Delta Couple Have Become Known As Experts
By Jack Criss
Cleveland residents and husband and wife, Bob and Wilma Wilbanks, are pharmacists by training and trade but have turned their second career into a fascinating profession that benefits families all over the Delta.
As owners of Boss Fox Estate Sales, LLC the Wilbanks’ travel the region appraising items at various estates to prepare for sale—and have become well-known for their expertise in the field, even called upon by attorneys, judges and accountants for appraisal work in estate cases along with their team of fifteen associates they call the “Boss Fox Family.”
Plus, the couple have left many Delta families happier—and better-compensated for family heirlooms or even what was considered throwaway items—since they’ve been active in their second career.
“I started going to Boss Fox sales as a customer in the late 80s and early 90s,” says Wilma. “It was started by Jamie Cuming and Mike Chiz and I loved their sales so much that I became involved with the business as a cashier. When Bob and I started dating, he also got involved as a ‘toter,’ carrying items to the cars.”
The couple eventually got promoted and when Jamie passed away in 2009, the two became partners with Chiz.
“After Mike retired several years ago, we took over heading up the team and we absolutely love this line of work,” says Wilma.
While both still practice as pharmacists by day, the Wilbanks focus their attention on estate sales and writing valuations for clients by nights and weekends.
“We’re on the road all of the time,” says Wilma. “We work primarily in the greater Delta area. We don’t work on things like yard sales—we do full estate sales—and people contact us for our services after a death in the family or after downsizing. We can come into a house, offer valuations on items of all kinds and then prepare for the estate sale.”
“We do what is called a ‘tag sale,’ where we actually go into a house and price every item that is needed or wanted to be sold,” says Bob. “We then have a two or three day period from there after doing a staging, placing items in places where they will actually be used in a potential buyer’s house. We make it look really nice, even going so far as to flip a room depending on how best to show the pieces available.”
There’s an art, in other words, to the presentation of the items.
The couple also have learned how much most items sell for by searching the internet as well as embarking on jaunts to various antique stores on fact-finding missions.
“For as long as we’ve done this, we’ve become extremely accurate in our appraisals and are also fair to our clients,” says Bob. “We optimize the pricing for the clients we represent but the customer also leaves the sell knowing that they’ve gotten a bargain.”
Bob says he is an artist and is a specialist in appraising art work whereas Wilma has an eye for silverware, crystal, jewelry and rare books.
“Just last week, Wilma picked up an old book on the floor as we were appraising and it turned out to be worth $100,” says Bob. “This happens, literally, all of the time. Our clients will tell us that something is up in closet that’s been there forever and it turns out to be a piece worth thousands. You’d be amazed.”
While prices of objects can sometimes be arbitrary, the Wilbanks have the knowledge and experience to know what certain pieces can bring in. Items like McCarty pottery.
“Wilma has become a nationally-known expert in their work,” says Bob. “We were friends with Lee and Pup McCarty, have that history and know what their pieces are worth. We even came across one of their pieces that had been buried in the yard, in a flowerbed! One in particular was worth quite a bit and very valuable.”
Once a client agrees to let the Wilbanks take over the “possession” of their house—in order to conduct their evaluations and valuations—they can either do a straight appraisal for a fee or take on the full process of selling items.
“And our pricing to do so is well below the national average,” says Wilma. “If we’re doing the selling, we don’t charge for valuations. The more they make, the more we make. Plus, we’ll do a walkthrough before any agreement to make sure that it’s worth the time of all parties involved. We’ve developed a reputation over the past third-five years of being fair, and good at what we do, so clients and potential clients respect our decisions on how to proceed.”
The two laughed when reporting that, when preparing a house for an estate sale, they’ve often been told by family members that they wished their late parents could have seen how nice their home looked.
The couple have dealt with items as diverse as a clock made in Scotland in 1810 to rare bracelets and broaches sewn into old coats and extremely rare artworks by a south Texas artist that were worth several thousand dollars.
“With one of our clients, we even found $1000 in cash in the oldest, shabbiest purse of hers in a closet,” says Wilma. “Of course we called her, and she knew immediately what we had found! That’s a special joy, to be honest. We’ve even discovered diamond brooches hidden away that people, especially children and heirs, didn’t even know about or had forgotten.”
The Wilbanks also pride themselves in their honesty, going so far as to hesitate to sell certain items that might be extremely special or sentimental to a given family.
Bob says it normally takes four to six weeks to get a house ready to present for an estate sale.
“It’s not unusual for us to get back to our house at 2:00 a.m. in the morning,” he says. “This is our hobby, our joy and something we love to do together. Plus, we help people.”
“What’s really funny is how alike we’ve become in our thinking when it comes to pricing items,” says Wilma. “It’s almost scary! We’re dependable, discreet and have years of experience to help in the liquidation of estates due to death, divorce or downsizing. We care and we’re conscientious. Plus, we love what we do.”