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tv   Bulls Bears  FOX Business  March 11, 2018 6:00am-6:30am EDT

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jamie@strangeinheritance.com. thanks so much for watching. and remember -- you can't take it with you. ♪ >> a man who can have anything... >> he'd lay awake nights trying to think of a way to make a dollar. >> ...throws nothing away. >> you must have said to grandpa, "this can go, can't it?" >> yes. and we told him that a million times. >> one strange inheritance. >> wow, and it's packed! >> one heavy burden. >> how much do you have? >> oh, about 3 million pounds. >> one heck of a yard sale. >> this has got to be the largest i've ever seen in my life. i said, "if you can organize it, we can inventory it, and we can sell it." >> [ auctioneer calling ] [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ]
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>> i'm jamie colby. and today, i'm in tulsa, oklahoma. i'm here to meet the son of a remarkably successful businessman and epic hoarder. file this under 80 years of grit and true metal and 40 acres of scrap metal. >> my name is john hemphill. in february 2016, my father passed away. he left me a thriving company that's a testament to his business acumen. he also left me a 3 million-pound headache that says a lot about my dad, too. >> i meet john in the lobby of hemphill corporation. and this was your dad. >> yeah, this is dad. he started the business back in the '50s. and i'm running it now. come on. i'll show you. >> as john drives me around the company, i come to understand the
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"jekyll and hyde" nature of his strange inheritance. these look like cell towers. >> yeah, these are guide towers for wireless communication. and that's our main business now. >> but his dad built that business while indulging his industrial-strength urge for collecting. big stuff -- iron, scrap metal, machinery... things you can't squirrel away in a closet. take, john says, these assembly-line carts, please. did he really need this many? >> oh, my goodness. no. and he didn't need the ones that are out in the yard. we have dozens and dozens. >> it all starts with this serious little guy, elmer hemphill, born in 1935 on a farm near tryon, oklahoma, to parents elsie and marvel. >> he learned his work ethic from my grandparents because they believed in work. >> the hemphills, like other oklahomans,
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are hit by drought and dust storms during the great depression. many of their neighbors flee to california. but they stay put. when elmer is just a kid, a stranger shows up at the farm to buy some hay. and the boy jumps at the chance to make a sale. >> i see you got four bales of hay there. >> my grandma looked outside, and he was talking to a guy that had shown up. >> how much you want for all four? >> for all four? >> she went out and asked if, uh, she could help him. and he said, "this young man's already taken care of it." turns out he did make a fair deal, probably better than grandpa would've made. but, uh... >> how old was he? >> she said he was 5 at the time. >> so he was a pint-sized deal maker. >> yes. >> at age 13, elmer convinces the town banker to give him a business loan. what is a 13-year-old borrowing money for? >> well, he was gonna use the money to buy registered sheep and raise 'em and sell 'em. and he made some good money. >> he had a mind
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like a steel trap. >> earl hart grew up with elmer, and they became friends for life. >> elmer'd lay awake nights trying to think of a way to make a dollar. he was just determined to succeed. >> in 1953, the teenage entrepreneur heads to the big city, tulsa, with 600 bucks and a simple philosophy. >> it was "you never know how far a toad'll jump until you punch it." what it really meant was "you can't just sit back and hope things happen. you gotta go after it." and he was definitely one to punch the toad. >> like when he starts his own drilling company, then goes on to manufacture machine parts for aerospace and military applications. along the way, elmer gets married and starts a family. as soon as he's old enough, son john joins him in the business. signs of his dad's obsession are everywhere. john just doesn't yet see them. >> my first job was cutting weeds.
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and i remember a lot of the stuff that's still here back in the '70s. having grown up with all this stuff, i really never thought of it as being as crazy as it was. >> no kidding. after all, business is booming. by the late 1970s, elmer's company has 150 employees. and his family's growing, too. four kids and then a brood of grandkids, including john's daughter, kristen, a chip off the ol' block, who learns about business and life from her papaw. sometimes he failed. >> and sometimes he really succeeded. but either way, he kept a good attitude. >> he also keeps that stubborn dust bowl "waste not, want not" mentality that increasingly baffles john. >> he would keep a piece of pipe that was, you know, 1 foot long. >> bigger stuff, too, like this defunct drilling rig purchased for 25k for a railroad project
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in west virginia back in 1967. or this contraption that dates back to the '80s. >> he actually invented this drilling rig for a special project for the tulsa expo to lash on to a pier to help secure the foundation. >> the tulsa exposition center endures as a city symbol. the big rig just gathers dust. but john doesn't complain. no questions asked of dad? >> no questions asked, no. when he looks at something, he doesn't see what a lot of us see. he sees potential. >> in the mid-'80s, when the price of crude oil plummets, elmer punches another one of those toads and ends up in the business of building transmission towers for those newfangled cellphones. >> we started building cell tower sites, and we've been building 'em ever since. probably built about 5,000 of 'em. >> but with each new endeavor, elmer's stockpile of retired
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equipment gets taller and wider and, john knows, increasingly irrelevant to the business at hand. what will hemphill ever do with these extra-large hydraulic rigs or thousands of feet of fencing? and is anyone saying at that point, "oh, my god, we gotta unload some of this stuff"? >> no. it was pretty much known that we just needed to put it where he wanted it put [laughs] and live with it. >> but living with it is about to become geometrically harder, for elmer's no longer content with stockpiling scrap and equipment left over from hemphill's own jobs. now he starts actually gobbling up other companies' junk just because. >> i don't care what it was. and if it was cheap enough, he'd buy it. and he said, "someday, it'll be worth something." >> that's next.
