Welcome to the Home of the 2011 Wisconsin State Champion Auctioneer and 2011 Ringman Champion

Story of an Auctioneer

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Living Lake Country
Story of an auctioneer
Aug. 20, 2009
By Page Smaga

Merton resident Tim Miller is a tall, gregarious man. He has a fun-loving and outgoing personality, which is likely the reason he is a natural on a stage with his tongue rolling a mile a minute while he shouts out calls as an auctioneer. So how does one become an auctioneer? Is it a family tradition or genetic talent?

His opening bid

Miller grew up on the family farm, Nine Pines Dairy in tiny Blenker, Wis. He said he remembers a man named Cecil Jones, a large man with a big voice, who would, “mesmerize him at the local auctions. His saying was always, ‘real nice,’ ” Miller recalled. “Like, ‘I’ve got a real nice hog here,’ or ‘real nice steer.’ ”

After Miller graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a degree in agriculture industry, he landed a job as a sales representative for Purina. One year, the company started a contest at the feed mills to motivate employees, rewarding them with “funny money” to use at an auction banquet.

When the corporate celebration commenced after the three-month promotion, Miller said his colleague, who volunteered to be the caller, was slow and boring. So when the auction took a short break, Miller asked if he could give it a try.

“I jumped up on that table and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we’re gonna sell it; what will you bid to buy it for?’ and the crowd went nuts,” he recalled, coloring the story with some speedy calling. Before that day in 1984, Miller had never practiced auctioneering or even shared with his wife, Heidi, that he might have had a knack for it.

“It definitely surprised me. I didn’t know what to think; I thought he was possessed,” Heidi said, laughing.

But Purina was impressed and Heidi and Tim were fitted for a checkerboard top hat and tails and evening gown and sent on the road to do more company auctions, especially charitable events. For the last 20 years, the Millers have worked charitable auctions. Tim was re-employed with American Family Insurance in Arcadia in 1992, and then the Millers moved to Columbus, Ohio, in 1995, where Tim served as district manager for American until returning to Wisconsin in 2004.

A friend of Tim’s, Keith Ketzler, urged him to start his own auction business based on his grassroots success thus far. Heidi said she agreed and also said that if Tim was to be on the road constantly doing this for free, he might as well make something out of it. So Tim went to Iowa’s World Wide College of Auctioneering, and in 2007, he and Heidi launched their Merton-based business, Believe In Auctions LLC. Tim also placed first runnerup in the 2009 Wisconsin Auctioneers Championships at the State Fair on Aug. 12. He said the competition consisted of auctioning an item and an interview in which he answered questions as an ambassador to auctioning. He was reserve champion in 2007, placed top 5 in 2008, and will compete at nationals next year in North Carolina.

Why auctions?

Today, Miller said the No. 1 reason people go to auctions is because they enjoy it. He said he hopes that the culture will change to view auctions as the positive events they are instead of a last-resort everything-goes kind of event that harkens back to the Great Depression.

“It’s not like that anymore. It is the initial option, and it’s up to the seller to figure out if it’s the best option,” Miller said, pointing to the better-known and prestigious auction companies such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s, which sell artwork for record prices. Heidi said that’s one of the best parts about the auction method: you let the market decide the item’s true worth.

The auction experience is growing in popularity in some places. Miller said the Amish now sell all their produce through auctions. They prefer the process, and the public loves the experience, he said.

“We need that in these times,” he said of the auction experience. “We can have fun in our exchanges and do it locally.”

What’s more is that sellers know the time and date their item will sell. In today’s world, when homeowners watch their listings languish and end up dropping the price to lift the burden of the stagnant real estate, that peace of mind could be considered priceless.

Believe In Auctions will sell three homes in September, one of which is for a woman who is ready to move to be closer to her family but is stuck with her home, belongings and another family residence. Believe In Auctions will come in, set up and make sure everything goes, and now she knows buyers will show up and it will sell that day, Miller said.

Giving back

Miller is still a big advocate of charity, and he still calls charity auctions. He also said he believes in giving back to the community through his business. If a former client brings him business through a referral, he donates a portion of the proceeds to a local charity of the client’s choice. Tim’s a member of the Waukesha Rotary Club and the vice president of the Hebron House of Hospitality.

Right now, he’s working to set up a consignment auction for the first weekend in November at the convention center in Waukesha; the proceeds will go to local charities. He said he’s working with local entities to get donations, and the event will showcase about 10 auctioneers from Southeastern Wisconsin.

“One of things most important is to put back into community and do stuff locally,” Miller said, noting his biggest pet peeve is when large auction companies come from other states, make a profit and leave. “Keep it local, give back.”

Benefit Total Raised

Believe in Auctions has raised over $4,000,000 for charities to date. Help us increase that amount through your next benefit auction.

Auctions to Watch for…

We look forward to posting more information, pictures and dates for upcoming auctions. If there are specific items you are looking for please contact us to discuss your needs.