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Today we’d like to introduce you to Patti Baldini.

Hi Patti, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers a little about your background and how your journey brought you to where you are today.
One Sunday afternoon, my Mother and I were driving home from an auction in her yellow two-door Cadillac. The car was packed so full that our noses were practically pressed against the windshield. We joked about how people will do anything to get their stuff home; including us. We loved attending auctions! I was going through a divorce at the time, with two small children and I knew my job as a ballet teacher was not going to put my girls through college. I needed a new career with the ability to earn more income and I also needed flexibility in my schedule so I could manage my time as a Mom.

On this particular Sunday, the auctioneer was a female. I had never seen a female auctioneer and I was impressed at her ability. On our ride home, my Mother turned to me and said “This is the career for you. You need to find out how to become trained as an auctioneer”. As soon as I got home, I pulled out the yellow pages (yes, pre-computers) and searched for auction schools. There it was…The Nashville Auction School. I felt like I had found the golden egg! I called the school first thing on Monday morning and asked how to become an auctioneer. They told me they offered four sessions each year and they had just started a new session today. I said, “Save a seat, I’m on my way”. I was one of two females in a class size of about 42 people. I loved auction school and I couldn’t wait to get out there and work. Now, 30 years later, I still love my job! It’s a tough industry but there are never two days that are the same.

Every state has its own auction laws, which are typically regulated by the Department of Commerce and Insurance. In Tennessee, at that time, in order to become licensed as an auctioneer there was a very rigorous two-year apprenticeship process. Today’s auction laws have relaxed and the industry is seeing more of the younger generation enter the field. Female auctioneers are also on the rise. Even though laws have eased in regard to the apprenticeship program, we are all still trained and licensed professionals.

Over the years, I learned how to hone my bid-calling skills. I felt comfortable behind the mic and found my performance skills as an auctioneer were oddly somewhat similar to my background as a dance teacher. I started competing in bid calling competitions and in 2004, I was named Tennessee Auctioneers Association (TAA) State Bid Calling Champion. In 2008, in a competition for the National Auctioneers Association (NAA), I competed with other auctioneers and was awarded as International Auctioneer Champion 1st Runner-Up, Women’s division.

I have served on the TAA Board of Directors and most recently as the TAA President. In 2015, I was the first female inducted into the TAA Hall of Fame which was the pinnacle of my career. I am also proud to have been the recipient of a Resolution from the House of Representatives in 2020 recognizing me as a leader in my community. The honor tied into the centennial celebration of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution which granted women the right to vote.

Auctioneers are unique individuals with unique skillset. We all have a different way of getting from point “A” to point “B” but that’s what makes us all different. I respect our strong tradition, and I also embrace today’s technology. Tennessee is one of the largest auction markets in the country. While a live auction can certainly be very emotional and exciting, I feel an online auction accommodates today’s bidders. In my business, I choose to auction most assets using the online auction bidding platform because I know time is our greatest commodity, and it’s important I understand the value of your time.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
When I graduated from auction school and passed my state board, I only had thirty days to find an auctioneer who would sponsor me. I couldn’t find anyone in Middle Tennessee who would agree to sponsor me, but I couldn’t really blame them. After all, females were kind of an anomaly in the auction industry at the time. However, I feel like I lucked out when a great auctioneer out of Franklin, Kentucky agreed to be my sponsor for the next two years. I had to request special permission from the Auction Commission to apprentice in Kentucky. Since I lived in Hendersonville, Tennessee, it was only a 40-minute drive to Franklin, Kentucky, just over the state line.

We had weekly farm equipment auctions and monthly antique auctions. There I was, a female with long blonde hair down to my waist selling farm equipment in the freezing cold of winter and the blazing heat of summer. I have auctioned everything from homes to heavy equipment to fine antiques and art. Working live auctions outside I was always either too cold or too hot. I’ve worked auctions during floods, tornados, and blizzards and I don’t remember many days where I thought the weather was just right. It’s been humbling, but I’ll never forget the great life and business lessons I learned about how to conduct yourself, and your business and how to treat your customers.

It took a few years to convince some of my colleagues that I was here to stay and that’s okay. Today, I am proud of my accomplishments and I must say auctioneers are the most genuine group of people I have had the pleasure of working with both on the local and national levels. I truly feel like I could call on anyone if I needed help. I know that because, in 2020, the March tornado completely destroyed my building, then six days later the pandemic shut down the world. I lost everything in the tornado. I had some auctioneers who showed up and insisted on trying to help me salvage any small piece of anything we could find. I also had my “girl squad” of friends from high school who came to my rescue. I’ll never forget how they put themselves in physical danger trying to help me and how they were there for me emotionally as well. My office and warehouse were a visual storyboard of my career. It was my second home. All of my awards, trophies, and accolades were tastefully displayed and I was always excited when bidders came to pick up their purchase and would ask me about one of those awards. That loss is still difficult to process.

Patti Baldini