When Darren McCarty filed for bankruptcy in 2006, he had to part with more than his fair share of sentimental items. He gave up photographs, his Corvette and even his three Stanley Cup rings, which he had won in better times playing on the Detroit Red Wings. But that was before McCarty endured an expensive divorce, suffered gambling debts and was traded to the Calgary Flames with a smaller contract. Suddenly, his most personal possessions were out of his hands and in the control of Curtis Kaye from C.B. Kaye & Associates, an auction company that sells seized items.
McCarty’s story is unfortunate, but today it’s far from unique. During the past few years, the country has been flooded with bankruptcies, foreclosures and, as a result, property seizures. More than 1.4 million companies and individuals filed for bankruptcy last year and 2.8 million homes were threatened with foreclosure in that time. For those unfortunate citizens who have their property seized, the story usually ends with a repo man taking your possessions and a court date somewhere down the road, but for the goods that are seized, this is only the beginning of a long and complicated story.
The world of seized property may seem a cold and mysterious one, but for 48-year-old Curtis Kaye, it’s just the family business, and he has been immersed in it as far back as he can remember. Long before Kaye took over the operations at C.B. Kaye & Associates, he was being groomed by his father to become an auctioneer. “I was pretty much forced into it as a child,” Kaye said. “Whenever there were breaks from school, my father would take me to work with him and his crew.”
Since then, Kaye has worked on “traditional auctions” as well as selling off goods that were seized after bank repossessions. About 15 years ago, federal authorities reached out to Kaye and made him one of their go-to guys in Michigan for selling off goods confiscated by the government. Does it bother him to profit from auctioning off other people’s treasured possessions? Not really.
“I equate what I do to that of a funeral director,” he said. “It’s a sad situation for the people involved, but the duties I perform are an integral part of moving forward with that process.”