TruTV’s reality series Container Wars centers around a group of explosive personality players who bid big money on shipping cargo containers from around the world. These containers are auctioned by John Kunkle, an auctioneer of over thirty years. John has honed his skills and craft and currently holds the unofficial title as the “Seasoned Auctioneer Extraordinaire” of Southern California.

John permeates goodness. Friendly, outgoing and one of the nicest, sweetest, most sincere people you will ever meet both online and in real life. He took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for

John Kunkle Interview

Q: You became an auctioneer after attending Missouri Auction School in 1979. Missouri-Auction-School-LogoHow have auctions changed over the years?

A. They’ve become more popular! Auctions and Auctioneers were rare in 1979, at least here in California. I remember calling home. Checking in with my wife while I was attending school (via black dial coin operated public phone booth), and sharing with her how auctions were numerous in Missouri. As common as garage sales in California and wishing I’d had a 40 foot trailer to fill and bring home.

Q: How did you get the nickname, “Dairy Farmer?”

A: Doing exactly what Mo (cast member on Container Wars) is constantly accusing me of, “milkin’ the bid.” I was tagged with that phrase years ago when calling bids at the Long Beach Police impound car auction, where naturally folks wanted a deal, while at the same time my job was to extract as much money as possible! Funny thing, we always reached a compromise.

Q: Who influenced you into becoming an auctioneer?

A: In the early 70’s I knew this guy who bought cars for folks at the L.A. Auto Auction. I’d go hang with him occasionally on sale nights and naturally was intrigued by the rhythmic, fast talking auctioneers. In the mid 70’s I found myself working for Long Beach Fleet Maintenance where they performed auction sales in-house, selling end-of-life surplus equipment. I expressed interest in becoming an auctioneer, and my boss thought I was a natural for it. 

Q: You began your auctioneer career in 1979 auctioning cars, equipment and miscellaneous property as the “City’s Auctioneer” of Long Beach. Then auctioning antiques in the ‘90‘s, but in 1981 you became the premier SoCal charity and fundraising auctioneer. What happened? How or why did you switch from commercial auctions to charity auctions?

A: So, I’m picking up my kids from preschool one day back in ’81, and one of the moms approached me with her knowledge of my being an auctioneer. She asked me if I’d help out with the charity organization she volunteered for by my calling bids at their upcoming gala fundraiser. I said “sure” and the rest is history.

Q: What’s the strangest item you’ve auctioned to date?

A: Vasectomy operation donated by a surgeon at that very first fundraiser auction.

Q: What’s the most expensive item you’ve auctioned to date?

A: $220,000 went down to the gavel and passed on to local Long Beach Children’s Charities for the sale of the opportunity to participate in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race held annually in conjunction with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Made the headlines. Even the Mayor at the time said I was the “Man of the Day!”

You may hire John Kunkle through his website: His services include: Gala Benefits, Charity Auctions, Fundraisers and Emcee for Southern California. Call 1-562-552-0960 for more information.

Q: How far in advance should someone try to book you as an auctioneer for their event?

A: Not just limited to Southern California. I’m like Paladin in the old western TV series, Have Gavel – Will Travel. Spring and Fall are typically busy months for fundraisers and Friday-Saturday nights are when most folks schedule these events. Six months to a year in advance is common place. I often times receive last minute requests when auctioneers suddenly can’t make it. I’ve been known to drop what I’m doing and go give ’em a hand. 

Q: Are there any restrictions to how large an event should be, or any prerequisites for fundraisers before someone should consider hiring you?

A: Big or small. If I can help then that’s all that matters! 

Q: You auctioneer at many charity events. Is there a charity organization that is closest to your heart and why?

A: I’m an emotional guy that gets choked up and teary eyed at the mention of Sad-Childhumanity helping humanity. The causes and needs are as infinite as the complexities of our minds. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with the good feeling that a group I was part of made a huge impact on the cause we were fighting for. Not one organization but “Children.”  Helping kids is closest to my heart because they are the future!

Container Wars


Q: You didn’t audition for the role of auctioneer on Container Wars, instead T-Group Productions found you. How did that come about?

A: Well I did actually perform an audition to compete against the other auctioneers, but I  wasn’t actually out looking for this gig! I think my being selected is testament to the success of social media and the importance of owning a web page in this day and age. T-Group “Googled” and I received an e-mail when I was vacationing in Washington D.C. They’d seen my website and it’s accompanying video’s, and wanted to set up a meeting. The rest is history as they say.

