STEVENS POINT — Bitter cold weather may have been an unwelcome guest at this year’s Wisconsin Auctioneers Association Convention in Stevens Point Jan. 27-29, but Kendall Thiel, WAA president, said it was still a highly anticipated event for the organization.
For the third year, the convention kicked off with the Antique and Vintage Appraisal Fair, a free appraisal event open to the public.
“This year’s attendance was down because of the cold, but in other years at 8 in the morning, we have had people lined up here with antiques to appraise,” Thiel said.
The appraisal fair was one of the ways WAA wanted to give back to the community where they were hosting the annual convention, which moves around the state from year to year. Any donations that are given during the appraisal fair go to a local charity, which this year was the Portage County Humane Society.
“We pick a nonprofit organization to donate to and the public is able to bring in their antiques for appraisal. It is helping them out and we are helping the community,” he said.
The convention continued with breakout sessions and keynote speakers that provided information on a variety of topics facing the auction industry. Thiel said the convention provides not only a networking opportunity for members, but helps auctioneers stay ahead of the trends in the industry.
“Some of the biggest changes that we have seen are obviously the standard auctioneer on site going to the online auctions. That has been a change over the last 10 years. There is definitely still a fit for the online auction and still a fit for live auctions,” he said.
Another trend Thiel said is growing are auctioneers breaking away from traditional auctions to do only fundraisers.
“There are some auctioneers who will only do charity events so they are a paid fundraising company hired to raise funds for organizations using the auction method of marketing,” he said, adding they often consult with organizations to determine what to sell, the number of items and other games that can be done to contribute to the fundraiser.
Thiel said a change in the Wisconsin auction industry in 2018 was the ability for counties to hire an auctioneer to conduct an online auction of foreclosed properties. This is a change from the sheriff standing on the courthouse steps to sell the properties. Thiel said he hasn’t seen a lot of counties adopt the change yet, but he anticipates more in the upcoming year.
Despite the numerous changes in the industry, Thiel said there is still a driving force for different types of auctions, noting that he has seen his auction crowds increase over the past few years.
“We did a survey in Wisconsin and found that hundreds of millions of dollars a year are sold by auction in Wisconsin. We have seen our crowds increase, which is tough to attribute if it is because we are selling a better product or if there is just more interest in auctions,” he said. “The TV shows out there helped drive the auction industry and made it known that there is almost nothing that you can’t sell.”
Charity auctions have also drawn people to the live auction model, Thiel said, with more people experiencing a live auction for the first time in that format and deciding to attend a regular auction. He said it is important for auctioneers to make the auction an event effective in selling the merchandise and entertaining for the people.
“Those crowds are seeing auctioneers and if they are seeing the fun things they do, they also want to attend other auctions,” he said.
The convention also provided members an opportunity to network, creating a resource that can be used throughout the year when coming across merchandise they have questions about.
“I’ve met a lot of people here that I’ve called about different items just to ask their advice about if this is the proper way to sell it or what a rough value would be,” he said. “That is knowledge you can’t find anywhere else.”