TLC’S ‘AUCTIONEERS’ WILL START THE BIDDING THIS WEEKEND
By Gary Strauss
USA TODAY- After offering viewers front-row seats into the offbeat worlds of junk pickers, antiques dealers, pawn shop operators and other players on the fringes of mainstream consumerism, cable is providing fans a glimpse into a combination of it all — and more.
TLC’s Auctioneers, premiering Saturday (10 ET/PT), focuses on the sometimes cutthroat, frequently entertaining world of professional auctions. The eight-part series centers on Phoenix-based Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers, which tries to make a buck on everything from sports memorabilia to foreclosed real estate.
An amalgam of American Pickers, Antiques Roadshowand Pawn Stars, Auctioneers has a bit of something for everyone. But unlike History Channel’s Pickers and Pawn Stars, where viewers often don’t learn where goods wind up — or at what price — after the initial deal, there’s more finality to the storytelling.
Saturday’s premiere includes a dollhouse (valued at $500, auctioned for $630), a replica of Princess Diana’s wedding dress (valued and sold at $500) and an antique Punch & Judy coin bank, valued at up to $8,000 but fetching just $300. There are quirky sellers, buyers and, of course, fast-talking auctioneers, whose euphonious pitches are known in industry parlance as “chants.”
Auction Systems founder Deb Weidenhamer, a former corporate mergers specialist, started the company after learning about the business from an auctioneer with whom she shared a flight. “By the end of the trip, I was completely intrigued. A month later, I quit my job and signed up for auction school,” she says. “Most of the auctioneers were ma-and-pa operations or run by families. I saw a huge opportunity to put a corporate approach on the business.”
Fifteen years later, Weidenhamer employs more than 100 and expects to pull in about $85 million this year on commissions. The economic downturn has been good for auctions, which include foreclosed homes, commercial buildings, liquidated assets and items confiscated by law enforcement, she says.
Weidenhamer wasn’t sure she wanted the company to be the focus of a reality show, which was filmed over seven months starting in January. But after doing some research, she says, she realized the publicity could substantially boost business. She hopes viewers get something from her show that she says is lacking in others.
“On Pickers and Pawn Stars, they’re trying to get the most money out of something; that can work against the seller,” she says. “On our show, we actually partner with the sellers, and since we’re paid a commission, we’re invested into getting the most money possible for them.”
Auctioneers may be the first auction-centric show on cable, but it will soon have company. Spike premieres Auction Hunters on Nov. 9.
“We love the whole idea of the auction world,” says TLC programming chief Nancy Daniels. “Being able to tell both sides of the (buyers’ and sellers’) stories is nice. These are real human-interest stories, and there’s an energy to the auction world.”
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