Higgenbotham Auctioneers’ Opening Bid is Always All Heart

By Paula Blackwelder, Correspondent for The Lakeland Ledger

Since 1958, Lakeland’s Higgenbotham Auctioneers has been auctioning off everything from commercial real-estate to live animals, both in the United States and abroad.

The saying, “You never know what you’re going to get,” could not be truer than in the instance of being an auctioneer.

“We sold the entire city of White City, New Mexico,” said Marty Higgenbotham, founder of Higgenbotham Auctioneers, at 3816 Industry Blvd., in Lakeland. “The city had been chartered by a family, and when it got to the third generation, only one family member wanted to work in the town. With none of the other family members stepping up to the plate, he sold it.”

Higgenbotham said the contents of the town, located at the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns, included a gas station, countless business buildings and a five-story museum with an extensive collection of goods.

“That entire auction took four days,” he said. “We sold everything in the museum, from guns to dolls.”

Donald Kirkland has been working with Higgenbotham Auctioneers for 22 years and said that the company also handles out-parcel property sales for Wal-Mart and real estate on islands.

He said one auction that stands out for him was when the Polk County-based auctioneers ventured to Arizona to auction off the former estate of U.S. Presidential candidate, John McCain, but his favorite types of auctions are for charities.

“We’ve been doing an auction at the Lakeland Center for the March of Dimes for more than 20 years. We also do the Wild Game Feast for the South Lakeland Rotary Club, Ducks Unlimited, Wild Turkey Federation, Lighthouse Ministries and a lot more,” Kirkland said. “It’s just countless. Between Marty and me, we do 60-70 charities per year. It is such a blessing to do something that you enjoy that helps other people.”

Jackie Summerlin, director of the Polk County Youth Fair, noted that the county agency could not operate without Higgenbotham, because the state government no longer supports it financially.

“He provides the services and gets as much money as he can for these kids and brings people with him. If we need to earn some extra money for something, he helps. He does it all from the goodness of his heart and he also does his own fundraiser for the Youth Fair,” Summerlin said.

“He’s an extremely good influence on these kids. He’s always been there,” she added. “He’s extremely ethical, and he always says a prayer before each auction.”

Higgenbotham recalled a time at the Youth Fair when a student was killed in an automobile accident on the way there. “Another student brought his hog into the ring, and we sold that pig for $12 a pound, then raised several thousands more in add-ons. I really see that we honestly do something, and to me that is real charity. That is the most touching sale I do every year. Nothing else comes close.”

Reproduced here with permission. Originally published December 1, 2014 in the Lakeland Ledger