BENNINGTON — Heart Felt Antiques and Auction Services hit a home run after selling over $25,000 of sports memorabilia, but this local auction house has more to give than baseball cards.
Brian Tebo, owner of Heart Felt, has been in this business since he was a kid.
Taking an atypical route to antiquing, Tebo was sucked into it after he totaled his mother’s car. He soon found he had nowhere to go. One day, his parents told him they were going to an auction and invited him to tag along. After that, he became a permanent fixture in the antique and auction business.
Tebo said he’s a part of a fun business that’s also his passion. His girlfriend and business partner, Krista Dickey, came up with the name Heart Felt. She is a home health care provider and realized how helpful cleaning out people’s homes can be. Selling items can provide some extra money while creating space in the original owner’s home.
“We really try to stick with being a heartfelt company. We deal with people on the worst days of their life,” said Amanda Rivers, the in-house auction manager.
This business, especially when operating estate sales, can be emotional. These sales often come about because of the death of a loved one. Tebo and Rivers agree that it’s a sad and difficult aspect of the business. Some people cry and others end up changing their minds about auctioning an item because they are emotionally unable to part with it.
When this happens, Heart Felt lives up to their name, Tebo said. If a family member seems reluctant to sell an item, Tebo will hold off on the sale to see if they change their mind. If this happens, he is more than happy to give the item back.
A background in antiques
Tebo started in New England with small booths in group antique shops. Eventually, he moved down to Florida and continued to work in the business there.
After working at a large antique shop for three years, he ventured out on his own and started selling at shows all over the country. Tebo traveled by van from show to show, setting up his booth, selling for a few days, packing up and starting all over at another antique show.
Finally, the New Hampshire native returned north in 2018. His shop in Bennington began in Camelot Village. Once the village closed, Heart Felt moved to a spot next to Colgate Park.
It’s been in this spot for about two and half years. Tebo held three or four in-person auctions before the pandemic hit, and he had to stop in-person events.
While the world was in peak pandemic, Heart Felt focused on online sales.
“Actually, we grew at that time,” said Tebo.
He took consignments, and scouted and sourced inventory as much as COVID restrictions allowed. Tebo mentioned how time consuming online sales can be. He needs to take five to 20 photos of each item, write a detailed description and post it all on the auction website.
Honesty is a policy
If Tebo discovers a valuable item, he won’t low-ball the owner. For example, recently, he discovered a rare baseball bat in someone’s collection. He put it on consignment and shared the profits with the original owner.
The baseball bat is from 1905 to 1910. It has a colorful blue, red and gold decal featuring Honus Wagner with an oval J.F. Hillerich & Son trademark. Based on the research Tebo did, the bat could have been used by Honus Wagner in a baseball game.
Tebo said Wagner was a great baseball player, but he was also the first person to have a licensing contract with J.F. Hillerich & Son. Wagner memorabilia is highly sought after and can cost millions of dollars to purchase.
The bat has cleat and ball marks, which hint to it being used in games. Also, the bat is of similar size and weight to the bats that Wagner would use. It’s worth mentioning that the retail bats that were sold to the general public were 1 or 2 inches shorter than the bat Tebo found. This means that the bat could have been made for Wagner to use.
If the baseball bat is authenticated as being used in a game, according to Tebo, it could be worth about $100,000, based on similar items that have sold in the past. Since it wasn’t authenticated when Tebo sold it online, the bat sold for $15,000 plus a 15 percent buyers premium, totaling $17,250.
‘Walking stick’ in a Bennington closet
Before it sold, the bat was in a Bennington home. The original owner found it in her parent’s closet in Connecticut. Not knowing how valuable it could be, her daughter used it as a walking stick when she hurt her leg. “Good thing [she] didn’t mess with that logo,” said Tebo.
Heart Felt has sold its fair share of sports memorabilia in the past. Recently, it sold a 1953 Mickey Mantle card for $1,600, a 1952 Mickey Mantle card for $2,600, a 1952 Willie Mays Rookie card for $4,700 and a 1951 Mickey Mantle rookie card for $7,250.
While sports memorabilia has been good for business, the auction house sells much more than that. Tebo has Bennington-stamped pottery, wood carvings, local art, antique furniture and more. The business’ inventory is growing and changing every day.
To keep up with demand, Heart Felt’s work is split between in-person auctions, online auctions and estate sales. It gets new inventory through consignments and buyouts, all depending on the customer. Some people want to see how much their items will go for in auction, and others want to be done with the sale as soon as possible.
Heart Felt curates a special selection of items for its online auctions that occur every three or four months.
“We’ll save items that are appropriate for online because we’re selling nationally and internationally. We sold to the Netherlands, even in pieces to China and Europe and all over,” said Tebo.
Unlike other auction houses, Heart Felt Antiques and Auction Services is accessible. Tebo believes anyone can attend an auction and walk away with something unique. Its next auction is on Saturday. To get the most up to date information, visit facebook.com/heartfeltantiques.