ADDISON – When John Leonard was going to Purdue University, he spent his free time attending live auctions and selling things on eBay.
"I came up as an eBay generation of sorts," he said. "I had an interest in it."
Leonard opened his own auction house and estate liquidation firm, called Leonard Auction Inc., in Naperville on May 1, 2006. The business grew so quickly that the company outgrew its space and had to move to a new location in Addison less than a year after it opened.
The 8,000-square-foot space features display areas, an office and a warehouse where clients can store their items.
Leonard spends half of his time at the auction house cataloging and researching items that will be sold and meeting with clients. The other half is spent doing appraisals and going to home estates. When he meets a client, they discuss the client's needs and figure out a plan for the sale.
Leonard said the best part of his job is getting to look at all the interesting things that are auctioned.
"The overall variety I find very appealing," he said.
His favorite and also the most expensive thing he has ever auctioned off was a $1,000 gold certificate that a client found in his uncle's sock drawer. The piece sold for $15,400.
The auction house has two auctions every month, generally on the third weekend. The Coin and Currency auction is held on Fridays and features 300 to 400 lots of collectible coins, currency, gold, silver, platinum and stamps. On Sundays, the Antiques and Estates auction features 600 to 800 lots of items including furniture, fine art, jewelry, silver, glass and crystal, rugs and textiles and pottery.
During the Antiques and Estates auction, Leonard also auctions off odd and strange items. The oddest things Leonard has ever sold are gold teeth and a strand of George Washington's hair.
As a member of the International Society of Appraisers, Leonard strives to keep his business connected to the community. In the spring, Leonard Auction Inc. had an appraisal event for Addison Public Library. The company also had a fundraiser for the Lombard Historical Society.
In his free time, Leonard likes to swim at the Leaning Tower YMCA of Metro Chicago. He also is part of the U.S. Masters Swimming program.
"I swam in high school and recently picked it back up," he said.