A Question of Value

Stories from the Life of an Auctioneer

By Robert Brunk

204 pp., 6 x 9

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7809-2
    Published: February 2024
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7810-8
    Published: February 2024

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In the late 1970s, Robert Brunk discovered the world of auctioneering. Drawn to the unique mountain culture and the history of fine art in and around Asheville, North Carolina, Bob started a business, Brunk Auctions, that became part of a bustling network of commerce. America's passion for collecting, buying, and selling reached remarkable heights in the following decades. Auction houses and antiques stores thrived; people paid hundreds of dollars for a humble country basket and thousands for a rare piece of folk art.

In this collection of compelling, compassionate essays, Bob considers specific items and remarkable situations he encountered in his long and successful work as an auctioneer and appraiser. He presents objects as invitations to consider personal and collective histories often related to unresolved social inequities. Bob also describes how, as his business grew to offer the finest examples of American and European art, his career often conflicted with his Mennonite background and the complexities of ownership and value. The result is a portrait that reflects the best and worst of us as we search for ways to live with objects—and then decide what to do when it’s time to let them go.

About the Author

Robert Brunk’s writing has been widely published and listed as Notable in Best American Essays. He is the founder of Brunk Auctions in Asheville, NC.
For more information about Robert Brunk, visit the Author Page.


"Deeply thoughtful and elegant in its forthright simplicity, A Question of Value is one of the best books on collecting in many years."—Antiques and the Arts Weekly

“In his new memoir . . . the gavel-wielding philosopher shares wisdom gleaned from his many years on the road and in the salesroom. [Brunk’s] empathetic tales capture the comedy, pathos, joy, and ultimate mystery that is collecting.”—The Magazine Antiques

"Robert Brunk's remarkable story of the creation of his regional auction house in Asheville, North Carolina, is a testament to his hard work, intelligence, perseverance, and integrity. This is a fascinating read!"—William W. Stahl Jr., vice chairman of Sotheby’s Decorative Arts, North America (retired)

"Bob Brunk's essays, like the auction business he chronicles, bring fresh life to old artifacts. In fact, his reminiscences made me see objects anew: as the guardians of secrets and stories. This is a book for the unconscious collector in each of us."—Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian and The Shadow Land

"This clever and inventive book is as much an affirmation of humanism as it is a question of value. I look forward eagerly to a second volume."—William Underwood Eiland, director emeritus, Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia

"A Chinese vase found at a yard sale sells for $1.2 million in Asheville and then $7.4 million in Hong Kong. That's the headline. Want the details? An emotional thrill ride for antique lovers, Bob Brunk's essay collection tells this story and those of thirty other fine objects."—Pete Prunkl, Maine Antique Digest