Published: August 1, 2023
The auction industry is rife with examples of the oldest or most rare this or that. So it’s a refreshing twist to witness 12-year-old Gavin Nadeau, who may well be the youngest auctioneer in America, at the podium of the Windsor, Conn.-based Nadeau’s Auction Gallery. He has been wielding the gavel here since he was 7 years old, according to his family, routinely selling fine artwork and antiques in the five-figure range. Gavin exchanged emails with Antiques and The Arts Weekly to talk about his role in shaping the future of the auction industry.
Being a third-generation member of an auctioneering family has to immerse you into the antiques and
auction worlds from a very early age. Do you remember when it first sparked an interest in you?
Just wanting to be like my grandfather, I look up to him and have always wanted to do everything he does.
It’s one thing to be the “youngest auctioneer in the United States” and another to offer services as a licensed auctioneer. How do you get around that?
I can’t right now so I can only do it for fun.
Do you plan to get accreditation when you come of age to receive a formal education in the trade?
Ya, I’ll have lots of experience by the time college comes, but I’ll also need a degree.
How do you juggle homework, hobbies and junior high school social pressures with working in a family business?
Right now it’s easy, I get good grades easily so I don’t have to study too much, but if I have a soccer game when there’s an auction I always go to the game. I don’t have to go to the auctions, I choose to because it’s fun.
Auction galleries can be extremely busy places during a sale. At the podium, you’ve got to simultaneously handle incoming live, internet and telephone bids. Do you find that intimidating or exciting?
A few years ago, it was a little scary but now it’s mostly exciting. I get a little nervous when I’m selling something for a lot of money but it’s fun and I like it. I want to sell something for more than $50,000 next and stay on the podium for longer amounts of time. Right now, I’ll be up there for about half an hour at a time; hopefully, next year it will be for a couple of hours at a time.
Can you give us a couple of examples of high-value items for which you have managed their sales?
I sold a set of plates at the New Year’s Auction for $23,750 and then a painting at the spring auction for $36,000.
If you could give any advice to other aspiring 12-year-olds in terms of developing an interest and passion that might inform a future career, what would it be?
Stick to your dreams, it may not happen right away, but keep at it and keep getting better. You’re never too young to start.
Of course, every successful auctioneer needs to be a generalist, but is there a specific category that excites you?
Art is my favorite, but antique furniture is cool, too, because of the history.
Both your grandfather and uncle can remember the days when the gallery was standing-room-only with in-person bidders vying for items. The internet and other technologies have changed all that. Are there innovations that you can foresee changing the auction experience even further?
AI is the next big thing changing the world, so I would think it will change the way some things are done at auctions. Maybe it will be an AI computer or robot as the auctioneer, taking all of the bids faster than a person can and knowing what the computer bids are all at once… but then auctions wouldn’t be fun, so I hope that doesn’t happen.
Are you optimistic about the staying power of the auction business and your family’s business in particular?
Of course, my grandfather and uncle have worked really hard to build the business, and my sister, cousins and I plan on taking it even further! We plan on being the largest auction house in New England!
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