealers in antiques and collectibles, who use our services to reach a nationwide audience of buyers. We work with court appointed Fiduciaries and Estate Attorneys to settle Estates that have gone through Probate, and individuals who just have a few items to sell, and “pickers” who make a little extra money on the side selling the occasional item. When we are evaluating the items for sale we are looking for items that are in excellent condition, that are easily described, and will ship well. Our four “pillars” are Firearms, Coins, Jewelry, and Collectibles, and we have sold cars, boats, motorcycles, RVs, covered wagons, and even a Formula 1 Racecar!
F.I.N.D.S.: What types of items are typically in an auction at Pot of Gold?
Cheryl: Our twice-monthly auctions feature coins of every age, firearms – new, pre-owned, and even antique, gold and silver jewelry, antique furniture and collectibles of every era!
F.I.N.D.S.: We love the treasure hunt that an auction can be. What is the most interesting item that has ever been sold at your auction?
Cheryl: We have been asked that question a lot over the years…and it is such a difficult one to answer because one man’s treasure leaves another man scratching his head wondering who on earth would buy “that”! We have settled an entire Estate of over 70 wagons, buggies, and surreys (with the fringe on top), we have sold the one of largest pieces of carved turquoise in the world weighing in at 142 POUNDS, coins from ancient civilizations, and jewelry belonging to celebrities! And…a Formula 1 Racecar!
F.I.N.D.S.: What is a typical day like at Pot of Gold?
Cheryl: A typical day at Pot Of Gold has consignors popping in with boxes full of treasures, our staff members spend each day sorting, lotting, and researching those items, and our in-house photographer expertly photographs each piece and posts those photos online. Our work is a team effort, but is as individual as each item that come in the door…and we never know what will come in next!
F.I.N.D.S.: If someone reading this starts to think, hey, I have some things I would like to auction off, what steps would they need to take to make that happen?
Cheryl: The first step is to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us a little bit about what you have to sell and the reason you are selling it. If you can snap a few pictures to include in the email that will also help us to know at a glance what you have and help us to evaluate how well your items will fit our bidding audience. Once we determine that Pot Of Gold and our bidding audience are a good “fit” for your items, we generally can take your items in, have them listed online and sold, and a place a check in your hands for the proceeds within 60 days.
F.I.N.D.S.: Is the auction a great place for home goods and furniture? As a designer we are always looking for great finds for the home.
Cheryl: Pot Of Gold is a designers DREAM! We do sell furniture, artwork, rugs, decor, and unusual items such as nautical themed items, Indian pottery, and taxidermy, which will help any designer stand out from their competition. Designers can stay on budget since the bidding process allows you to set your maximum price and oftentimes your items come in below your maximum bid. And because we have such a wide variety of items in each auction, designers are able to shop for multiple vignettes all in a single auction – as well as look ahead to upcoming auctions.
F.I.N.D.S.: This is just something we like to ask everyone. We love to travel and use travel as a huge source of inspiration in our work. Do you travel often and if you do, where are you favorite destinations and do you have a favorite design destination?
Cheryl: We travel fairly often for business and pleasure, but because of travel expense and shipping affordability, we usually only go as far as neighboring states. My personal decor-style is eclectic, or as I like to call it “revolving-door”. I have my core pieces, like my antique hutch and dining room table, and naturally we have tchotchkes from our 30 years of marriage, but I like to pick up a new piece here and there, enjoy it for a while, and then sell it…at Pot Of Gold (of course), so I will have money for the next interesting item I find!
F.I.N.D.S.: Lastly, what advice would you have for someone who is starting out with a business of their own?
Cheryl: Do what you love! We have been blessed to have transformed our hobbies into businesses, so that every day is enjoyable…even the days that really did feel like “WORK” were still enjoyable because we love what we do and who we get to do it with. There is no amount of money that can truly compensate us for our most finite resource…our time…so, never work for the money…work for the love of the task and enjoy the journey so you will have a treasure chest of stories and memories to share with your grandchildren and great grandchildren.
I have known Cheryl for a little while now and it wasn’t until this interview that I realized I used to go to their Baseball Card shop with my brother when we were kids and he was into collecting cards. Who knew I had actually met them so long ago!
If you are interested in checking out an auction stop by the Pot of Gold website to view what is coming to auction (you can also bid online if you can’t make it there). They hold auctions on the first and third Tuesday nights of every month, starting at 6pm (online bidding stops an hour before the auction) and have the occasional Saturday auction. Stay up to date on all the auction news by following them on Facebook, Twitter @PotofGoldEstate or @CherylToddPOG, and Instagram @potofgoldauctions So go check them out and Happy Bidding!