Auction Hunters: Interview with Allen Haff, Ton Jones



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Auctions of abandoned storage space, containers or luggage are becoming more and more popular in the United States. Well-prepared bidders can turn a few hundred dollars into tens of thousands in just a few minutes.

Every day in America, hundreds of rooms are exhibited that have been abandoned or their owners have been in arrears for a long time. Auctions are very popular. Amateurs and professionals come. The latter include Allen Haff and Ton Jones, the heroes of the series “Auction Hunters”, in which they travel across the United States with one goal in mind: to spot a valuable warehouse, bid for it at the lowest possible bid, and sell its contents for as much profit as possible. Sometimes they get antique weapons, motorcycles, one of the first slot machines in casinos, a hovercraft, a Ford Mustang-shaped billard table or an entire classic car. At least one episode of the program has been watched by approximately 3.5 million viewers worldwide since the beginning of the year. We can follow the fates of Allen Haff and Ton Jones on Discovery TV.

How did you get into this business?

Ton Jones: Taking part in auctions is like a great adventure in which we are looking for treasures. I could do it every day, because it’s nothing like working behind a desk from 9 am to 5 pm. I can go out whenever I want. This gives you the opportunity to move around a bit, and each auction is exciting in its own way. You never know what you will find in the auctioned room. These can be piles of rubbish, antique weapons, works of art or even vehicles. When I realized that I was doing pretty well in this business, I decided to team up with Allen. It was a hit, because Allen knows completely different things than I do. We became a formidable team to the others and started making pretty good money on it.

Allen Haff: My mom was an antiques dealer. I grew up in this business, which taught me to have a feeling and a good eye for antique items. I know – as Ton put it – women’s things, such as antiques from China, ceramics from California, and glass from the times of the Great Depression. Now that there is a trend among men to collect old weapons, coins, sports memorabilia, tools and even cars, an ally like Ton is literally a great treasure. I am constantly amazed by his knowledge. I got into business not because of the money, but because of the history of the objects. I stayed away from warehouse auctions when selecting auction houses. But once you try it, you get addicted straight away.

At auctions, you compete with a dozen or so people at once. You don’t always manage to win.

AH: Unfortunately, yes. I was at an auction where they sold the so-called Madonna’s magazine. The man with whom I compete at almost every auction has done his homework better than me and has done it before. I took a close look at all the boxes in the warehouse and on each one was written: “Madonna memorabilia.” It turned out that they belonged to Madonna’s assistant and the man came across dozens of excellent, many worthy souvenirs. He made a lot of money and … I helped him with As soon as I found out what he found, I suggested he sell it back to Madonna, I was at this auction and I could have had it.

The best find in a container?

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AH: Difficult question, because some of them were worth keeping. There is one subject that reminds me of the good old days when I was in school. When business goes bad and I’m in no mood, I step into an 8-meter-long container. For 3.9 thousand dollars, I was able to buy a magazine that contained everything from the company’s catalog. I found very expensive computers with software inside. I could easily add another zero to the auctioned amount and sell it with a great profit, but I didn’t. Whenever I have problems, I get into this container and I am reminded of the good times for which I get out of bed every morning.

When bidding on the premises, you must not go inside, touch or check anything. How can you assess the value of a room in a matter of moments?

AH: Undoubtedly, it is helpful to find out before the auction why a given warehouse was put up for auction and to whom it belonged. Thanks to this, we are able to create an almost psychological profile of the former owner. Then we ask ourselves what was the person like, what they liked, what they could collect. It’s a bit like the CSI investigation team.

TJ: The most important moment is when we stand in front of the room and the door opens. That’s when it all starts. The first thing that strikes us is the smell of the room. Does it smell old? What is that smell? We also pay attention to whether the boxes are professionally packed by the removals company, or whether the items have been put in old beer boxes. You have to look in general, but also at the details. We’ve been doing this for so long that as soon as the door opens, Allen and I scan different places for interesting things. By looking at the color of the box and its shade, we can guess what region and period the weapon hidden in it comes from. There are only a few seconds for all of this, because this is what the auction rules allow. Then we determine how much we are able to spend in a given auction. It is always a maximum of half of what we are able to earn.

Do you sell everything you find?

AH: I kept a statuette from the traditional Bronze Derby tournament from the late 1940s. At one of the auctions we found props from the set of the ‘Happy Days’ sitcom filmed in the mid-1970s. home. I also have tons of historical items and props from colonial times.

It turns out that you can make good money on this business. Are you not afraid of competition?

AH: What you see on TV can seem very spectacular. The truth is, most of our time is moving items from place to place and throwing out the rubbish. We feel like cleaners.

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TJ: For beginners, I have one very important tip: don’t spend more than you can afford. Buy what you know. Before the auction, also prepare a place where you can store it all. There is always a big problem with this, because after the purchase there is little time to take things.

Jakub Markiewicz
Jakub Markiewicz
Hi, I am the author of the blog and series of thematic portals since 2013. I have nearly 15 years of experience in working in the media, marketing, public relations and IT. If you are interested in cooperation, you would like me to write about something or test a product - let me know.
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