71-Year-Old Auctioneer Nears Final Sale

CANTON, Ohio (AP) - After a life of selling other people's stuff, a 71-year-old auctioneer is about to put most of his possessions on the auction block before retiring.

Al Gifford, an auctioneer and antiques dealer, plans to sell his Canton building and its contents. The cancer survivor said he's stepping down for health reasons.

His business is housed in a 19th-century brick building that formerly was home to a church. It's also where Canton's first bowling alley was built, he said.

A tour of the place reveals a model train; a hand-carved Japanese teakwood bar with matching coffee table and 7-foot-tall credenza; glass milk bottles; a Las Vegas slot machine; potbellied stoves; wine jugs from an Italian winemaker in Brooklyn, N.Y.; barber and dentist chairs; boxes, clocks and toys; icehouse tongs; vases, paintings, Christmas decorations; and a 1930s floor-model radio.

"It's all collectible stuff," Gifford said.

Some items aren't for sale, such as the framed photos of his friends, the late Thurman Munson of the New York Yankees and world lightweight boxing champion Sammy Angott, both Canton natives.

Gifford said he spent years trolling estate sales, auctions and flea markets, and buying from private owners.

"You get some good stuff, some bad stuff," he said.

Before becoming an antiques dealer, the Clarksburg, W.Va., native was a heavy-equipment auctioneer.

Gifford isn't too impressed with the antique malls that have sprung up in recent years, or the increased commercial look of the antique business.

The Antiques Road Show television show "has killed this business," he said.

He said people are afraid to sell items for fear they will be paid less than the items are worth.

"They need to understand that show is more about the artwork they find and are trying to preserve," he said.

Asked what he will do when he retires, Gifford paused before answering.

"Maybe go on eBay and sell there," he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)