Need a guillotine or a jet warrior seat? A night during Red Baron's antique auction

Bob Brown sums adult a seductiveness of one-of-a-kind equipment for his clientele: “I got it, and we don’t.”

June 6, 2016

Red Baron auction warehousePhotograph by Melissa Golden

“There’s zero here that anyone needs!” Bob Brown announces into his microphone as a throng settles into their seats.

It’s an radical approach to start an auction—part retreat psychology, partial challenge—but afterwards Red Baron’s is not your required antique vendor. And, after 40 years in a business of offered unneeded and mostly outlandish objects to Georgia’s—and a country’s—rich and famous, it contingency be pronounced that Brown positively knows his customers.

Over a march of 5 hours on this stormy Tuesday dusk in his 60,000-square-foot warehouse-cum-showroom on a northern corner of Sandy Springs, Brown and association will sell about 475 lots. The rat-a-tat gait is ideal for brief courtesy spans, with many of a behest holding a tiny 30 or 40 seconds before it’s on to a subsequent item.

There are no strict Chippendale finish tables or off-hand Limoges tea sets to be had tonight. Instead a offerings mostly tumble into dual categories: individualist and enormous. A Ms. Pac-Man arcade games goes for $350. A moose conduct with full antlers fetches $1,500. An aged merry-go-round horse, a life-sized medical propagandize organ model, and a pretence guillotine from a roving sorcery act fly by in discerning succession.

Michael Healey, a pediatric dentist, says he’s been entrance to Red Baron’s auctions for 25 years. His esteem squeeze was a entirely operational 20-horse carousel that he had commissioned in a building trustworthy to his bureau in Sandy Springs. Caroline Cox of Suwanee is looking for furnishings for her beach house. Of a 50 or 60 people in a audience, a infancy are prime or older; many seem well-heeled; and many are clearly here for a duration, removing adult each now and afterwards to get a burger from a short-order griddle or squeeze a refill of a giveaway drink and wine. When explaining because they come, auction attendees—including several who don’t wish to give their names—are of one mind: It’s fun.

And no one seems to be carrying some-more fun than Woody Heath. Leaning behind in his chair in a really core of a front row, he raises his behest label each few minutes. A 100-year-old baby grand piano from Vienna. Two elaborately forged wooden cabinets so vast they competence usually demeanour during home in a castle. A 1983 Land Rover Defender driven into a auction gymnasium by a side doorway that could accommodate a tiny aircraft. Heath, a compress male of advancing years with a furious locks of shoulder-length china hair, grins like an guileless child as he buys these and maybe a dozen other offbeat items.

Even Heath has mislaid lane of his total of new security by a time a night’s final lot has been sold. Having done a happening in a grill business, he bought a former weave indent formidable in Griffin in that to store his collection of some-more than 100 selected cars and vast other acquisitions.
“When we find something unusual, we get it,” he says as an associate goes to settle adult a tab. “I’ve got buildings full of stuff, some-more than any white child could wish to use in a lifetime.”

And there we have a ideal Red Baron’s customer.

Red Baron worker points to moose.A Red Baron’s worker indicates a subsequent auction lot.

Photograph by Melissa Golden

Bob Connelly, a tip antiques appraiser formed in upstate New York, says Red Baron’s has prolonged been famous for occupying a really specialized niche in a industry. “Their buyers are not a common antique collectors,” he says. “Rather we could report them as a nouveau riche looking for surprising things for their McMansions.”

That might sound like a put down, though for Brown it’s a business model. It’s why, on a new weekend, a Red Baron’s salon was congested building to roof with such oddities as jet warrior ejection seats, bar stools done out of saddles, a jukebox in a figure of an aged Chevy lorry cab, and 19th-century English coronet beam with a built-in chair for weighing jockeys before a race. Brown sums adult a seductiveness of such one-of-a-kind equipment for his clientele: “I got it, and we don’t.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, it was mostly by collision that Brown, 71, launched what would turn one of a largest and best-known antique dealerships in a country. An inveterate wheeler-dealer with a credentials in retail, Brown changed to Atlanta in a early 1970s, offered all from annals and rolling paper to stereos and waterbeds. When he non-stop a dress emporium for his mom in downtown Sandy Springs, he shortly detected that a antique furnishings generated some-more seductiveness than a clothing.

“We knew zero about antiques,” he says proudly. But that didn’t stop him from opening a store that, from a beginning, specialized in vast items. “I couldn’t means a ensure or an alarm system, so we always dealt in things that people couldn’t travel off with.” The name Red Baron’s came from a fair float mini-airplane he sole to an early customer, former Atlanta mayor Sam Massell.

It didn’t take Brown prolonged to comprehend that a marketplace for vast antiques—he sells whole pub interiors and bedrooms of museum-quality arrangement cases—consists especially of people with obscenely vast houses. Over a years, Brown says, business have enclosed home-grown tycoons like Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank of Home Depot, Michael Coles of Great American Cookies, former Falcons star Deion Sanders, and filmmaker Tyler Perry—as good as a litany of cocktail stars, CEOs, and billionaires. He sole Elvis Presley’s initial guitar to a Silicon Valley noble for $180,000. PepsiCo paid him $39,000 for an E.T. indication used in a movie. Thirty years ago he flipped Judy Garland’s blue gingham dress from The Wizard of Oz—a source of bewail after it was auctioned off final tumble for $1.5 million.

For a plain dual decades Red Baron’s did some-more than $30 million a year in income as Brown trafficked a universe in hunt of a unusual, he says. During a heyday in a 1980s and 1990s, he’d spend a entertain million dollars on food, drinks, and party for a black-tie preview parties that preceded a weekend-long auctions hold 3 times a year.

But that was before a 2007 financial predicament and a Great Recession plunged a antique marketplace into a unemployment from that it has nonetheless to recover. The downturn wiped out many of Red Baron’s inhabitant competitors in a newness antique arena, though it also put an finish to a free-spending days when contentious Rockefellers would fly into Atlanta on private jets to buy adult marble fountains and palace gates.

These days longtime business like Heath assistance keep Brown in business, along with internal hip-hop stars, decorators kitting out restaurants and hotels, and a new era of Russian and Chinese oligarchs who collect selected Americana. Recently he’s been offered aged apothecary fixtures to pot dispensaries in Colorado. Gliding toward a yet-unscheduled retirement, Brown clearly still enjoys anticipating singular equipment that no one else has. Even if nobody needs them.

Going, going, gone
Three tangible equipment sole during Red Baron’s

Austrian dollhouse$650: Austrian dollhouse

Photograph by Scott Henry

Trick guillotine$675: Trick guillotine

Photograph by Scott Henry

Truck-shaped jukebox$9,750: Truck-shaped jukebox

Photograph by Scott Henry

This essay creatively seemed in a May 2016 emanate underneath a headline “Sold!”

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