“I have 30 from the lady with the Mini Schnauzer, do I hear 35? Thirty-five, yes thank you from the gentleman in the front row in the black suit, do I hear 40?”
Salim Khan works as an auctioneer with several public auction companies, governments and law enforcement bailiffs. He grew up in Victoria in the 1980s and dreamed of becoming an actor or a stand-up comic. It led to a 25-year career as an auctioneer. He’s a jokester behind the podium and now earns some of the best reviews from public auction customers. Producers are talking about featuring him on reality TV.
His journey began when he worked in his uncle’s carpet store, where he learned about expensive Persian carpets and auction customers. “After 25 years I’ve come to love this business. It’s challenging because you have to be an specialist in several complex areas. You have to learn about auctions, human psychology, economics and high tech security procedures. Because most of the merchandise I work with is jewellery seized by the government, I’m now recognized for my knowledge of gems, precious metals and premium brand watches like Rolex and Cartier.
“Working with expensive merchandise and the people who buy and sell it has also given me insights into global and local economic conditions and trends. Lately I’ve been interviewed more about economics than about auctions.”
Khan is happy he worked his way up in the public auction business, because it is now growing quickly. As the economic downturn wears on and businesses have trouble making ends meet, government and law enforcement seizures of merchandise are increasing. But today’s auction environment is not for the faint of heart. It’s competitive, it’s dangerous and it has received some bad press.
Auctioneers travel to different towns holding public auctions, protecting people and merchandise using very sophisticated and expensive security technology and experienced security personnel. They are also required by law to protect private information about merchandise owners.
As public auctions increase, life becomes difficult for small jewellery retailers. Some are desperate enough to call the media, question legitimacy, even call the police. Khan often works with Asset Auctions in the Toronto area. “Asset has a bricks and mortar location with a full customer liaison department. It warrants the merchandise and it guarantees it’s authenticity,” says Khan. “We work for the government and we’re very professional and fair. So some of the press we’ve gotten has been totally undeserved”
“It’s not an easy business,” says Khan. “But that’s life. Now do I hear 45? Forty five, thank you from the young movie star in the third row. Now who has 50?”