I just learned of the January 24, 2021 passing of the lovely Rilla Simmons, co-owner of the Simmons and Company Auctioneers company of Richmond, Missouri. In 2018, Rilla was kind enough to spend some time with me to help me learn more about their company and their specialization in cast iron auctions. I wanted to preserve the article that I wrote for my previous blog about Rilla and their company. ***

Simmons and Company Auctioneers, Richmond Missouri

Simmons and Company Auctioneers, based in Richmond Missouri, has been in business since 1980. It is a family business.  Owners Bob and Rilla Simmons, along with their team, work together to organize and run large auctions. Bob and Rilla have been married since 1967.

Bob and Rilla’s adult sons David and Dan have worked with the business; David still does. Son David is a licensed auctioneer as well as a 3D piping design engineer. During auctions, David handles what Bob has dubbed “NASA Central” (online bidding via Proxibid) in the back corner of the room. When David is able to take a break from those duties, he often works as an auctioneer. Another team member, Rich Claypole, also works at the online bidding station when he is not called to service; he is active-duty Army.

The Simmons auctioneering team is a close-knit group of people who have worked together for many years. They all depend on each other. Rilla said that when team members are needed – whether it’s early in the morning or late at night or both – they willingly come. Auctioneer Larry Edwards and his wife Linda have been working with them for 26 years; they make the 6-hour drive up from Salem, Missouri at auction time.

Auctioneer Larry Edwards.

 

Bob and Rilla are particularly well-suited to handling large-scale cast iron cookware auctions, as they have collected vintage cast iron cookware over the years.

Bob and Rilla ran the “Farmer’s Daughter” antique shop in Richmond from 1983 to 2006, and sold some of their cast iron finds in that business. Rilla still enjoys picking up vintage cast iron cookware, but Bob and Rilla no longer collect.

Rilla said that when she “can’t resist” buying a piece (I know that feeling!), she sells it at a booth in a local flea market and donates the proceeds to the outreach Christian ministry at which they serve – the “CottonCreek Ministry and Cowboy Chapel.” Rilla and Bob are people of strong faith, as are the members of their team. In fact, the young couple who would be packing pieces purchased online via Proxibid at the July 2018 auction were people they met through the ministry. Rilla said, “God prospered us – we didn’t make the business. He prospered us so that we can benefit His Kingdom. We serve the Lord Jesus as auctioneers.” Their auctions open with prayer.

Bob and Rilla have conducted auctions from coast to coast. They and their team have conducted large vintage and antique cast iron auctions for the past 30 years; typically holding at least one a year. They also specialize in Winchester, Keen Kutter & Diamond Edge Tools and Collectibles (Larry and Linda Edwards wrote a reference guide to Shapleigh Hardware/Diamond Edge Collectibles). They have provided large-scale auctions of vintage Granite Ware for a collector’s group, and also auctions for sad iron and trivet collections, and at national conventions, for more than 14 years.

Bob researches every piece that they take in for the auction, endeavoring to provide the most accurate description possible in the auction listing. This is helpful for both the auctioneer and potential buyers, as descriptions can then be listed in the auction catalog. It also helps the auctioneer to have an idea of where to begin the bidding. Sometimes an auctioneer does not have a background in vintage cast iron cookware, so there is little if any description of pieces in the auction flyer. I have been to auctions with hundreds of cast iron pieces offered, where the flyer simply advertised “cast iron cookware.”

Vintage Cast Iron Auctions

One of many tables filled with pieces waiting to be auctioned off.

 

 

Specialized large vintage cast iron cookware auctions usually consist of pieces from one or more long-time collectors who are liquidating their collections. The auctions often take place over the course of several days. The pieces offered are typically in very good to excellent condition (they are collector’s pieces, after all), though as always, personal inspection prior to purchase is a must as all pieces are sold “as is, where is.” The pieces most often require some amount of cleaning and re-seasoning, but they are typically in cleaner and better condition than most cast iron pieces that you would find at a flea market unless the pans are from a dealer who cleans and seasons pans prior to re-selling. It makes sense that the pieces would be in better-than-usual condition because after all, they are pieces a person has collected and cherished, cared for, admired, and valued over the years.

Pieces to be auctioned are typically available for inspection a day or two before the auction opens. During pre-auction inspection at any auction house, it is not uncommon to find hidden flaws such as hairline cracks, pitting or warpage.

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Lids, griddles, Dutch ovens and more on an auction table for inspection.

More cast iron on a table awaiting pre-auction inspection.

At the July 2018 Simmons vintage cast iron auction, several of us concluded that two pieces offered (a “Griswold” Vienna pan and a “Griswold” Turk head pan) were most likely reproductions.

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Reproduction Griswold Turk head pan. Look at the shoddy casting; this is not a Griswold.

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Authentic Griswold (l) and reproduction (r). Note the difference in the quality of the casting and the difference in the size. An authentic Griswold pan was probably used to make the mold for the fake, resulting in the smaller size.

 

There was also a small “Griswold” square skillet that was a known reproduction – it carried the small Griswold trademark and was marked “SQUARE ERY SKILLET” instead of SQUARE FRY SKILLET.” A few pieces were also noted to have small hairline cracks that were only discovered upon close inspection.

Reproduction Griswold cast iron Square Fry Skillet. Note the misspelling – “ERY” skillet. Also note the rough casting.

 

When defects such as these are discovered during inspection, as a courtesy the person who finds the imperfection tells the auctioneer so that the auctioneer can inform potential bidders. At the July 2018 auction, Bob made note of the flaws and concerns that were brought to his attention during the inspection. Their team then passed out a sheet of paper with the noted concerns prior to the auction. The flaws and concerns are also announced at the time of bidding, and the catalog is corrected online. Ultimately, however, it is always the buyer’s responsibility to know what they are buying before they bid.

July 2018 Cast Iron Auction

The July 2018 Simmons auction was a grouping of 867 pieces from two different collectors. Rilla sent out a catalog with the auction listings prior to the event.

Cast Iron Catalog to email 2018

The auction took place over the course of two days. The auction didn’t take a break; when Bob needed a break Larry took the chair, and vice versa. Here is Bob conducting an auction for a Griswold coffee grinder, which sold for $600.

Bob conducting an auction for a Griswold fully-marked “Victor” no. 5 cast iron skillet, which sold for $700.

And here is Larry, conducting an auction for a cast-iron skillet.

I wrote a separate blog post about the top money-makers at the July 2018 auction. None of them came home with me.

I did manage to snag about ten lovely pieces, however, including one I have coveted for years: a Griswold no. 16 French roll pan, variation 5 pattern no. 6139, for which I paid $150.I also grabbed the number 16’s smaller cousin, the Griswold number 17 French roll pan, for $60.

Simply because I can never resist Griswold patty bowls, I bought one with a large block logo (pattern number 871) for $55. As I was swept up in the excitement of it all, I next bid on and bought a Wagner #2 Scotch bowl for $45. I also “won” a sweet antique Griswold oval griddle with the Griswold slant logo “ERIE” (pattern number 712) for $65. Finally, I overpaid for five Griswold grooved handle small logo skillets (numbers 3, 4, 5, and two no. 8s) that were offered as a set, as Linda needed the number 5 to round out her collection. I paid $280 for that set, which in my estimation was about $100 too much. However, I’ll clean up the ones I bought; they will make nice gifts!

If you run across an auction offering vintage cast iron cookware, check it out. You sure don’t have to buy anything, but they are great fun. Pretty soon you’ll recognize faces at the auctions, and you’ll make some new and interesting friends. Bonus – they have the same interest in the iron that you have!

A few pics from the auction:

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