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Angie Wieck, Published January 27 2013

It's My Job: Auctioneer enjoys selling unique items to diverse crowds

MOORHEAD – John Villiard can thank the women in his life for introducing him to the auctioneering profession.

Villiard, owner of John Villiard Auction Service in Moorhead, was working as a teacher in Moorhead when his wife, Donna, mentioned to his parents that she wished he could find a good summer job.

That is when his mother told her they had always considered sending him to auctioneering school.

Villiard says his wife sent him to school the following summer, and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In 1978, he was cut from the Moorhead School System due a shrinking number of students. Thankfully, Villiard had auctioneering to fall back on.

Since then, he has grown the enterprise into a successful family business that includes his wife, brother, and his children.

Q. Do you specialize in any certain merchandise?

I’ll do all kinds of sales. I used to do a lot of farm auctions in my home area of Hawley, Lake Park, and Detroit Lakes, but there just aren’t many farms anymore. They’ve all gotten very big. If I was younger I’d probably do like my competition and start a consignment-type sale. … I mainly specialize in household and antique sales. I think they’re very interesting, especially when you get an estate sale. Their whole history is there.

Do shows like ‘American Pickers’ affect business?

There was a while where the antique market was a little slow, but it’s actually coming back a bit. I think these shows like “Pawn Stars,” “Storage Wars” and “American Pickers” have all had an effect. All of the sudden there is a whole new clientele getting into it.

Who is your average customer?

It’s about 50/50 men and women, and they’re all ages these days.

Are there any hot items?

Rare pieces still hold their money. Rosemeade pottery is an example. Your common pieces are down because they’re all over the place, but rare pieces still bring big money.

What is the most you have gotten for an antique?

I’ve sold an antique diamond ring for $10,000. I’ve also sold a side board (like a mirrored buffet) for $7,500. I do a lot of coin collections, and I’ve sold a silver dollar for $3,750.

Do you ever deal with appraisers?

Not too often. I generally can do that myself.

So you set the opening bid?

After you’ve been in it so long you know about what it’s going to bring. Especially during coin auctions, I’ll have a crib sheet where I’ve written what I think coins are worth. It speeds up the sale when you start with a bid that’s in the ball park.

What do you like about auctioneering?

It gets in your blood. … I feel like it’s kind of a challenge. … Sometimes you think you’ve really got something, but other times you don’t think the item is worth much. It’s just a challenge to sell it. I sit up on the podium and look over the crowd. I can see the faces that are interested in an item. … I’ve been blessed with a good following that keep coming to my sales. It makes me a good living and it’s just fun.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501