[dropcap]A[/dropcap]lmost 20 years ago, James Jackson left a career in marketing and advertising to take his father’s Cedar Falls-based auction business to the next level. Now called Jackson’s International Auctioneers and Appraisers, that business has catapulted into the global realm as a source for fine art and antiques. Jackson’s boasts annual revenues of between $10 million and $15 million, and enamored clients from Russia and China fly in to preview its sales.
Jackson’s father, H. James “Jim” Jackson, was a history-loving schoolteacher who 40 years ago started helping neighbors research and appraise their most valued possessions. Eventually, he began holding summer auctions at which his son helped out. The younger Jackson developed a fascination for old things and accompanied his father on antiquing jaunts—especially when the Jackson family lived for a while in Germany.
Later, during his own job-related travels, the younger Jackson visited dealers and auction houses and built a private collection of art and antiques. In the early 1990s, he took stock of all the time he’d spent working and all the trips he’d taken alone. “I didn’t have a life,” he says flatly.
“Ninety-nine percent of what we sell leaves Iowa,” Jackson says. “Twenty-five percent of that goes out of the United States. The world is our market.”
So he opted to return to his father’s auction business and transform it into something that definitely was not his father’s auction business. He bought a building in Cedar Falls as a place to hold his sales. The software revolution allowed him to print full catalogs easily. “And now,” he explains, “with our current e-world, you don’t have to be on Madison Avenue. You can be anywhere and everywhere at the same time.”
One of Jackson’s strong interests is in venerable Russian icons, and his auction house has become known for its Russian offerings. But his affection for Russia extends to its people as well. Jackson befriends Russian foreign-exchange students at the University of Northern Iowa; his artist wife, Tatiana, was one of them. In addition to her own endeavors, Tatiana translates catalog descriptions. “Even before the Russian Revolution, a lot of Russian art and antiques came to the West,” Jackson says. (He recommends the book “Russian Art and American Money, 1900-1940” on that subject.) These days, wealthy Russians and Asian connoisseurs are buying back their nations’ treasures. “Ninety-nine percent of what we sell leaves Iowa,” Jackson says. “Twenty-five percent of that goes out of the United States. The world is our market.” Written by LouLou Kane