Q: Describe what it is like to work on Container Wars, which probably has the most enthusiastic, high-voltage, high-drama, craziest cast of any auction reality series on television today.

A: It’s just like those Police Impound Auctions I did for 25 years. I still say it’s like herding cats! I gotta bunch of unruly individuals out to make a killing on a good deal, when in fact none of ’em have the monopoly on the concept! In a fundraiser auction folks applaud a high bid. Raising bids on containers full of surprise and potential profit might get rotten tomatoes thrown atcha!

Q: What the television audience may not realize is that a half-hour show does not take a half-hour to film, but instead you film for hours or even days. How long does it take to film one episode of Container Wars from start to finish, including all of the cast’s interview shots?

A: Minimum of a “Sun up, to Sun down” day! I like to say we give ’em 22 miles of film for 22 minutes of TV!

Q: When you saw yourself for the first time on national television on that first episode of Container Wars; what ran through your mind?

A: My dad woulda got a kick outta that!

Q: In Container Wars, the tension among the cast erupts like a volcano almost weekly. Will the high drama continue throughout the seasons? Hope you have insurance!

A: Like the contrail that follows a jet across the sky, some things are inevitable in this world. The competitive tension among the cast is real and can erupt at the drop of a hat! Yes, I got insurance!

Q: Describe each cast member:


A: Deana: Determined | Matthew: Intense | Jason: Funny | Mo: Doer 
Ty: Contemplator | Uzi: Zany | Shlomi: Money | Eyal: Grounded

Q: Container Wars’ cast are the high-rollers of all auction series because the containers go for tens of thousands of dollars. Who would you rank as the top buyers due to their expertise at this level of high stakes auctions?

A: Matthew’s got the eye for value as does Jason, Deana and Mo & Ty. All of ’em are experts, but in a variety of fields of merchandise. The Israelis on the other hand have an insatiable hunger for the gamble, the win, and are seemingly willing to bankroll bids to oblivion!

Q: Who is the craziest cast member, and by crazy, I mean most unpredictable.

A: Uzi !

Q: Which cast member is the most fun to work with?

A: That’s like asking which Porsche is the best to own. All of ’em is my answer!

Q: Anything you’d like to say about any of the cast that may surprise us?

A: I’m no fool. I ain’t goin there!

Q: Fair enough. Anything you’d like to say about yourself that would surprise us?

A: I used to be shy as a kid…

John is very active on Facebook. Be sure to “Like” his fan page at John Kunkle Auctioneer: He keeps his fan base up-to-date on his latest gala/benefit gigs. He also posts videos of auctions and photos of his rest and relaxation shenanigans.

Q: You posted a photo of yourself riding a motorcycle on Facebook. How long have you been a motorcycle enthusiast and what bike(s) do you own?Harley-Softail-Springer

A: Been riding motorcycles over 50 years! When I was eight my brother taught me how to shift his 3-speed Vespa! Dirt bikes, race cars, crotch rockets… I’m a gear head from way back. Right now we got two in the stable: Harley Rode Glide for touring, and a Harley Softail Springer for puttzin around.

Q: What are you hobbies?

A: Been workin’ to make my house a solid and comfortable place for my family to hang their hats in for over 35 years. I suppose that’s my consistent hobby. I gotta say though that  over time I’ve had many pastimes and indulgences that have changed with my age and physical abilities. Right now, watchin’ my grand kids grow is my #1 hobby!

Q: How long have your been married and how many children do you have?

A: Married the one and only ‘Lil Debbie 40 years ago. Blessed with two of the best daughter’s a man could wish for and three grand kids and counting.

Q: What is on your bucket list?

A: To see my grandchildren grow to be happy and content in life, love and career!

Q: What is your best attribute?

A: You can count on me!

Q: What is your worst attribute?

A: I talk alot (says my wife).

Q: What motto(s) do you live by?


  • Live and let live. 
  • Never say never.
  • Do onto others as they’d do onto you.
  • Live to ride, ride to live. 
  • Never sword fight with Zorro. 
  • Never spit into the wind.

Q: How do you wish be remembered when every thing is said and done?

A: He never told a lie!



Much has been said about how true-to-life reality television series really are, however one thing this interview unfolded as the truth: John Kunkle is genuine, a giving soul, and an all-around nice guy. He’s the real deal!

Container Wars airs on TruTv. Check your local listing for showtimes.

Let us know your thoughtful opinions about this interview in the comment box below.