By Paul Leighton
---- — BEVERLY — When Frank Kaminski was a boy, his mother took him to antique shows and flea markets. When he was 17, he held his first auction in his parents’ backyard.
“I’ve had the antique bug for a long time,” he said.
Those humble roots are going to seem a long way off next month when Kaminski and his Beverly-based company preside over one of the biggest auctions of the year.
On Nov. 2, Kaminski Auctions will auction off hundreds of items belonging to Oprah Winfrey on the grounds of the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club in Carpinteria, Calif.
The auction will include furnishings and personal items from Winfrey’s homes in Santa Barbara, Chicago, Indiana and Maui. The proceeds will benefit a college fund for graduates of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.
Kaminski said his company landed the big auction after a representative from his California office spoke with one of Winfrey’s people.
Kaminski flew to California and met Winfrey at her carriage house where her items were stored. Everything had been removed from her Santa Barbara mansion because it is undergoing extensive renovations, he said.
Kaminski and his staff spent three hours with Winfrey going over each item.
“It was just as her movie, ‘The Butler,’ came out and she had conducted 65 interviews,” he said. “She was very, very nice, and they hired us.”
The auction will feature European antiques such as a Louise XVI chest with an estimated value of between $30,000 and $50,000; hand-wrought iron panels from the main staircase of her Santa Barbara mansion, estimated at $4,000 to $7,000; and a green-and-white plaid couch valued at $3,000 to $4,000.
There will also be a number of memorabilia items autographed by Winfrey, including magazine covers and promotional material for the movie “The Color Purple.”
Kaminski said he doesn’t know how much the auction will raise, but noted that people will be able to bid on-line “from all over the world.”
Kaminski will fly back to California next week to prepare for the auction, and most of his staff will join him later. Kaminski Auctions will host a preview party the night before the auction at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club. Tickets cost $100. They’ve also produced a catalog of the auction items that sells for $50.
Kaminski said he auctioned off Mayor Curley’s house in Boston years ago. But with as many as 6,000 people expected to attend, this will be his biggest yet.
Kaminski opened his business in Beverly in 1996 with a staff of four people. The company now includes locations in Beverly Hills, San Diego, Palm Desert, and New York City.
After running an auction for one of the world’s most famous people, he wonders what will happen next. He said someone recently e-mailed him a link about the Oprah Effect, referring to the positive impact Oprah has on anything she is associated with.
“I kind of laughed about it,” he said, “but who knows?”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.