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Chatting with Dame Brigitte Kruse: World-renowned auctioneer (Includes interview)

Dame Brigitte is one of the most sought-after auctioneers in the world. She is the auctioneer that celebrities and royal families turn to when they want to sell memorabilia, jewelry, clothing, estates, cars, and jets, among other items. She performs valuations for insurance and donation purposes for individuals and estates, is fully Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) certified, and can even provide valuations for the FBI and the American Government.

She was the first auctioneer to be knighted by a royal family, as well as the first female auctioneer to be included in the Guinness World Records; moreover, she is a member of the Forbes Business Council in Los Angeles. “It was especially meaningful to be the first auctioneer to be knighted by a Royal family—to represent my entire industry as an official ‘Ambassador of the Arts’ is something I’m so incredibly proud of,” she said.

“Anyone who has set or earned a world record of some type feels proud of their accomplishments, but to be the first female auctioneer to be included in the Guinness Book of World Records, is particularly exciting. More than anything I hope that these achievements help to inspire young, female auctioneers as well as young women in any industry to lead by example and that through hard work they can achieve anything,” she elaborated.

Throughout her respected career as an internationally recognized auctioneer, she has sold for members of Elvis Presley’s family, Michael Jackson’s family, 17 royal families, and three American presidents, among other dignitaries. Although she is famous for being an auctioneer, many of her sales are private since many of her celebrity clients request anonymity (especially when selling items).

“Some know us for the many World Records we have set, especially in the entertainment memorabilia sector,” she said. From Elvis Presley’s personal jet to Marlon Brando’s Rolex from ‘The Godfather’—and some know us because of our consistent work selling fine jewelry, or our reputation at being able to locate hard to find, rare assets, such as limited production Hermes Birkin bags dripping in diamonds. Although more people know us for those reasons, what they might not know or see is the constant work we do with individuals and families.”

Dame Brigitte continued, “We provide valuations for insurance and tax purposes and have helped many individuals and families understand the value of their assets and understand the markets as well as the best time to sell different items. We’ve helped those who have lost loved ones and have estates to navigate after the fact and they don’t know where to begin. Sometimes we are helping sell assets for those in trying times, but we’ve also helped many of our clients invest both short term and long term in different assets to diversify their portfolios and add to their net worth.”

She started her company, Kruse GWS Auctions, 12 years ago with her husband out of their garage, and today, they do millions of dollars per year in gross sales, even during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did it survive, but it was able to thrive and flourish.

At the end of March of 2020, she started weekly Zoom sessions, in an effort to connect auctioneers all over the country to help support one another, where they were able to share their strategies with fellow auctioneers. She also helped a number of auction houses move their business online so they didn’t have to shut down.

Dame Brigitte Kruse and Mary Wilson of The Supremes

Dame Brigitte Kruse and Mary Wilson of The Supremes
Courtesy of Kruse GWS Auctions

She opened up about being an auctioneer in the digital age, and during the era of COVID-19. “The auction industry (just like every other industry) has been dramatically impacted in the past year alone because of COVID-19. The industry is rooted in live, in-person events and the thought of losing on-site auctions is absolutely heartbreaking to me. I advocate for live auctions and I hope anyone who reads this gets inspired to go to support their local auctioneer,” she said.

“The entire industry has had to shift and figure out how to operate differently,” she said. I have to say that all things considered, we have been very lucky; when my husband and I started our auction house in 2009, from day one, all of our auctions were simultaneously in person and online. We never ‘just sold online,’ because we believe we best serve our sellers by offering hybrid events.”

She continued, “My husband is also a brilliant software operator and can run up to five platforms at once by himself, so it has not been as dramatic a shift for us. If it were not for my husband’s unique skill-set with auction software, we would be in a less favorable position. That said, the digital age is extremely exciting, and our auction house has recognized what new possibilities it can bring, and we’ve always seen it as a tool for innovation, but never a replacement for live events.”

