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$200K bid sought at Westside auction house for rare metal dragon from 18th-century Japan

ABOVE: Bob Gorman (at podium) and Debbie Gorman (far right) share a moment of levity with the crowd during bidding on an item during a recent auction inside the Gorman Auctions area of the Willowstone Antique Marketplace, 2150 Garden of the Gods Road. BELOW: A view looking toward the north side of Garden of the Gods Road shows the Willowstone building. The main entrance is under the sign facing the parking lot at right.
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Bob and Debbie Gorman display the three-century-old, 4-foot, 8-inch articulated metal dragon from Japan that they will be auctioning Nov. 8, in hopes of attracting a bid of $200,000 or more.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Gorman Auctions sells all kinds of things, from lamps to guns to antique furniture to classic cars, from individual possessions to valuables from estates.
       But it's not every day that the facility on Garden of the Gods Road gets a chance to sell a nearly five-foot long articulated metal dragon, signed by its maker, from 18th century Japan.
       With any luck, the creation by Myochin Nobuie will go for as much as $200,000 when it comes up at the Nov. 8 auction, according to Bob and Debbie Gorman, who own Gorman Auctions. The Myochin family was known for making armor for the Japanese military; “in peaceful times they made other things,” Debbie said.
       To raise interest in the dragon, “we've marketed it quite extensively,” she added. “There's been some interest out of New York and Japan, but nothing definite.”
       Selling higher-ticket items is nothing new to the Gormans, both of whom have been auctioneers for most of the 34 years since they were married. Their personal auction record is a $425,000 piece of real estate, but “this would be a record for a small collectible,” Debbie said.
In a photo shot from a ladder, the vast interior of Willowstone can be seen. The aisle at far right is accessed from the main entrance.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Originally from Oklahoma, the Gormans moved to the Pikes Peak region in 1990. They've had their own auction house since 2002. Initially it was in Woodland Park. After relocating the business to Manitou Springs in 2007, they went to a building off Academy Boulevard in 2012, then moved into Willowstone Antique Marketplace, 2150 Garden of the Gods Road, as an integral part of its opening about a year ago.
       In all, Willowstone consists of 85,000 square feet inside the former Hotsy's steam-cleaning building,
A figure from a Bob's Big Boy restaurant is one of the items currently on display in the lobby of the Willowstone Antique Marketplace, just outside the entrance to Gorman Auctions.
Westside Pioneer photo
which has been renovated inside and out. Gorman Auctions takes up 10,000 of those square feet, including loading docks in back. Willowstone itself comprises the majority of the space, with about 400 partioned spaces featuring offerings by a range of artisans and collectors. Also in Willowstone is the City-Wide Indoor Garage Sale, focused on lower-end bargains.
       The three businesses have proven to be complementary to each other. “It's worked out better than we imagined,” Bob Gorman said.
       Gorman's is a family business, with younger son Grant handling the website and older son Julian contributing graphic designs. There are five full-time employees in all, Debbie said, with three to eight being added during an auction, depending on its size.
       Auctions are scheduled three times a month (second and fourth Saturdays and first Fridays), with a fourth date often added if there are enough items to sell.
       The Gorman doors are open for people to look at the merchandise Tuesdays through Fridays.
       It's a constantly changing view. “We have thousands of items on the floor, and it rotates weekly,” Debbie said.
       Modern auctions don't necessarily rely on folks strolling in, registering and raising their hand to bid on things. Also welcome are people who offer absentee bids in advance or even participate “virtually” - communicating through Gorman staff equipped with cell phones - as the auction proceeds.
       Between auctions, the Gormans research the items that have come to them to get a feel for their value. Most often these are “normal household items,” but occasionally something “fabulous” comes along, like the articulated dragon, Debbie said. Although it is missing two spike plates and possibly whiskers, all the rest of the creation is intact and moveable (despite three centuries and the limited technology of those times). Included is a tail with “three plates that can fan out,” the Gorman website states.
       One benchmark for antiques is scarcity. In the case of the dragon, Debbie has located only nine others like it in the world, and she and Bob believe this one to be the longest (at 4 feet, 8 inches) “ever offered to the public at live auction.” Another one, two inches shorter, sold at an auction for just over $200,000 in 2010, according to the Gormans.
       If a similar amount is bid at the Nov. 8 auction, it will be a welcome windfall for the dragon's owner, an elderly Colorado Springs woman of modest means who inherited it from her husband's side of the family and had no idea of its value. The Gorman Auctions website quotes her as telling Bob, “'That's my husband's old snake, and I have always hated that thing. Take it with you.' We are hoping after the auction that she has a new love for the dragon.”
       A bid of that size would also benefit Gorman Auctions, which gets a percentage of all sales.
       But Bob and Debbie are also ready in case bids come in low, or there are none at all. The suggested starting point for the dragon will be $75,000, she said. But at auctions there's also a minimum amount that's established in advance with the seller - an amount that's revealed only if the bidding fails to get that high. In such a case, the highest bid can be presented to the item's owner to see if it's acceptable. This scenario could theoretically happen with the dragon, Debbie explained.
       If no bids come in at all, the dragon would likely be stored and then offered again at a later date. At least storage would be easier than if it was a big item, like a “10-foot sofa” (which would take up a lot more space), Debbie noted with a laugh.
       For more information on the dragon, or on Gorman Auctions in general, the business can be reached at 687-2400, or by e-mail at auctions@gormanauctions.com. The website is gormanauctions.com.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 10/30/14; Business: Changes)

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