A Look Back at “Auction Kings,” Paul Brown and Gallery 63’s Reality TV Show
For four full seasons, Discovery’s Auction Kings (2010 – 2013) offered many viewers their first look into the auction industry. The show followed the Atlanta-based auction house Gallery 63 including star Paul Brown, as they discovered, evaluated, and auctioned off lots across all categories. Pieces ranged from letters by historical figures like Harry Houdini and Jefferson Davis to a vampire killing kit. “Discovery found an auction house in Atlanta where everything is for sale, and every piece has a past,” reads the television network’s pitch for Auction Kings.
Paul Brown of Gallery 63 and Auction Kings has always been aware of the differences between him and many other auction industry professionals. “We don’t necessarily look, talk, or act like your average antique dealer,” he said in a 2011 interview. “I don’t want to wear a suit. It would get all torn up, unloading a truck in a suit!”
But Paul Brown also knows that those same differences may have set him apart in Discovery’s 2009 search for an auction house to build a reality show around. It also allowed Auction Kings to connect with audiences outside of the traditional auction market. “Every weekend, millions of us head out to antique stores, markets, estate sales, and auctions in search of that elusive find,” Paul Brown told Auction Daily earlier this year. “Shows like [Pawn Stars and Auction Kings] highlight the thrill of that hunt, and celebrate the occasional trophy.”
In 2009, a production company on behalf of Discovery sent Paul Brown a flip camera to film a regular day at Gallery 63. Brown and his gallery were eventually picked for the prospective Discovery auction house show and, after some back and forth, were signed on for the production of 26 initial episodes for Auction Kings. The show’s main cast included Brown, as well as Cindy Shook, Jon Hammond, and Delfino Ramos.
Scenes would often focus on the staff’s different personalities as they tried to find, analyze, and auction off pieces. Experts in various categories also appeared on Auction Kings to evaluate items and offer an appraisal. The show was similar in structure to History’s Pawn Stars, which debuted in 2009.
Discovery did what they could to fit Gallery 63 into a conventional reality TV show format. However, the network quickly discovered that auctions have a unique element of uncertainty. “Sometimes, we’d follow an item we thought would hit a home run only to see it fizzle on the block,” Brown told Auction Daily. “Other times, there were ‘dark horse’ items that ended up ringing the bell on auction day.” Tracking these unexpected twists and turns made for some of Auction Kings’ most memorable scenes, including bidding on an antique Coke machine:
Paul Brown grew up surrounded by antiques and auctions. His family owned Red Baron Antiques in Roswell, Georgia. As a college student studying English literature, Brown used his research skills to find out as much as he could about the pieces brought to Red Baron. At that time, Gallery 63 was a small subsidiary of Red Baron Antiques. “It was a clearing house for them, and we’d sell box lots of household goods and cheap furniture all day long,” Paul Brown said in 2011. “It didn’t make a whole lot of money, but I always saw potential in it.”
Now with Brown’s guidance and new leadership from his son, Elijah Brown, Gallery 63 offers numerous auctions across categories every year. “These days, we specialize in unique collectibles, high-end decorative arts, fine art, jewelry, and couture items,” said Paul Brown to Auction Daily. “But it changes monthly. Sometimes we have coins, important documents, and all manner of history’s mysteries.”
As of writing, some of the featured lots recently sold by Gallery 63 include a Rolex Oyster Precision watch and a signed drawing by Yoshitomo Nara. Interested readers can learn more about these and other recently-auctioned lots.
Meanwhile, on television, Auction Kings officially ended production in 2013. The show received four full seasons with a total of 96 episodes. It is still syndicated on channels such as Quest TV, introducing new viewers to the auction world.
Update, April 2021: Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Paul Brown and Gallery 63 continue to bring high-end lots to auction with success. The most recent sale presented by the former Auction Kings stars was the Premier Spring Estate Auction on April 6th, 2021.
Highlights from that auction included a Rolex Submariner that nearly doubled its high estimate, selling for USD 18,000 against an estimated $8,000 to $10,000. But just as Auction Kings taught viewers that the auction floor is unpredictable, some lots in the sale did not achieve their estimates. That included a Cartier 18k gold bracelet, which sold for $8,500, below the estimated $16,000 to $20,000.