By Jessica Goodwin
It’s the day after Quinn’s Auction Galleries’ “Weekly Treasures” sale and auction house employees are already preparing for next week’s event by organizing, processing and photographing items. Matt Quinn, the executive vice president of Quinn’s, strides into the showroom and flashes a friendly smile.
Quinn himself is a walking encyclopedia of antiquities. The gallery boasts a variety of objects from mid-century modern ceramics to antique furniture — a replica of an African tribal bed and a piece of 1930s Roseville pottery, to name a few — and Quinn was excited to share what he knew about all the different pieces. He said he’s always learning, and if he comes across an item he’s not sure about, he’ll ask questions, do the research, even take the item apart and put it back together.
His attraction to the world of antiques and auctions started back in his childhood when his father, Paul, left his job as a hospital administrator to open the Falls Church Antiques Company in 1987. By 1995, his father and older brother, David, founded the Auction House of Falls Church.
“I’d grown up tangentially to the business and always worked for the auctions,” Quinn said. “But early on, the business just wasn’t big enough to support another income.”
After graduating from college, Quinn took a public relations job in California. Although he was successful in PR and national sales arenas, the company was going through some changes and layoffs were looming. No longer happy with his role, Quinn took it as a sign to return to Falls Church and join his father and brother in the booming family business in 2002. “If my father taught me anything, it’s to enjoy what you do, and that’s why I’m here,” Quinn said.
In 2010, Quinn considered using his PR skills to get a colleague on PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow” television show but a chance conversation with a passenger on a flight convinced him that he was the one who needed to be on the show. “This guy said, ‘Nobody wants to see another old guy telling people what their stuff is worth. Why don’t you get yourself on ‘Antiques Roadshow’?’” Quinn chuckled.
Eight seasons later, Quinn, who focuses appraisals on pottery and porcelain, is a decorative arts specialist on the show. He is currently touring for its 22nd season.
“‘Antiques Roadshow’ is unbelievably authentic in what it does.” Quinn recalled. “They put you through TV school to teach you how to build a segment on television. How are you going to talk about the object? How are you going to tell the story? Ultimately, the first time we share the story of the piece is on camera, so that the filming experience is as authentic as possible.”
Back at home in the auction house, Matt has been involved in some astounding sales. One of the more memorable cases was the auction of an original Roy Lichtenstein painting that a client purchased in the 1960s for a mere $27.50. After caring for an ill family member and battling breast cancer herself, she decided in 2010 that it was time to sell the painting and contacted Quinn. The painting was confirmed to be genuine and, while it was estimated to sell for approximately $40,000, bidding closed at a jaw-dropping $127,000.
“Those are the moments that you live for,” Quinn said, “You look back on it, and that’s the reason we do this. You have those opportunities to help a family that really needs the money.”
It’s not just the thrill of handling valuable antiques or touring with Antiques Roadshow that Matt enjoys. He believes, above anything else, that he was meant to help the senior community.
“That’s why I’m here. To help people through these transitions with credibility and sensitivity.”
Quinn doesn’t call himself an auctioneer; he refers to himself as a “solution provider,” trying to find solutions for adult children as they make the decision to move an elderly parent to a senior care facility, or the woman who suddenly lost her husband and is now trying to determine her next steps.
Quinn often helps clients who are attempting to downsize or who are going through the estate dissolution process, ensuring they maximize their return. To help people navigate those challenging transitions and life changes, he operates with authenticity and sensitivity. One of his mantras is “There is no ‘no’ — there’s only ‘how?’” When people come to Quinn for help, he believes it’s his job to find the best solution that works for their situation – whether it be through an estate sale, an auction, donating items or the sale of a house.
Constantly surrounded by rare antiques and collectibles, you might expect Quinn to be a collector himself, but he says he prefers not to have a lot of stuff. Although most of their house has been decorated with furniture and pieces from auctions and estate sales, he and his girlfriend prefer to travel and make memories.
“We don’t collect things,” Quinn stated. “We collect memories.”