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TAC Auction Inc. Sells Unique Items In-Store and In-House

TAC Auction Inc. employees talk about interesting items they've sold over the years and how they got into the business of appraising items at live auctions.

TAC, which Auctioneer, Owner, and Operator Tonya A. Cameron, of Lynn, runs, has featured rare antiques over the years.

Her hottest market is vintage jewelry and Asian antiques, including Buddha figurines as well as assorted ivory exports. The youngest vintage/antique item dates back to the 1960s, but the speciality is 100 years or more, meaning 18th-, 19th- or 20th-century merchandise.

Cameron said some unusual items have included: wrestling legend Killer Kalwoski's World Wrestling Foundation's robe, trunks, and a ball/chain. There was also an 18th-century wooden figurine of Jesus from an Everett church.

How the process works is either the items are consigned, or sold outright, where they are put on a yellow tag sale; 85 percent of the merchandise is sold quickly. However, TAC doesn't do silent auctions, because they are geared towards charities and fundraisers.

The next in-house auction will be Thursday, Oct. 25, at 6 p.m., and the theme is Multi-Estates, which will include various homes throughout New England. The previous one was an Asian, Decorative and Unusual Arts live auction Thursday, Sept. 20, at 6 p.m. A stuffed animals one is also in the planning stages. Seventy-five clients can be seated comfortably in the auction hall. The diverse un-cataloged auction will consist of Oriental, European, American and decorative arts, paintings, prints/etchings, vintage toys (some with original boxes), quality furniture, lighting/accessories, jewelry, porcelains and glassware. To see more pictures, click here

Antique Dealer Brian Maglione, of Wakefield, participated in the last auction. He works at Regency Antiques at 96 Charles St., Boston, near Beacon Hill and the public garden.

"You can always buy something," Maglione stated. "She's an honest auctioneer -- there's a lot of good values. I like doing business with her. It's a great way to furnish your home if you love antiques."

Robert Stroud, of Roxbury, who is the part-time photographer for online auctions, van driver to pick up the merchandise at private homes, and the utility/set-up guy, of 2 years, remembers other interesting unique over the years -- the Venetian art glass sculpture from the movie, Hell Raiser, Basket by Cadaco Ellis, way before Scrabble and Monopoly was produced, and iron soldiers from the turn of the 20th-century.

"What these vintage antiques all have in common is that you can't find them anymore and they're not mass produced," Stroud explained."

Stroud admitted he never thought he'd be interested in this business, as a former licensed optician in downtown Boston, but when the economy slowed down, he decided to change careers.

For Cameron, it started earlier. She went to a lot of magnificent homes in Washington, D.C., where she was raised by her chef grandfather and had access to merchandise that normally customers wouldn't have access to. She went onto the Yankee School of Auctioning in Hooksett, N.H., where she became certified in 1999.

Likewise, four-year full-time Manager and Antique Dealer John Askins, of Cambridge, who also goes to private homes to pick up auction items, moves items in the auction hall, catalogs measurements, writes description of online items, also grew up in the business, learning and selling since he was seven years old. During his earlier years, he went to the library to read books about appraisals, but now, he looks on auction sites to immediately see how much items are being sold for.

He also works at Downstairs at Felton Antiques, out of Waltham, but instead of being competitors, they are in partnership and network with each other.

T.A.C. Auction Inc. recently moved to Wakefield Aug. 1 after being in Malden and on Route 1, Saugus, across from Bill and Bob's Roast Beef. Her first auction featured a Tiffany clock and raised $100,000 in March 2007, which was a pleasant surprise.

Already, they're well-accepted in Wakefield. Postal workers even know the auction company.

"It's a really lively town," Askins pointed out. "I see half the town running, jogging, or walking the Lake. People sell fruits and vegetables outside. Our clients are from all over, including Istanbul and Saudi Arabia, where they place phone bids, since English is still the international language. They participate in a live auction from the comfort of their own home."

But according to Maglione, since this upcoming auction is uncataloged, online bidding isn't an option this time. If it was online, there would be a particular order, and each item would have a description.

Cameron added she hopes to connect more with Wakefield and the community here, also loving the Lake, small town feel, and restaurants. She hired some WHS students to work as a runner at an in-house auction.

"Wakefield is very happy to have us, because there's not another auction company here," she pointed out. Before the auction house, the Elks Lodge was rented out for the evening.

Different from other auction companies, this one has a mall and seven well-lit rooms. Hours are: closed Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays [pictured]. Wednesdays are free appraisal days from 1-4 p.m., or otherwise by appointment.

Susan Maroskos, of Lynn, is the mall manager [pictured]. Dealers price and receive the profits for jewelry (Oriental and Native American), relics, trains, glassware, clothing, furniture, and lamps. If it doesn't sell, it will go into another auction. For tag sales, bargaining isn't an option since the deals are so low. However, the store is not even at 50 percent capacity; it will be expanded another 60 percent.

Odd items she has sold since Aug. 1 has been a butter churn (the wood isn't available anymore) [pictured], and African masks made of ivory (there's a ban on ivory imported to the U.S. due to endangered elephants). Now, those little statues are made from walrus tusks out of Alaska, but don't have the distinct brown marks. 

"It's very intriguing," Stroud explained. "I get to see a lot of different things I haven't seen before, like paintings and antiques from ancient China. I'm from a different neighborhood, and I expose myself to different cultures here."

For appraisals, she's looking for medium- to high-end collectibles, not something that's available at flea markets. Oftentimes, furniture comes from people who downsize or move. 

Maroskos offered her thoughts as to why the demographic for both the store and auction is 40-plus. 

"The way I was brought up, my mom stayed home, and gave us a snack after school," she described. "Now, single- or double-parent homes work and don't have the time to instill antique values. It's a hurried, disposable society, where we pop food from the freezer into the microwave. Here, we try to encourage young people to hold up items at the live auction."

Her mother had a ceramic store in Dorchester, and she grew up to own a jewelry store herself, Bruno's Antique and Jewelry in Beverly.

As broad as the clientele ranges from 40 to 90, so does the price range for the live auction. The value of the merchandise ranges from $25 to $200,000. Cameron noted some buyers eventually become clients.

As a volunteer for the Northeast Animal Shelter and pet owner, Cameron brings her three dogs and two cats to work with her (not all at once). She also serves as alternate board director on the Saugus Rotary and comes into work between 5 and 6 a.m. to get the most work done. 

"Because I love what I do, I don't think I'm working," Cameron summed up. "This is what I do."

For information, visit tacauctioneers.com, call 781-233-0006, email Info@TACAuctioneers.com, or visit during store hours at 37 Water St. (side door by Sonny Noto's Restaurant, which will soon have a joint discount).

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