Jim Gall stands at the center of a white-clothed table, hand-crafted wooden gavel in hand, calling out to the audience.
“I’m at $125, $137 ½? Last call, $125. Sold. $125,” he cries, slamming his gavel, motioning to the winning bidder, who has just bought four art deco bronze pieces.
For Gall, founder and president of Miami-based Auction Company of America, the sale is one example of the millions of dollars of real estate, art, antiquities, jewelry and other items he sells each year in auctions he has held in 46 states.
“It’s not easy, but when it works, it’s the best business in the world to be in,” said Gall, 67, who started his company 34 years ago.
Gall now stands to become the star of a new reality show. Peacock Productions, a production company that is a part of NBC Universal, filmed at his June auction at a waterfront home for sale in Hallandale. Cameras rolled as Gall announced that the home’s owner had accepted an offer from a Chicago buyer.
“The house is sold, $6 million!” he said, his voice booming as he slammed his gavel.
The footage will be part of a “sizzle reel” that Peacock Productions will shop around to networks, in hopes of airing the as yet-unnamed show as early as next year.
“The auction world is interesting to us, and we develop shows based on great characters,” said Benjamin Ringe, senior vice president of development/executive producer for Peacock Productions in New York. “And we think Jim is a great character for TV.”
An entrepreneur by nature, Gall founded his company after studying speech at the University of Miami, and pursuing stints selling business forms, office furniture and equipment, and marketing a formula for “scratch and sniff” t-shirts. Not yet content, he completed auction school in Missouri.
“I found my niche, and I have never looked back,” Gall said.
He gave his company a grand name, because he “always wanted to think big.”
But Auction Company of America has had it ups and downs. During the 1980s, the company was the largest supplier of auction services to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and at its peak, had a staff of 31, he said. Today, it has a core staff of four, including Gall, plus 15 part-time associates and independent contractors.
“It’s a difficult business,” Gall said. “First of all, you have to find sellers who believe in you. Our goal is to sell the most valuable things people own and that is usually real estate…. You have to find sellers willing to spend some money to help with ads and you have to find buyers who are in a position at that time, looking and ready to buy.”
Gall figures he now conducts an average of 50 auctions a year, specializing in both residential and commercial real estate, as well as handling estate auctions, bankruptcies, divorces and government auctions.
“Have gavel, will travel,” he jokes, brandishing the wooden gavel his son had made in Dakar.
Over the years, he has sold 16,000 properties. He auctioned Nelson Bunker Hunt’s personal property at his Texas ranch, including what Gall said was the largest collection of Dorothy Doughty and Boehm porcelain birds. He sold every “head and body” at the Miami Wax Museum, and the cobras, alligators and Galapagos turtles at the Serpentarium. He auctioned the gold bars at the International Gold Bullion Exchange in Fort Lauderdale.