‘You’re not an auctioneer yet’

George Brown
By George Brown

At this time last year we had just wrapped up the Senior Services Levy campaign and I had set my retirement countdown clock at 30 days and counting. If someone had said to me, “George, a year from now you will be a licensed real estate agent and an apprentice auctioneer working with Joel T. Wilson,” I’d have had a good laugh, but never have imagined it would be so. But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and so it is that this Saturday, Dec. 1, I’ll be officially calling bids for the first time with Joel at a huge country auction just outside Fayetteville.

I can’t begin to tell you how honored I am to be working with Joel T. Wilson. Joel is a country boy at heart and a true country gentleman, not to mention a member of the Ohio Auctioneers Hall of Fame. Joel’s passion for the business is summed up in his motto, ‘Auctions, the smart way to go.”

Joel’s early years were spent in Butlerville, Ohio where his folks ran the local general store. This was during the War years. Times were tough but, as proprietors of a general store, Claude and Loretta Wilson and their six children had it better than many of their neighbors. The Wilson home was filled with love, and from the stories Joel has shared I believe he could write a book titled “Wilson’s General Store” that would rival “‘Walton’s Mountain.”

In addition to running the general store, Claude Wilson was an old time auctioneer, which explains why Joel has auctioneering in his blood. Joel’s first experience “on the block calling bids” was at age five. His Dad picked him up, stood him on the back of a hay wagon so he could be seen (Joel was even shorter then), and said to the crowd, “Joel is going to sell the curtain stretcher.” Well, Joel went to calling bids and in short order had sold the curtain stretcher for the great sum of fifty cents. (As a minor point of interest, that curtain stretcher is now an antique and could bring $50 or more at auction.)

When Joel turned 14 his Dad took him down to the courthouse to get an auctioneer’s license (no longer an option today) so Joel could help with the family business. Mostly this included helping with setup and working as a ringman at his Dad’s auctions, which he did through his high school years. In 1955 Joel followed in his Dad’s footsteps by attending Repperts School of Auctioneering to officially launch his career.

Shortly after completing school Joel’s Dad held a large farm auction. Joel was chewing at the bit to call bids, but as the auction went along his Dad just kept calling bids and Joel began to wonder if his Dad was going to let him call at all. Pretty well through the auction it came time to sell the tractor, which was sure to bring the highest bid of any lot sold that day. A large group of farmers gathered around the tractor and listened as Claude Wilson described its features then watched as he climbed up to the seat and started the engine so they could hear how well it ran. Finally, Claude stepped down and said, “Okay folks, Joel is going to sell the tractor.”

Joel was already nervous and this was so unexpected it about scared him to death. But this was the opportunity he’d been waiting for so he took a deep breath and started calling for bids. Not surprisingly, the tractor brought a good price, but to Joel’s frustration that was the only item his Dad allowed him to auction all day.

That evening Joel politely asked his Dad why he hadn’t allowed him to call bids on more lots. His Dad replied, “Son, you went to auction school but you’re not an auctioneer yet. There were at least eight men standing around that tractor, all waiting to cast their bids. Truth is anyone could have sold that tractor. When you can sell those canning jars and other box lots that nobody wants you’ll be a real auctioneer.” Joel said he has never forgotten that humbling lesson about the art and talent of bid calling.

Joel honed his auctioneering skills and In the course of time moved his family to Batavia where two of his older brothers had already moved. The Wilson brothers have been good for Clermont County. John and Jim, both realtors, had a hand in the development of Clermont Mercy Hospital, and Jim’s legacy includes the 105 acre James L. and Frances Wilson Nature Preserve at Sycamore Park. Joel and his wife Laverne have generously given their time conducting numerous charity auctions for nonprofit organizations, including Clermont Senior Services, and have supported many other causes in the community over the years.

You’d never know it, but after 55 years in the business Joel still gets nervous before every auction. As he explained, “Dad told me, ‘if the day ever comes when you don’t get nervous before an auction, it’s time to quit.’”

I’m glad Joel still gets nervous because that means he’s not ready to “drop the hammer” on his career just yet. I’m also glad the Wilson family tradition of auctioneering will continue for a third generation. Joel’s daughter, Lisa Wilson-Seyfried, received her Ohio Auctioneer’s license on Oct. 26. Lisa is officially new to the business but she’s already a pro, having worked numerous auctions with her Dad since she was a little girl.

One of Joel’s strengths is putting together a great team. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention others who are associated with Joel T. Wilson Co. in one way or another. They include auctioneers David S. and David P. Lewis and his wife Pam, Brian Switzer and his Mom Carol, David Crocker, and Jeff Pierce. As the junior member of the team, I look forward to learning all that I can from these talented individuals. If you don’t have anything else going on this Saturday, Dec. 1, come out and enjoy the action with us at the auction near Fayetteville (see time, directions, and details at

I’m currently reading a book titled “An Auctioneer’s Lot” by English Auctioneer, Phillip Serrell. It is an interesting, and at times hilarious, collection of his auctioneer experiences. I can’t say for sure but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if sometime in the near future this column includes a story about my own auction experiences – possibly even involving a backpack. But first I need to master calling bids on those canning jars and other box lots that nobody wants.

George Brown is a freelance writer and apprentice auctioneer. He lives in Jackson Township./i>