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>> so, what company made the world's first mobile phone call in 1973? it's "c," motorola. from a manhattan street corner, exec martin cooper called the headquarters of rival at&t to claim bragging rights. >> oklahoma business mogul elmer hemphill spends decades amassing a ginormous stash of industrial machinery, spare parts, and scrap metal that nobody, least of all his thriving company, really needs. having worked with his dad for years, elmer's son, john, is tiring of watching it all pile up. did he tell you what he was planning to do with it? >> he would always talk about how we could use it to build overhead bridge cranes and build fencing. >> but elmer's just a magnet that never lets anything go. eventually, he's drawn to other companies' scrap, like this plate-rolling system that elmer buys for $75,000,
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then puts out to pasture. >> if it was a piece of metal, he'd take it. i don't care what it was. and if it was cheap enough, he'd buy it. and he said, "someday, it'll be worth something." >> "if only it were just metals," says his son, john. >> he used to say that if a, uh, trainload of pencils was cheap enough, he'd buy it. >> that pencil train never arrives. instead, elmer catches the ones full of tractor seats, file cabinets, and office chairs. i assume i've seen it all? >> oh, no. no, there's -- there's a whole bunch more. >> bolts, bricks, drill bits, chains, springs, trucks, trailers, you name it. it all seems so random. >> it definitely is. >> it looks like junk. but, to him, was it treasure? >> oh, it was definitely treasure. >> if there's a day when john realizes his shrewd businessman
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dad is also, let's just say it, a hoarder on the industrial scale, it may be when this shipment arrives. what do we have here? >> these are, uh, machining tables from mcdonnell douglas. and they helped win the cold war. >> in what way? >> they were used to build the instruments and the parts for, uh, military aircraft. >> the cold war ends in 1991. but elmer's biggest hoarding years are still ahead of him. he grows his scrap collection to fill multiple warehouses and litter 40 acres of land surrounding his company headquarters. >> so, jamie, here's an interesting piece. and it's been sitting here for over 10 years. >> worth anything? >> it's really just scrap today. >> by this time, elmer's granddaughter, kristen, is trying to coax him to let go. >> something like this, you must've said to grandpa, "this can go, can't it?" >> yes. and we told him
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that a million times. >> but that old tulsa drilling rig stays, like everything else, including elmer, into his 80s. he's always been an iron man. but now there's rust on his fenders and creaks in his hinges. >> and, uh, one day, i said, "elmer, why don't you retire?" "oh, i don't wanna retire." he said, "when i die, i wanna be walking across this shop floor." >> in february 2016, elmer l. hemphill passes away surrounded by friends and family at the age of 80. >> it was the night of the super bowl. my stepmom, audrey, was right beside him. but we knew that it was time for him to go. >> son john inherits the business and all that heavy metal his dad hoarded while running it. >> all this steel -- how much do you have? >> oh, i'd estimate probably about 3 million pounds. >> millions? that's amazing. >> it just grew and --
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and grew and grew and, you know, we just need to get rid of it. >> and he's going to leave that job to his heir, daughter kristen. >> my grandfather could be rolling in his grave right now. >> up next, getting on top of this heap. >> i've appraised everything in america that's ethical, moral, or legal. and when i saw hemphill's collection, i was overwhelmed. >> here's another quiz question for you. the st. louis gateway arch, the george washington bridge, or the beijing national stadium? the answer when we return. are finding themselves morin a chevroletple
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>> so which architectural marvel is the largest steel structure in the world? it's the beijing national stadium. dubbed the bird's nest, it was built for the 2008 olympics with 110,000 tons of steel. >> when elmer hemphill dies, he leaves his son john his oklahoma business empire. but the strange part of this inheritance is a stockpile of cast-off equipment, machine parts, steel, and scrap. it's a 3 million-pound headache. so john figures he'll leave that to his daughter, kristen, and son-in-law, jim. >> i told jim and kristen that if it's a project they wanted to tackle, that i'd love for them to see if they had ideas. >> i'm always interested in taking on new projects. so dad asked us. and we were crazy enough to do it. i really felt like i needed to step up and help my dad out and help the family.
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>> but you can't just call goodwill to pick it all up. so, where to begin? did grandpa keep notes on all this stuff? >> he did, actually. in the back room, there is a library full of notes that papaw took about each project. >> so do they give values? were there bills of sale? >> no, there wasn't values. >> thank goodness for ebay. with a couple of mouse clicks, kristen finds out these antique carts, built to roll on railroad tracks, can fetch 1,500 bucks apiece. elmer has hundreds of 'em. and parts of the steel yard that look like scrap could be worth tens of thousands to individual buyers. kristen's thinking, "maybe grandpa elmer was right." and if she finds the right buyer, she'll turn his scrap iron into gold. but her husband, jim, weighs in with a reality check. there's 3 million pounds of this stuff!