“In 2017, I also pioneered the live runway fashion show auction which allowed bidders from around the world to participate while watching the fashion move, rather than just hanging on a mannequin. People loved it because it allowed clients who weren’t in Los Angeles to participate and feel as if they were there in person at the Hard Rock Café in Hollywood with all of the celebrity attendees,” she said.

For young and aspiring auctioneers, she offered the following advice: “You have to stay passionate, and stay motivated, even when you have rough days. You have to remember that haters are just confused lovers and even if you lose the battle you can still be triumphant in the war. There will be days that are very hard and days you want to give up. Keep your nose to the grindstone and keep pushing.”

“I recommend young auctioneers find mentors they can learn from and think about the future of the industry,” she said. “Build a business model, scale your growth in a way that is practical for you and always do what you say you are going to (even if you lose in the end) It may take longer to become successful by always doing the right thing, but the end result pays off.”

“I also urge young professionals in any industry to always remain professional, you and your behavior exemplify your brand, whether on social media or in a meeting. Everyone is watching all the time and it’s nice to be on top but there is never a place to sit down,” she added.

On life during the quarantine, she said, “We’ve been trying to adapt just like everyone else. For me, the silver lining has been how much time I get to spend with my husband and three wonderful babies. They are ages two, seven, and 11. I have also been able to watch my seven-year-old daughter complete auction school. It has been a very emotional experience because she speaks three languages and is doing something in the auction industry that has never been done. I am incredibly excited to see my family’s legacy live on.”

On Saturday, February 6, Dame Brigitte will be hosting a “Lunar New Year Royal Family Auction” with GWS Auctions. It will consist of Vietnamese, Chinese, and other Asian artifacts from different dynasties, items owned by different emperors and empresses, and literal shipwreck treasure, as well as high-end fine jewelry and watches. It spans continents, centuries, Royal families, and dynasties, and it will start at 10 a.m. PST.

Regarding her future plans, she said, “Aside from more auctions, I co-founded an entrepreneurial group called iSynergy Network, which will help connect and thriving business professionals. Now more than ever we have to rely on digital connections and collaboration in business.”

“Last year, I was speaking with business professionals and reflecting on what tools and connections we wished we would have had when starting our businesses. We also discussed the tools we found out that we needed on our way to being successful. We quickly realized there was a dire need for a network that would give entrepreneurs and business professionals access to tools, contacts, and resources that would support their endeavors,” she explained.

She continued, “These critical resources have traditionally only been made available to the top one percent earners. It’s the first of its kind and we are very excited to launch next month. iSynergy Network is a 10-year dream that has finally come true. They will have every resource they could need all in one place guided by well-respected industry leaders.”

On her career-defining moments, she said, “There have certainly been many moments in my career that have helped define who I’ve become as an auctioneer and specifically in dealing with the different asset classes we sell. For example, the first time I made a deal with a Royal family, that was huge. Once you work with one Royal family, that opens doors to working with other Royal families—you earn a reputation of someone that can be trusted not only with physical objects and selling assets, but that can be trusted to uphold the respect and value of legacies that are centuries old.”

Regarding her definition of success, she noted that it means “giving back.” “It’s always been important to me to help others, which is why we’ve worked to help support orphanages in foreign, high-conflict countries that care for children with ‘special abilities’ and worked to help change legislation here at home that supports families with children on the autism spectrum,” she said.

“To me, earning money is not a sign of success,” she said. “If I simply ‘ran a successful business’ but I did nothing to try to make the world a better place, I wouldn’t be a success at all. A person’s success is measured by what they give back and the size of the impact they had in this world. My grandfather always told me ‘you can’t take anything with you when you go to the other side.’ I was also raised to donate at least 10 percent of my net income each year. Giving back is a personal responsibility that my husband and I take very seriously.”

To learn more about Dame Brigitte Kruse and Kruse GWS Auctions, check out the official Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

Dame Brigitte Kruse

Dame Brigitte Kruse
Courtesy of Kruse GWS Auctions

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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