Champion Bid Caller is the Son of a Champion

1/19/2013 7:00 AM
By Dick Wanner Reporter

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Matt Hostetter of Beaver Falls, Beaver County, Pa., bested 29 other bid callers and was named champion auctioneer at the 34th Pennsylvania Auctioneers Association Bid Calling Contest, held Wednesday, Jan. 9, at the 2013 Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

His father, Sherman Hostetter, won the same title in 1992. Both father and son work in the family business, Hostetter Auctioneers, in Beaver Falls.

Matt Hostetter has never known a time when auctions were not a part of his day-to-day reality. He was just 15 years old when he took a two-week course at the Reppert School of Auctioneering in Indianapolis, Ind., and he has been calling bids ever since.

For the 28-year-old Hostetter, there’s a lot to like about the auction business.

“I like the thrill of it,” he said in an interview after the contest was over. “I like transferring my excitement to a crowd of bidders. And I like working with different sellers and different buyers. It’s not the kind of job where I would sit in a cubicle for eight hours a day.”

Hostetter isn’t even limited to one country when he plies his bid calling skills. About once a month, he flies to Europe to do contract work for a multi-national auction company. On one assignment in England, he sold a Komatsu PC 600 — an excavator that’s bigger than many houses — for £200,000, which equates to about $300,000.

At home in Beaver Falls, Hostetter said the family auction business has sold everything from pots and pans to a $2 million real estate parcel. He’s excited about the future of the auction business, both on site and online. He said the company has been dealing more and more with online buyers and sellers, and that there’s an important difference between the online giant eBay, and an actual auction.

On eBay, he said, when a sale gets to the end of its time limit, the sale is over. In a true online auction, a bid will extend the bidding, just as it would in an auction house or an on site sale. If an auctioneer says, “Going once, going twice ... ,” and waves his hammer in the air, the sale does not end if someone in the audience holds up his bidding number. That’s part of the excitement of a live auction, and Hostetter thinks online sales can be just as exciting, and that they are going to grow in importance.

Just as the father-son connection made a bit of history at this year’s contest, so too did the race for runner-up. After the judges’ scores were tabulated, there was not just one first-place runner-up, or two, but three auctioneer contestants with exactly the same scores. And they all got the prize.

The runners-up were Meryl Stoltzfus of Millerstown, Perry County, Pa.; Patrick Morgan of New Holland, Lancaster County, Pa., and Paul Storm of Hallam, York County, Pa.

Zackary Toomey of York, Pa., was named rookie of the year, which is awarded to auctioneers who have been licensed for less than two years.

Contestants were judged based on voice timbre, microphone control, knowledge of the products being sold, and timing of calling out bids. The participants drew at random for their position in the bid calling contest, and could only identify themselves by their contestant numbers, so they could be judged without bias.

In an auctioneer contest, the contestants have to sell things, and people have to buy things. A standing-room-only crowd of spectators did the buying, with everything from marbles to milk cans included in the 110 consignments. Proceeds from the auction went to the Pennsylvania Farm Show Scholarship Foundation.

After two rounds of the Farm Show competition, the judges named the top 10 auctioneers for a final round to determine the champion. The top 10 auctioneers were Jeff Pennington, New Castle, Lawrence County; William Bering Jr., Lebanon, Lebanon County; Mervin Stoltzfus, Millerstown, Perry County; Kathleen Mack, New Florence, Westmoreland, County; Andrew Yoder, Mt. Morris, Greene County; Chet Geyer, Macungie, Lehigh County; Mike Martin, New Holland, Lancaster County; Matt Hostetter, Beaver Falls, Beaver Co.; Pat Morgan, New Holland, Lancaster County; Paul Storm, Hallam, York County.

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