Lights, Camera, Auction!
Behind-the-Scenes at Mecum!by Greg Carloss
If you’re a car fan, chances are you’ve wasted many-a-weekend watching live auto auction coverage on TV. It’s ok, we have too. Well, our “Over the Edge” guy Greg Carloss was recently invited by one of the premier purveyors, Mecum Auctions, to take our cameras behind the scenes to see all that goes on before the gavel comes down.
GREG CARLOSS: When I watch a live auto auction on tv, as a car guy I’m admiring the merchandise. But, as a TV guy I’m curious what’s going on behind the scenes. So, I’m in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to see what exactly goes into making the Mecum Auction Experience!
People go to auto auctions for a variety of reasons. To buy a car they want, to sell a car they don’t want and, in some cases, to buy a car they don’t want after succumbing to the inherent thrill of a bidding war.
It all adds up to an exciting affair. And not just for those involved, but for everyone watching too.
DAVE MAGERS: My name is Dave Magers and I’m the CEO of Mecum Auctions.
We’re a unique auction company in that we pride ourselves on being the collector car auction company for everybody. You can come to a Mecum Auction and buy a $5,000 car; you can come to a Mecum Auction and buy a 10-million-dollar car.
GREG CARLOSS: Here at the Harrisburg auction, over 1,300 vehicles roll across the block in just 4 day’s time. Not only that, Mecum produces its own live television broadcast. And trust me, that is no small feat.
DAVE MAGERS: Well we jokingly call ourselves “The Circus,” and those that move with the auctions are “circus folk.” We– we travel today in… somewhere between 18 and 20 equipment semis from one event to the next.
GREG CARLOSS: Mecum holds more than a dozen auctions each year, offering roughly 15,000 vehicles and resulting in 800-million dollars in sales. But before any of those cars or trucks can be auctioned off, each one must go through a meticulous check-in process.
JIM GUCK: So, what we do here at vehicle check-in is the cars roll in off the trucks in the unloading lot. They come in here and we actually check their vin number to make sure everything is good and proper. We have inspectors that are ex-law enforcement. They’ll take a look at that. They verify the mileage that is inside on the dashboard.
GREG CARLOSS: Do you have any warning as to what’s coming up here? It could be anything that comes up into this line?
JIM GUCK: It could be anything at all from a Mercedes to a Lamborghini to this beautiful GTX. We could have just about anything at a Mecum Auction.
GREG CARLOSS: With everything in order, a sea of cars await their chance to roll under the bright lights of the auction block as Mecum’s lead auctioneer, Jimmy Landis, riles up the crowd with his iconic chant.
JIMMY LANDIS: I don’t have a fast chant, I have a clear chant. People can hear me and understand me. I get to ridiculing people sometimes and the crowd loves it, and so far I haven’t had anybody get really upset with me.
“Well, we’re not gonna make dinner reservations tonight, this guy taking as long as he’s takin’…”
Well, nobody runs more; nobody sells more than we do. And we do it in an environment that, we give you an experience, we help you, we want you to have a good time while you’re buying, while you’re selling, while we’re trying to- while were doing business…Us compared to other companies, we’re going to have fun.
GREG CARLOSS: And speaking of fun…
CHICKEN GEORGE: My name is George Boswell; I’m a bidder’s assistant for the world’s biggest collector car auction, Mecum Auctions! I’m the gentleman who stands out in the crowd when the Auctioneer is calling the bids out, I’m with the customer. I’m with the customer saying, “Sir, you’re either in or you’re out” and I’m telling them the numbers.
I’m trying to reach a middle ground between the seller of the automobile and the buyer. I’m trying to make it so everyone is happy. That is the key to this. Finding the middle.
If nobody else wants to bid, my customer right over here, he owns the automobile and I say the world famous, the one and only words, Sold! Sold! Sold!! And that’s how it works.
GREG CARLOSS: Getting to see a Mecum auction from this vantage point; it’s like a finely tuned engine. What looks like a nice, polished operation is really hundreds of fast-moving parts seamlessly working in unison. And as a car guy who works in television, I can watch it all day long.