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Amelia Jeffers talks about coming home again to Garth’s Barn

Published in Antique Week - December 5, 2023

Writer, Susan Emerson Nutter

Garth’s Auctions has been an Ohio institution for decades. The business and its famous barn where auctions were held was known nation-wide for bringing to the masses wonderful pieces of early Americana. While it now appears that the name Garth’s Auctions may be resigned to history, its spirit and at least some of its name will live on with a former owner.

Amelia Jeffers, former co-owner of Garth’s has been offered and accepted a much unexpected but greatly appreciated opportunity. In October it was announced Amelia Jeffers would be taking over Garth’s inventory and would be selling these items under her business’ name.

“At the end of October, legal counsel for Garth’s Auctions and Jeff Jeffers reached out to me with an opportunity to buy the company — a call I had long-hoped to receive. Unfortunately, the current financial and legal obligations of the company made it impossible for me to buy Garth’s (the name). Right now, the only entity that can use the Garth’s Auctions brand name is Garth’s, and Garth’s is no longer licensedto conduct auctions. The State of Ohio has indicated that it is acceptable for me to use ‘Garth’s Barn’ as my auction location - so, for now, I will conduct in-person auctions as Amelia Jeffers’ Auctions at Garth’s Barn.”

During the time Amelia was reviewing the company assets, Jeff Jeffers, the current owner of Garth’s and Amelia’s ex-husband, contacted her to ask if he could discuss with Vivalyn Knight that Amelia was the buyer with whom he was engaged in talks. Vivalyn’s husband, Bruce, was the mastermind behind both Heart of Ohio Antique Center and the Springfield Antique Show and Flea Market of Springfield, Ohio, so naturally, the couple were collectors extraordinaire. Garth’s Auctions had been given the nod by Vivalyn to sell the Knight’s extensive collections earlier this year.

Jan. 5-6 will find Amelia Jeffers and crew handling one of the most significant collections to sell at The Garth’s Auction Barn in many years. The Bruce & Vivalyn Knight Collection will encompass more than 800 lots of choice Americana, folk art, and fine decorative arts.

“I said of course - I have known Vivalyn and her late husband, Bruce, for many years,” Amelia said. “Over the course of several days, Vivalyn and I spoke at length about her sincere interest in supporting Garth’s and Jeff, and her strong desire to have the collection she and Bruce built together sold in association with the Garth’s history. Between the Knights and Garth’s, you are talking some serious contributions to not only the Ohio antique scene - but I would argue definitely the Midwest, and really throughout the country. At the end of the day, we decided it made a whole lot of sense for me to take on the collection and to sell it at the Garth’s Barn.”

When Amelia met with Jeff to go over the Knight collection, she and her attorneys talked with Jeff and it was “it just made good sense for me to take over the warehouse lease and to do the same for the remaining Garth’s consignors. So, my team and I have been there since October 31, and are working to contact every consignor and buyer with items in the building to make arrangements to get their items back to them, or sign a new contract with me.”

Amelia and her staff just wrapped up the company’s Thanksgiving weekend auctions which took place at Garth’s Barn. Most of the items in that auction were from consignments from Amelia’s company, Great Estates, but she did add in some of the material from Garth’s consignors. “The bulk of it was my consignors, but we did bump one collection (The Lifetime Collection of the late C.J. Hawley & Phil Florence) to early spring to make room for some of the Garth’s consignors.”

When asked how it felt to be back in the barn for this past Thanksgiving auction, Amelia said, “I don’t think I stopped smiling all week during preview and the auctions. Every time I looked up, another old friend had walked in. There were lots of hugs, and I heard ‘welcome back!’ more times than I can count. It was my second auction in the barn in the past two years, but this one was really the big turnout. It was like homecoming in so may ways - for me, for longtime clients, and even for my kids.

My daughter, Maddie, has not worked or attended an antiques auction since I left Garth’s in 2017. She was 12 - and remembers learning how to register bidders, and run items and paperwork during the auction. It was so wonderful for her, too, to see familiar faces and to be embraced so warmly. We had about 100 people on Friday in the room - amazing by today’s standards! Overall, I think we had about 2,200 bidders. When I took the block to open on Friday, I thanked everyone for being there, and they all clapped and thanked ME. I can’t describe the feeling of being welcomed so warmly and enthusiastically back to the love of your (work) life. It is a pretty awesome time to be Amelia Jeffers.”

Amelia finished the conversation by stating, “I built the Great Estates concept (Jeffers’ auction company) to be able to take the top tier of lots of different categories and build a fun auction around the idea that bidders can shop from the greatest estates in the Midwest. I am a firm believer in crossover audiences and bidders. Rare is the collector who is so focused as to only collect one specific category. Most people collect across a variety of genres and periods. Knowing that, why would it be a good idea to sell choice items in a venue that specializes in only one thing? While I so respect the scholarship of specialized firms, from a return on investment for an entire collection, I think getting objects in front of the most eyes possible is the best strategy. The Knights are a great collection - they bought across dozens of categories. Those kinds of buyers love auctions that have a big variety. That is what we are shooting for - and I think my consignors see it and appreciate it.”


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