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Off Central: Phoenix man works as auctioneer for more than 30 years

Phoenix resident and auctioneer Rowland Hill, center, is hard at work, trying to find new homes for some gently-used items. (Photo: KTAR News/Bob McClay)
LISTEN: Rowland Hill Auctioneer

PHOENIX — Many people head to auctions each weekend to score a bargain, but this Phoenix man has been working as an auctioneer for more than 30 years and said he’s never worked a day in his life.

Rowland Hill is an auctioneer with the Arizona-based Blue Leaf Estate Auctions and most recently was found hard at work outside of a home at 32nd Street and McDowell Road in Phoenix.

“We’re having an estate auction here,” said Hill. “All of these people here are all competing for all of the treasures that was in this house here.”

Hill sold item after item, including a picnic table and other items.

“$5 here, own the picnic table, picnic basket and the suitcase, and you can take the change of clothes on the picnic with ‘ya!” he told the crowd.

Hill said he got his start as an auctioneer 32 years ago.

“My best friend’s dad was an auctioneer, and I’d go in the summer time and help him,” Hill said.

“One day, he says, ‘Rowland, get up there and sell those chairs.’ So, I hopped up there and started selling those chairs and I said, ‘Hey…I want to go to auctioneers school!’ He said, ‘Nah, you don’t need to go to auctioneer’s school, just hang out here with me.”

Hill did — and learned how to do an auctioneer’s cadence. All of these years later, he said he’s sold all kinds of belongings.

“I’ve sold animals, I’ve sold horses, cattle,” he said. “I was 25 years in the commercial auto auction industry, along with the personal property public administration, things like that.”

Among the most unusual of items he’s ever sold? “I sold an exotic animal auction one time where I sold hingeback turtles, all kinds of snakes, and all kinds of weird animals. I’d say that had to be the weirdest auction.”

Sometimes, Hill said he has to break the bad news to people that what they’re trying to sell isn’t worth what they think, like the classic Beanie Babies.

“We run into these collections, and the families call in and say, ‘She has a lot of Beanie Babies, and we looked online and they’re worth x-amount of dollars,” Hill said.

“Well, no, they’re not. We tell them, that’s what they’re listed for. Let’s go back and see what they’re sold for, and let’s go back and do some research, and they’re not worth nothing.”

Hill said there are some Beanie Babies that are worth something and that the internet is a good tool for finding out what your merchandise might be worth.

Sandra Hafner is a fan of Hill’s auctions and even drove from her home in Maricopa to be at one.

“We moved here from Minnesota a couple of years ago, and we bought all of our furniture from auctions,” she said. “We still have our home in Minnesota, so we were able to furnish our home (in Maricopa) for really cheap.”

Hill said he is so good at his job because he absolutely loves it.

“This is all I do. I’ve never done anything else.  They say that one percent of the auctioneers make their living solely as an auctioneer. I’m in that one percent.

“I’ve been doing this for 32 years or better, and I haven’t worked a day in my life. I still have fun. I still love it,” Hill said.

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