Simmons and Company Auctioneers, based in Richmond Missouri, has been in business since 1980. It is a family business. Owners Bob and Rilla Simmons, along with their team, work together to organize and run large auctions. Bob and Rilla have been married since 1967. Their adult sons David and Dan have worked with the business; David still does.
Son David is a licensed auctioneer as well as a 3D piping design engineer. During auctions David handles what Bob has dubbed “NASA Central” (online bidding via Proxibid) in the back corner of the room. When David can break from those duties, he also often works as auctioneer. Another team member, Rich Claypole, also works at the online bidding station when he is not called to service; he is active-duty Army.
Their team is a close-knit group of people who have worked together for many years. They all depend on each other. Rilla said that when team members are needed – whether it’s early in the morning or late at night or both – they willingly come. Auctioneer Larry Edwards and his wife Linda have been working with them for 26 years; they make the 6-hour drive up from Salem, Missouri at auction time. At the July 2018 auction, Bob and Larry traded off spots; taking turns at the auctioneer’s chair.
Bob and Rilla are particularly well-suited to handling large-scale cast iron cookware auctions, as they have collected vintage cast iron cookware over the years. Bob and Rilla ran the “Farmer’s Daughter” antique shop in Richmond from 1983 to 2006, and sold some of their cast iron finds in that business. Rilla still enjoys picking up vintage cast iron cookware, but Bob and Rilla no longer collect. Rilla said that when she “can’t resist” buying a piece (I know that feeling!), she sells it at a booth in a local flea market and donates the proceeds to the outreach Christian ministry at which they serve – the “CottonCreek Ministry and Cowboy Chapel.”
Rilla and Bob are people of strong faith, as are the members of their team. In fact, the young couple who would be packing pieces purchased online via Proxibid at their July 2018 auction were people they met through the ministry. Rilla said, “God prospered us – we didn’t make the business. He prospered us so that we can benefit His Kingdom. We serve the Lord Jesus as auctioneers.” Their auctions open with prayer.
Bob and Rilla have conducted auctions coast to coast. They and their team have conducted large vintage and antique cast iron auctions for the past 30 years; typically holding at least one a year. They also specialize in Winchester, Keen Kutter & Diamond Edge Tools and Collectibles (Larry and Linda Edwards wrote a reference guide to Shapleigh Hardware/Diamond Edge Collectibles). They have provided large-scale auctions of vintage Granite Ware for a collector’s group, and also auctions for sad iron and trivet collections, and at national conventions, for more than 14 years.
Bob researches every piece that they take in for auction, endeavoring to provide the most accurate description possible in the auction listing. This is helpful for both the auctioneer and potential buyers, as descriptions can then be listed in the auction catalogue. It also helps the auctioneer to have an idea of where to start bidding. Sometimes an auctioneer does not have a background in vintage cast iron cookware, so there is little if any description of pieces in the auction flyer. I have been to auctions with hundreds of cast iron pieces offered, where the flyer simply advertised “cast iron cookware.” In an effort to be helpful, I have FaceTimed with auction houses to help identify vintage cast iron pieces that will be offered at auction, and to give an approximate range of value.
Upcoming Simmons auctions are listed on their website. When simultaneous online bidding is offered, the auction catalogue is also uploaded to Proxibid; the Simmons website will indicate if this is the case. Auction fliers and brochures may also be sent out and downloaded from their site. If you’d like to get on the Simmons’ mailing list for vintage cast iron auctions, contact Rilla.
Specialized large vintage cast iron cookware auctions usually consist of pieces from one or more long-time collectors who are liquidating their collections. The auctions often take place over the course of several days. The pieces offered are typically in very good to excellent condition (they are collector’s pieces, after all), though as always, personal inspection prior to purchase is a must (see my previous blog post on this topic), as all pieces are sold “as is, where is.” The pieces most often require some amount of cleaning and re-seasoning, but they are typically in cleaner and better condition than most you would find at a flea market, unless from a dealer who cleans and seasons pans prior to re-selling. It makes sense that the pieces would be in better-than-usual condition, because after all, they are pieces a person has collected and cherished, cared for, admired and valued over the years.
Pieces to be auctioned are typically available for inspection a day or two before the auction opens. During pre-auction inspection (at any auction house), it is not uncommon to find hidden flaws such as hairline cracks, pitting or warpage. For example, at the July 2018 Simmons vintage cast iron auction, several of us concluded that two pieces offered (a “Griswold” Vienna pan and a “Griswold” turk head pan) were most likely reproductions. There was also a small “Griswold” square skillet that was a known reproduction – it carried the small Griswold trademark and was marked “SQUARE ERY SKILLET” instead of SQUARE FRY SKILLET.” A few pieces were also noted to have small hairline cracks that were only discovered upon close inspection.
When defects such as these are discovered during inspection, as a courtesy the person who finds the imperfection tells the auctioneer so that the auctioneer can inform potential bidders. At the July 2018 auction, Bob made note of the flaws and concerns that were brought to his attention during inspection, and their team passed out a sheet of paper noting the concerns prior to the auction. The flaws and concerns are also announced at the time of bidding, and the catalog is corrected online. Ultimately, however, it is always the buyer’s responsibility to know what they are buying before they bid.
The famous Griswold Square ERY skillet.
The July 2018 Simmons auction was a grouping of 867 pieces from two different collectors. The auction took place over the course of two days. The auction didn’t take a break; when Bob needed a break Larry took the chair, and vice versa. People fortified themselves by eating delectable pies, cakes, and brownies prepared by Brenda, the famous Richmond Missouri pie-maker. Brenda also serves breakfast and lunch – she even makes the hamburger patties by hand!
I wrote a separate blog post about the top money-makers at the July 2018 auction. None of them came home with me. I did manage to snag about ten lovely pieces, however, including one I have coveted for years: a Griswold no. 16 French roll pan, variation 5 pattern no. 6139, for which I paid $150.
I also grabbed the number 16’s smaller cousin, the Griswold number 17 French roll pan, for $60. Simply because I can never resist Griswold patty bowls, I bought one with a large block logo (pattern number 871) for $55. As I was swept up in the excitement of it all, I next bid on and bought a Wagner #2 Scotch bowl for $45. I also “won” a sweet antique Griswold oval griddle with the Griswold slant logo “ERIE” (pattern number 712) for $65. Finally, I overpaid for five Griswold grooved handle small logo skillets (numbers 3, 4, 5, and two no. 8s) that were offered as a set, as Linda needed the number 5 to round out her collection. I ended up paying $280 for that set, which in my estimation was about $100 too much. However, I’ll clean up the ones I bought; they will make nice wedding or holiday gifts!
If you run across an auction offering vintage cast iron cookware, check it out. You sure don’t have to buy anything, but they are great fun. Pretty soon you’ll recognize faces at the auctions, and you’ll make some new and interesting friends. Bonus – they have the same interest in the iron that you have!