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>> i don't wanna spend two or three years doing this. >> so he and kristen approach kristen's dad with a proposal. how about a massive auction, on-site at hemphill and across the world on the internet? >> they said, "well, what would you think about auctioning it?" and i thought, "boy, i don't know if dad would want that." and then i went home that night and i'm thinking, "well, i don't know why i didn't think of that earlier." >> so kristen and jim call in various auction houses. the immediate response -- "you're nuts." >> most of the auctioneers that jim and kristen talked to basically said, "we can't handle this. this is way too much for us." >> when i saw hemphill's collection, i was overwhelmed. this has got to be the largest collection that i've ever seen in my life. >> louis dakil of dakil auctions in oklahoma city, however, is up for the challenge. >> i've appraised everything in america that's ethical, moral, or legal.
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and i said, "if you can organize it, we can inventory it, and we can sell it." there's one saying we have in our industry -- you can't outlive iron. >> i have told 'em if we make some big money on it, great. and if we don't, it's okay. i think success is it being outta here. >> sounds like it's time to let the bidding begin. >> some things that i thought were, you know, potentially going in the trash are treasures to some people. >> that's next. what's your "strange inheritance" story? we'd love to tell it. send me an e-mail or go to our website, strangeinheritance.com. oh, manatees. aka "the sea cow"" oh! there's one. manatees in novelty ts?
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>> now back to "strange inheritance." >> in 2016, members of the hemphill family -- john, his daughter, kristen, and her husband, jim -- join forces to auction off 40 acres of cast-off
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machinery and equipment. it's a strange inheritance left to john by his dad, an oklahoma businessman with a love for all things iron and steel. louis dakil of dakil auctions says most of the bidding will take place online. and the plan is everything sells, no matter the price. >> this auction is an absolute auction. no minimums. everything that goes on the block will be sold. >> it takes kristen and jim three months to itemize and catalog grandpa's gargantuan inventory of heavy metal. finally, in august 2016, the big moment is here. how many lots are we talking? >> 1,186 lots. >> one of the first items up for bid, this antique trailer, fetches 300 bucks. these 100-foot monopole towers
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left over from elmer's early days in the cell tower business go for $230 each. things are selling fast, but cheap. >> i've been watching all morning, since 9:00. some things that i thought were gonna go for more are actually selling for less. >> [ auctioneer calling ] >> like these antique railroad carts, similar to one she saw on ebay for $1,000. hundreds sell, but for only 17 bucks apiece. >> [ auctioneer calling ] >> then there's that old railroad drilling rig, purchased in 1967 for 25k. it sells, but for only $4,000. and the gigantic plate-rolling system elmer bought in an old shipyard in south carolina for 75 grand sells for just 1,000. >> my grandfather could potentially be rolling in his grave right now. >> but kristen's delighted
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when this hydraulic plate shearer, designed to cut metal and alloy, goes for $2,025. and that rig elmer designed for the tulsa expo building, it goes for 4k. >> i had no idea how much that was gonna sell for, so that was a surprise. >> over the next 48 hours, the hammer falls on thousands of items. >> we sold some things for $4,000. we sold some things for 50 cents. so the price range was pretty large. >> so are you guys exhilarated or exhausted? >> both. i would say both. [ laughs ] >> the grand total -- 175,000 bucks. not exactly petty cash. but considering the time, effort, and money elmer invested, they have to admit, this was one toad that didn't jump so far. >> they love their grandfather. they love their father. but basically, his perfect storm
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was buying and storing, but never getting rid of anything. >> that's why, for john hemphill, the bottom line is all good. his strange inheritance is out the door. >> it's kind of, uh, oh, bittersweet because i know dad would wanna hang on to it. but i know it needs to be released. and ultimately, it's -- it's a good thing. >> back in 2013 when the hemphill corporation was renovating the office, elmer's kids surprised him with a gift befitting a successful entrepreneur -- a fancy desk, a big comfy chair and a flat-screen tv. elmer never touched it. instead, he took his ratty old desk, bought this second-hand trailer, put the desk inside, and drove around in it to every job site so he could be close to the action. and that's where you'd find him till the end of his days.
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i'm jamie colby. thanks so much for watching "strange inheritance." and remember -- you can't take it with you. >> his dream? big as a t-rex. >> when everybody else told him he was crazy, he just said, "no, i'm gonna build dinosaurs." >> his creation? a land before time. >> he was almost an engineer when it came to dinosaurs. >> can it survive without him? >> a lot of attractions that were the vision of a single person, all of a sudden they're gone, demolished. >> depends on his daughter... >> when you have an absolute passion, you think that other people feel the same way you do. >> his granddaughter... >> are you living on the edge, kiki, to make this all happen? >> a little bit. >> and his great-granddaughter. >> has your mom ever said, "we need to talk about the future of the park"? >> never. [ door creaks ]

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