The best things can’t be found online

By Matt Reese

Those working in the auction trailer for Harley and Hal Jackson Auctioneers are getting used to the question at sales.

Auctioneer Harley Jackson selling toy tractors.

“Is that the auctioneer out there parking the cars?”

The answer: “Yup, he likes to introduce himself and shake your hand as you’re walking into the sale. He enjoys doing that.”

In today’s virtual age, society has realized many benefits of doing business online, though many parts of life — and some would argue some of the very best parts — can be lost online. 

“I’m an old-style auctioneer. I’ve been in the business for 32 years, so the in-person live auctions are kind of special to me, because that’s what I grew up with. I like to shake hands with the people that are coming to the sales. I like to be able to thank them. It’s just about being personable. That’s how I’ve built my reputation,” Harley Jackson said. “We are still a traditional, live in-person auction company. We do offer online bidding and online sales. Usually, we sit down with the family or the people that we’re having the auction for, and I give them my best recommendation. We’re well rounded. We’ll do farm machinery, then we’ll follow up and maybe do a farm toy auction. And then we may follow up and have a collectible sale or we’ll sell some firearms and stuff like that.”

In cases where there is only a small amount to sell, online only may be the best. In other cases, a combination of in-person and online may be better. 

“I think the online sales have their place. I think there are certain items that you need to have online sales or online bidding. I think it opens it up to the world,” Jackson said. “But some of these auctions in-person provide the ability to make a relationship with the buyers. There are pros and cons. I think the pro of the live in-person auctions is having the ability to communicate with people, still shake their hands, still look them in the eye and say, ‘Hey, I’m Harley. How are you today?’ and ‘Thanks for coming.’”

One growing concern about getting people to travel to in-person auctions is rising fuel costs.

“Fuel costs are a worry for us. As of right now, though, we have not seen that it has deterred anyone from coming. We are still doing live in-person auctions and we’re still getting large crowds there,” Jackson said. “We look at the fuel costs with every sale and think, ‘This has to affect something.’ But it hasn’t shown up yet.”

For the unique area of farm toys and collectibles, in-person auctions have particular value.

“We’ve had several of those sales here in 2022 already that were just strictly for farm toys and collectibles and they’ve really held their value. And I think part of it is that we’ve done those sales live in-person with online bidding. We’ve sent some stuff across the United States, but we’ve had large crowds in person too. I think it’s just they want to get out. It doesn’t seem that any brand of farm toys is outselling another. There’s a collector for each brand whether it is John Deere or IH or Minneapolis Moline and we have not seen a downturn in it yet,” Jackson said. “We’ve got a guy from up by Lake Erie that will come to our farm toy auctions. And we’ll have a guy from Cincinnati come too. They never knew each other until they started coming to buy farm toys. They will show up and sit beside one another. They visit the whole day and buy farm toys and talk about ‘oh you got this bought’ or ‘I got that bought.’ I do think that has helped keep the farm toys up in value. And we’re also seeing a trend of getting a younger crowd. We’re starting to see some younger generations — grandkids are coming with their grandpa, and some boys and girls are coming with their parents— which really makes me excited for that part of the business.” 

For land and equipment there has been a more business-like shift.

“The farm auction is a little bit different. If you would have asked me 20 years ago, I would have said yeah, there’s guys showing up just to eat a cheeseburger off the food stand. Now they’ll visit with the neighbors, but it doesn’t seem like they’re there for that. I’m not saying neighbors don’t sit by neighbors, but they’re there to do business,” he said. “This farmland has gotten so expensive, as every other auctioneer will tell you, and today it’s real business.” 

Whether for business or for pleasure, Jackson feels in-person auctions still have something special to offer that cannot be found online.

“I think we’re still creating excitement with in-person auctions. As an auctioneer, I’ve watched many online sales. And you know, I don’t get the same butterflies in my stomach with an online auction that I do at a live in-person auction on a Saturday morning,” he said. “You create excitement, and it seems like people still enjoy that.”

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