Farm auctions online aren’t the same

During the winter our mailbox is filled with flyers for farm equipment auctions. Usually auctions are in person, but over the last few years we’ve been attending more online auctions.

There’s something about a live auction. Usually you know the farmer and it’s either a retirement or estate sale. You can see the equipment, sit in the cab, and turn it on. During the sale, the crowd talks about the prices, weather, and crops while they wait for the lot they’re interested in. The musical chant of an auctioneer pulls you in as they get the crowd motivated to bid, playing bidders against each other until the final gavel. Spotters scan the crowd for bids and let out their own unique call when they’ve caught the nod of head or another indicator the price has been raised. 

There are still some live auctions being held, but more of the flyers arriving are for online auctions – which aren’t new for the industry but relatively new to us.   

Two years ago, we bought a tractor during a live online auction. It’s almost like being there in person, except you are participating on the computer or your phone. You can hear the auctioneer and still get pulled into the excitement of the bidding. From a chair in the farm office, we bought a tractor out of the Midwest.

This year we participated in our first timed online auction. It reminded me of eBay: Bidding opens on a certain day and stays open for a week or more. You know what time the bidding closes, but it’s a soft close so if a bid comes in during the last minute, the auction is extended to allow for someone to raise it. The lots time out throughout the day, so, just like a live auction, you can watch it all day. Unlike a live auction, you know when the lot you’re interested in will close, so you don’t have to wait around for your item to come up. 

I can see advantages to timed online auctions. Equipment up for bid can be anywhere. The recent sale I mentioned had equipment listed that was spread across the United States. While you can’t sit in the driver’s seat, the listings have detailed photos and videos so you can see and hear the equipment running. You can bid from the field and don’t have to miss a day’s work to attend.

While online auctions have benefits, I hope the days of live auctions aren’t over. The call of the auctioneer, murmur of the crowd, and excitement of watching it live can’t be replaced by a screen. 

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