Whiteside Auction changes with the times

Thursday, February 13, 2003

By Jackie Harder

Special to Business Today

DONIPHAN -- J.D. Whiteside has spent more than 40 years in the auction business. As founder of Whiteside Auction in Doniphan, J.D. made his living sorting through bits and pieces of peoples' lives and selling them to the highest bidder.

"It doesn't seem like it's been that long," J.D. said. "There's a lot of history in it."

In recent years, he's passed the business on to his son, Randy. But J.D. remembers every sale like it was yesterday. He remembers the names, the items sold, and the final tally - almost to the penny. Every sale holds a story for J.D.

"My first big sale was Gene Whitwell's place," J.D. said. "It took seven hours to sell it all. There were horses, cattle, hogs, wheat, oats, grain. I sold a round oak table for $3 and over-top desk for $17.50. Those would be antiques today."

J.D. has seen the auction business change over the years -- from the cost of advertising a sale to the reasons for having a sale. His business has managed to changed with the times.

"Most any household sale would average around $2,000." J.D. said. "Most of the time, it would pay for someone's funeral."

He remembers old man John Dixon's sale in Naylor and how people came on motor boats.

He remembers Fred Pepmiller, his only competitor when J.D. first started his business in 1960.

"He was a good old man. He didn't even use a PA system - just his bare lungs," J.D. said.

J.D.'s son Randy runs the auction business now.

"I was raised in the business," Randy said. "Today, there are many fine professional auctioneer schools. I learned from my dad."

J.D. must have been an excellent teacher. Randy won the Missouri Professional Auctioneers Association Championship in 1999.

Randy was 14 when he first stepped in front of the crowd. He earned $5 for auctioning off pies at a fundraiser for the Hillview School.

His nephew, Brice, is 9 years old and has already taken a few turns at the microphone.

"We call him the apprentice auctioneer," Randy said. "He's really an enthusiastic little boy - a real crowd pleaser."

As the third-generation of Whitesides learn the trade, Randy works to keep his company a few steps ahead of his competition.

"The auction market has changed. We've got to change with it," Randy said. "The type of auction in my Dad's prime was predominately all farm auctions: livestock, machinery, households, shops, tools, antiques, all on a 200- to 300-acre farm. We've made a transition to be the best at what we do in the auction market; from marketing real estate, business liquidation, to estate auctions."

The technology has changed, from computers to wireless microphones and P. A. systems.

J.D. used what is known as the Alpha system, where buyers shouted out their names when making a purchase.

Today, buyers are assigned a number and given a bid card to hold up when they are bidding.

"During Dad's prime, he knew everyone's name," Randy said. "It was pretty much everyone throughout the region. Every time something was bought - he would hear their name."

While the number system might seem a bit more impersonal, the Whitesides always keep the client's interest in mind.

"In the auction business," Randy explained, "you are dealing with people who are having an auction for a reason. It could be a death in the family, a divorce, business liquidation. Whatever the reason, we are very aware of that. We're a Christian family and we keep that in mind."

Whiteside Auction continually gives back to the community by way of benefit auctions. Randy said the most recent benefit auction raised close to $900 for Doniphan High School's Project Graduation.

Whiteside Auction is a member of the National Auctioneer Association. Besides providing Randy with a nation-wide link to other auctioneers, the NAA is a major contributor to St. Jude's Hospital. The NAA raises approximately $1 million annually for the hospital in Memphis, Randy said.

Jackie Harder is a staff writer for the Daily American Republic in Poplar Bluff.

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