Lights, Camera, Auction!
By Marcus Key (B.A. '12)
Sifting through odds and ends to sell for profit usually means it's time to move or organize a garage sale. But for Paul Brown (B.A. 91), it’s a profession.
Brown, an Atlanta native and owner of the antique consignment shop Gallery 63 is a fourth generation collecting enthusiast. He grew up working in his father’s antiques store surrounded by collectibles and memorabilia.
“From the time I was a child my family was in the antiques business so that’s really the only industry I knew,” said Brown.
Initially, Brown had no intentions of going into the family business – he majored in English literature at GSU.
He said his experience is one he wouldn’t have trade for anything.
“It was where I wanted to be,” he said. “I loved the energy of being down town amongst all the business people and the students. And me being a literature guy, I was especially proud of Georgia State’s massive library.”
"Everybody's got stuff." Paul Brown in his element.
Immediately following college, Brown’s interest in the family business began to grow. He went back to work in his father’s antiques shop, but this time with more responsibility. He took over all advertising, promotional, research and catalog duties at his father’s company, implementing a wave of success throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
Finally in 2005, after more than 30 years of working under the guidance of his father, Brown decided to branch out and start his own business.
“I wanted to do my own thing,” he said. “When you grow up in any industry and you watch how it’s done you eventually begin to think you could do it a little bit better, so that’s how Gallery 63 came about.”
Located in Sandy Springs, Ga., Gallery 63 is an auction house that accepts items from customers who consign them over to be auctioned off for a split portion of the profit.
After starting up Gallery 63, Brown received a phone call one day that would change his life forever.
A TV production company conducting a national search regarding an auction house reality show somehow found Brown’s number and contacted him. Thinking it was a joke, he turned the offer down only to have the company call back a couple of days later. Eventually Brown agreed to have the company send out a flip camera so that he could record himself in his element for a week and send the camera back.
A few weeks later he got the good news. The producers had selected Gallery 63 to shoot a pilot and 26 episodes for a reality series on the Discovery Channel called "Auction Kings."
“I couldn’t believe it,” Brown said. “Turned out they liked us. I think primarily it’s because people are obsessed with stuff. I mean we all have it, it cuts across every demographic you can think of, everybody’s got stuff. Rich people poor people whatever.”
The premise of "Auction Kings" uses Gallery 63 as a venue to showcase its cool findings. The show chronicles the everyday life of the auction house, but with an added commentary from experts. It relies heavily on the charisma of Brown and his staff. When the items hit the auction block the action begins. Auctions are held twice a month in which the cameras are constantly rolling.
Some interesting oddities featured on the show includes: a 19th-century vampire killing kit, a guitar signed by Johnny Cash and 65 million year-old fossilized dinosaur feces.
The success of "Auction Kings" has yielded Brown international fame and made him a local celebrity. Since "Auction Kings" has aired Brown receives hundreds of e-mails daily and his answering machine is always full.
“It’s been a good experience,” said Brown. “Everybody’s been so nice. I’ll go out and get dinner, or I’m pumping gas and people will see me and say ‘Hey great show.’ I truly feel blessed and fortunate.”
Business at Gallery 63 has been thriving because of the show. Before, auctions typically pulled in 200 attendees, now there’s barely any standing room. Because of the power of TV, viewers see the show and bring in items of their own so Brown has to advertise much less.
“With each episode we get on an average two million viewers per show so needless to say it becomes a commercial for my business,” said Brown.
Now going into its third season, ratings for "Auction Kings" have skyrocketed since it first premiered. According to the Nielson Ratings, the show has more than 1.5 million viewers per episode, and rising.
Through all of the success Brown still vows to remain humble and focus on what matters most.
“When you own a business and you’re on the TV you have to strike a balance,” said Brown. “Yes this is a TV show, but this is also a real business and I am a real guy. And nothing’s more important to me than when a buyer is happy and a seller is happy. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
“Auction Kings” airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m. EST on the Discovery Channel. The new season began April 25.