Good auctioneers win more often than not, but all auctioneers win some and lose some.
Winning is signified by the paycheck or wire transfer in the case of real estate — when a transaction actually closes, not the last bang of a gavel.
Gregg Pickens, of Pickens Auctions in Stillwater, won one June 30 — or, rather, he's pretty sure he did. He'll know when the deal is finalized, any day now.
He said it was a record for him: $2,410 an acre for a 160-acre parcel sold with a 240-acre tract, ranch and recreation land on the Lincoln-Logan county line.
“We were hoping for $1,600. You could say the seller was very pleased,” Pickens said Friday, as he was playing host for members of the Oklahoma State Auctioneers Association at a technology conference at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Bricktown. Pickens is president of the association, which meets through Sunday.
Here's one he lost: A Kansan highly leveraged in the stock market was the highest bidder at a September 2008 auction of a highly specialized ranch — a club calf operation producing calves raised by 4-H'ers and FFA members in junior stock shows. His timing was awful. The stock market crashed the next month.
“He basically could not close it. He lost it,” Pickens said. “It was just one of those deals, doggone it — just caught in that cycle.”
Some wins have to do with more than money. They make for good stories.
A couple of years ago, Pickens auctioned a 1920 steam-driven tractor — built in Pennsylvania, salvaged in Texas, wound up near Durant. It came down to two determined bidders, a collector from Ohio who'd driven all night to be at the auction and one in The Netherlands who bid online.
“We anticipated the tractor to bring $8,000 to $10,000,” he said. “It eventually sold to the online bidder for over $16,000. It gets better. Then we arranged cartage to the port in New Orleans and then on a freight ship to The Netherlands at a shipping cost of over $25,000. If that tractor could talk ...”
Auctioneer Robert Mayo had an interesting win last January, the kind that gets media attention from all over the world. Mayo Auction & Realty, his business in Kansas City, Mo., landed the auction of a Tommy gun and shotgun used by Bonnie and Clyde — the Depression-era bank robbers Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.
Together, the weapons fetched $210,000; the .45-caliber Thompson submachine gun alone brought $130,000.
“It was a pretty exciting event. We had bidders online and from all over the country,” said Mayo, who came to Oklahoma City to lead the technology conference.
Land is what Pickens has been concentrating on auctioning lately.
Strong cattle prices have supported ranch and pastureland prices, Pickens said, although the drought could undo that.
He said he'll test the market with upcoming auctions of Limestone Growing Yard, a 7,500-head capacity cattle feedlot with 1,000 acres in six parcels in Logan County on Aug. 18, and the Limestone Angus Ranch headquarters at Perkins — including house, barns, other facilities and 870 acres, mostly improved bottomland, in several tracts, on Sept. 21.
Pickens said demand for hunting and recreation land that evaporated in the throes of the national recession is coming back with “a more diverse buying public” looking to real estate as a stable investment.
“I've noticed a little bit of upswing on recreational land, whether it's for hunting or sheer enjoyment,” he said.