For years Adrian Burns reported on business. Now, he’s a full-time business owner.
Burns’s entrepreneurial journey began when he graduated college and started selling antiques he’d collected since childhood. Though he was fond of his finds, they were literally collecting dust at his parents’ house in Youngstown, N.Y. And, frankly, he needed cash.
However, money isn’t what motivated him to acquire the antiques; he hadn’t really considered resale value.
“It was just fun, cool stuff that a lot of young boys would think was neat,” says Burns. “Old radios, lots of them. Coins. Old bottles. A lot of it was free, too. I was given a radar set from the nose cone of a probably 1950s airplane by an old engineer I had met through the Ham Radio club I was in as a kid. He gave me the set. Radar dish, screen, wiring harness.”
In 2003, the radar set brought in more than $1,000 on eBay.
“That really got me excited,” Burns says.
With that he was hooked on selling, and began peddling various items online and at antique shows. In 2010, his company Burns Americana began holding auctions in Michigan, where an auctioneer license is not required.
In 2011, he received his Ohio auctioneer license and began operating as Burns Auction & Appraisal.
“It takes 85 hours of classroom instruction, a one-year apprenticeship with an experienced auctioneer, and then a test administered by the state,” Burns says of the licensing process. “With the schooling and apprenticeship, you’re talking one-and-a-half years to two years between deciding to go, scheduling to take the schooling, apprenticing, taking the test and so on.”
This summer, Burns left a reporting job at Columbus Business First to fully dedicate himself to his company.
“I spent 10 years talking to business owners about why they were either very successful or very unsuccessful,” he says. “It was the richest, plushest education in business anyone could ask for. It was 10 years of case studies. Toward the end of my time in journalism, the success stories really made me feel like I could do it, too.”
However, the stories of business disasters, particularly during 2008, 2009 and 2010, chilled him to the bone.
“I saw first hand the undoing of a lot of businesses,” he says. “I learned how they had gone from being successful to falling apart. This part of my work I’ll never forget.”
It was Burns’s better half who helped convince him that he could thrive in the business realm.
“My wife’s belief in me has, to a large degree, been the extra push I’ve needed regularly over the years,” he says. “But I’ve worked pretty hard on a daily basis to remain focused and confident. After sort of trying and trying for a long period of time, the confidence actually begins to stick. It feels good.”
Though his business appraises a wide variety of items, Burns says he has specialized in early photographs for several years now.
“My particular interest is in hard images −daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes− from the period of 1839 to about 1880,” he says. “I have a very large list of buyers internationally, and I sell more than 1,000 early images a year to this group. I buy daily, and track prices daily, and so I feel that I have a very good handle on this field.”
He also enjoys appraising and selling jewelry, particularly fine, expressive vintage and antique pieces.
Next month Burns will begin holding auctions in a historic former newspaper building in Lancaster.
Oh, the irony.
The first auction is slated for Sept. 22-23, and will feature vintage and antique goodies from across the United States.
To learn more about Burns Auction & Appraisal, visit BurnsBid.com.
Photo by Gretchen Burns Photography.