As an auctioneer, Abner Jacobson built a Hall of Fame career handling the rapid-fire sales of everything from marbles to farm machinery.
He was a businessman, too, selling John Deere equipment at a dealership in Benson, Minn., and proud of successfully touting the one-of-a-kind quality of used machines — manure spreaders among them.
He cut many deals, in other words, and yet his business partner, Jerry Peterson, could not recall anyone not liking him.
“That is an amazing thing to pull off having sold all of that stuff,” Peterson said in a 2017 YouTube interview spotlighting Jacobson.
Jacobson, 93, a 2004 inductee into the Minnesota State Auctioneers Hall of Fame, died May 7 in Benson — about a month after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Throughout his life, he enjoyed cups of coffee with friends and was known to be good company. He once told a buddy who balked at driving with him to Willmar that he would write a hundred dollar check in his name, stick it in a safe and give it to him at year’s end if the guy considered the three hours to have been wasted.
His son Kenny recalled a family trip to San Francisco in the early 1970s during which his younger brother Bruce said to their mother, Katherine, that they finally were in a place where no one knew Abner.
At the airport, however, a man spotted the elder Jacobson and exclaimed, “Jake, what are you doing up here?”
“Oh, god, mom,” Bruce said.
Abner Jacobson shared that story and many others in a video about his career shot by Jerry Peterson’s son Greg, a TV host who goes by the name “Machinery Pete.” He described Jacobson as an “auctioneer extraordinaire.”
Jacobson’s career began in 1946 when his father, Peter Jacobson, paid $125 for Abner to take a two-week course in auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa.
The son welcomed the move, having grown up preferring farm auction sales over circuses. Asked later if he had been taught to talk fast at the school, he replied, “No, that’s born in you.”
His career would span 57 years and more than 4,500 auctions.
At a drugstore auction early in his career, Jacobson grabbed a cigar box full of marbles and started the bidding at $25. He was unaware there was a gem of a marble inside. A bidding war ensued, and the marble eventually sold for $335.
“You don’t know your marbles, do you?” the winner said.
“Damn right I don’t know my marbles,” Jacobson replied.
Auctioneers collect commissions on their sales, and in 1960, Jacobson used $1,900 in savings to buy a stake in a John Deere dealership in Benson. Jack Krattenmaker was his first partner. Later, Jerry Peterson joined him, drawn by Jacobson’s solid reputation.
“He was a heck of a good guy,” Peterson said during the video interview. “He was very well-liked. He was honest.”
“And good looking,” Jacobson chimed in.
Jacobson left the auctioneering business about eight years ago but still was tapped from time to time to display his talents.
For one event, he was asked to handle the sale of “knickknacks” to the residents of a Glenwood nursing home, Kenny Jacobson said. The participants used play money, and Abner, eyeing the room, couldn’t help but think of the commission he could have made if the money was real.
Jacobson also is survived by his brother Harold, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Services have been held.