‘We Could Sell Idaho’: Ogden Auctioneer’s Still Going Strong After 60 years
OGDEN, Utah — This is a tale of persistence.
“Everything’s a throwaway society now,” said Doug Taylor. “It used to be a ‘save’ society.”
For Taylor, selling antiques that endure is his specialty.
“Used to be, if you had a china closet, it was handed down to family,” he said. “Now it’s made out of cardboard and it’s thrown away.”
Taylor’s shop is filled with an odd assortment of items — ceramic lamps, a cat-shaped ashtray, even a large promotional image of Julia Roberts. But it’s not the relics in his shop that call to the crowd.
The only one doing the calling is Taylor.
His shop is attached to a large space, covered with a sea of folding chairs. At its focal point is a large podium. Affixed to its front is a reflective plaque with Taylor’s name on it, and the word “Auctioneer.” Above, hang the words “Thou shalt not whine.”
From behind his podium, Taylor speaks without end, in that rapid-fire pace you’ll only hear at an auction. The items up for bid on this night don’t seem to fit any sort of theme — there’s a gas mask, a rocking horse, and a wood-burned portrait of John Wayne. Taylor starts the bidding for each item with a brief description and a sales pitch.
“It’s a cream can, guys,” he says. “It’s only the second or third one of them we’ve had. We’ve had a lot of the milk cans, but very few of the cream cans. Start it for me, let’s go.”
And it’s not just Taylor’s antiques that persist — it’s him. For the past 60 years, he’s sold anything and everything to the highest bidder.
“Oh my God,” he said, shaking his head while trying to recall some of the stranger items that have passed his auction block. “I’ve sold vasectomies, I’ve sold hotels, I’ve sold airplanes.”
Around here, sky’s the limit.
“We could sell Idaho,” Taylor joked from behind his podium.
It’s clear that his job involves quite a bit more than just taking bids as quickly as possible. Taylor treats every item as though it’s something special — a cedar chest is “just like it’s supposed to be,” and an old couch is in “perfect condition.” Taylor even makes a point of directing his customers to a grill outside, offering “hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chili dogs, chili burgers, you name it, he’s got it.”
Taylor may not be savvy enough to sell a state, but he’s been successful enough to score some steadfast supporters.
“A lot of them come every week, it’s their night out,” Taylor said. “I’ve got hundreds of people who bring stuff in and help support themselves. People that are on welfare, or people who are on Social Security and don’t have a big income. They’ll pick up a few items and bring them in and sell them and make money on them.”
With each burst of air from his well-trained lungs, Taylor breathes new life into each and every piece of the past — just like this career breathed new life into his.
“When I went to Iwo Jima, I went in half a body cast,” he said.
While serving his country back in the 1950’s, Taylor’s life changed forever.
“I was a diving exhibitionist,” he said. I swam in the Air Force Olympics. I hit the diving board and broke my back.”
Taylor’s uncle sold him a new lease on life.
“Talked to me about being in the auction business, because I could do it in a wheelchair,” he said. “I enrolled in the auction school, they sent me all my tapes and I sat on Iwo Jima for four months learning the speech — selling to bugs on the ground, pretending they were people.”
He never quite ended up in that wheelchair, but something about auctioneering called to Taylor. Now, he’s 80 years old and faces competition from online businesses like eBay.
“I hate computers,” he said. “If they’d burn every one, I’d be a happy camper.”
But despite all the difficulties —the long hours, the frantic pace — Taylor perseveres.
“It’s hard work,” he said. “I’ve watched eighty, a hundred people come in the auction business. They’re all out of business now. They think you can go talk for three or four hours and make all that money. Well, I still put 50 hours a week in.”
After all, this is a tale of persistence; and if there’s one thing you should know about Doug Taylor, it’s that he’ll never stop selling.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “I love it. What do I do if I retire? This is what I like to do, so I’m just gonna do it.”
Taylor’s business has a website at dougandjoyce.com, but he warns customers that if they want to talk to him, they’ll need to call him on the phone or visit in person. He doesn’t want anything to do with computers.
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