Whale of a sale

THR assets up for auction

click to enlarge Jeff Parsons
Jeff Parsons

What’s bigger than a Hummer but smaller than an elephant?

Dregs from the empire that was once THR and Associates, an erstwhile buy-and-sell Springfield outfit that declared bankruptcy seven years ago, with its founder Jeff Parsons facing criminal investigation and lawsuits galore.

Auctioneer Kurt Aumann can’t recollect exactly when he was summoned to the FBI building in Springfield to pick up a load – bankruptcy court documents indicate it was sometime last year, when estate trustee Jeffrey Richardson reported that he and an auctioneer had picked up more than 70 boxes from the feds. According to Richardson’s 2018 report to the court, the FBI investigation was complete. No charges have been filed. Richardson did not return a call or email.

Aumann says he arrived with both a truck and trailer, and both were beyond full when he departed. “When we went to pick it up, my trailer was so squatted down,” Aumann recalls. He drove to a scale. “It was 9,300 pounds,” Aumann says. A full-grown elephant weighs 12,000 pounds; a Hummer weighs 6,400 pounds.
It was largely doodads with little apparent value, according to inventory sheets filed in bankruptcy court that include lot after lot of items with identical descriptions: “Large Costume Jewelry Lot: Flats of unsearched costume jewelry. Weight unknown. Please refer to pictures. Lots include necklaces, rings, bracelets matched and unmatched earrings. Lots are made up of vintage and newer jewelry and could include marked and signed gold, silver and gold-filled pieces.”

Also on the block are lots of sterling jewelry and lots of wristwatches, sorted by brand, that include such stalwart watchmakers as Omega and Bulova. “We tried to sort through it, but when you’re dealing with five tons,” Aumann says, “It’s like, is the juice worth the squeeze sort of thing.”

THR made its reputation, good or bad, from setting up purchasing events at hotels, convention centers and meeting halls throughout the nation, buying coins, jewelry and most anything containing precious metal. The company also had an appetite for antiques. Given the volume of jewelry now in his warehouse, Aumann guesses that much of it was purchased in bulk. He compares the online auction that ends Oct. 18 to a treasure hunt – who knows what riches lurk inside these trinket-stuffed plastic bags, most of which have attracted the minimum $1 bid.

Aumann allows that the volume surprised him, but, then again, he’s sold such THR treasures as an electric chair and baseballs autographed by Henry Aaron, Carlton Fisk and Don Larsen in past auctions. “We’ve done this dance before,” Aumann says. “The whole thing amazes me all the time.”

Beyond jewelry, the auction includes pocket knives, lighters, war memorabilia, an autographed photo of Vito “Babe” Parilli, a star AFL quarterback during the 1960s who got a Super Bowl ring by virtue of being Joe Namath’s backup, and a baseball signed by Maury Wills, known for his base stealing, partying and claim to have bedded Doris Day, who said it wasn’t true. There are, also, dolls: “This lot contains tons of paper dolls, cut-outs, pop-outs, accessories, too much to explain,” reads a description in bankruptcy files.

Big ticket items sold in past years include real estate, a Bentley, various vehicles and artwork. Court documents show that the pace of sales has slowed in recent years. Between the autumn of 2017 and fall of 2018, the most recent year that the trustee has filed an annual report, the bankruptcy estate collected less than $19,000 from sales of THR assets. All told, the estate has collected nearly $5.7 million from asset sales, judgments and other sources since asset sales began in 2013, according to the 2018 report.

That’s a fraction of what THR owes creditors, the biggest one being the Internal Revenue Service, which submitted a claim of more than $13 million for unpaid taxes. The Illinois departments of revenue and employment security together say they are owed more than $1.2 million. Both the state and the federal governments were left owing millions in a separate bankruptcy case filed by Parsons. In that case, which was concluded in 2016, more than $57 million worth of claims were filed and slightly more than $1 million was paid to creditors. The IRS submitted nearly $36.5 million in claims and was paid $370,000; the Illinois Department of Revenue submitted nearly $1.6 million in claims and received $2,700.

At last report, Parsons lives in Texas, where he has run estate sales with the help of his wife, who’s been convicted of theft and forgery and served prison time. In 2014, the trustee in the THR bankruptcy case won a $2.2 million judgment against Parsons, an amount he was alleged to have improperly taken from the company after it became insolvent. According to the 2018 status report filed by the THR trustee, Parsons has been making $1,000 monthly payments.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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