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Helmut Schmidt, Published April 19 2013

‘Sold’ on success

By Helmut Schmidt


LISBON, N.D. – Dale Haugen was working an on-again, off-again construction job back in 1982, with way too much “off” as far as he was concerned.

That’s when the Lisbon man decided to make a bid for a new career: auctioneer.

It was something he wanted to do as a kid. So he went with his heart.

He borrowed money to make tuition, and he and his wife, Rita, headed to Missouri Auctions School in Kansas City.

When they finished, they started R&D Auction.

Thirty-one years later, the 56-year-old is one of the best in the business.

Haugen was inducted into the North Dakota Auctioneers Association Hall of Fame early this year, along with Lowell Rau, of Fessenden.

He’s held every position in the auctioneers association, including president, he said, and in 2003 was North Dakota’s champion auctioneer.

Haugen says that long-ago career move was the best decision he’s ever made.

“There’s nothing the same; every day is different,” Haugen said.

R&D Auction was a part-time gig at first, but he went at it full time in 1993, plowing his profits back into the business.

He also works with Farmers National Co. as a Realtor and its auctioneer for farm land sales in the Upper Midwest.

If that’s not enough, he farms and ranches on a place between Lisbon and Fort Ransom, he said.

The auction business is full of surprises, he said.

For example, in 1993 he got a phone call from a woman in Dickinson. She didn’t have much to sell, but he was already in Bismarck for an auctioneers association meeting. Instead of heading east and home, he headed west.

He found three shelves of highly collectible Rosemead pottery.

What could fit in a minivan made $30,000, Haugen said. “That was quite a bit of money in 1993.”

Another time he helped a neighbor who had lived a very frugal life.

“He had an old house, and nobody thought he had anything,” Haugen said. “He lived real poor.”

But in an age when baby boomers want to relive their childhoods, the neighbor had a trove of collectible toys.

“It was six figures made on just the stuff in his house. After that, he was just happy the way he lived,” Haugen said.

It feels good to help people right their finances or close out an estate, he said.

“I guess the best thing, and people probably don’t realize it, we help people,” Haugen said. “I feel when we’re done and everybody’s happy, they’re in better shape.”

Haugen said he does about 60 auctions a year, over half of them land auctions in the Dakotas and western Minnesota.

Haugen had no idea he had been nominated to the auctioneers’ hall of fame, and Rita kept the secret for well over two months. “Here’s the stickler: I’m the Hall of Fame chairman,” Haugen said. “I had no clue at all. It was humbling” and a proud moment in front of family and friends, he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583