Auctioneers compete against peers

Posted: August 28, 2012

Left to right: Auctioneers Ben Yoder, Steve Howell, Josh Puffenbarger, H.L. Wenger and Mark Craig competed at the 35th annual Virginia State Champion Auctioneer Contest in early August. (Photo by courtesy photo)
“One dollar, now two. Two dollars, would you give me three?”

Five area auctioneers took center stage at the 35th Annual Virginia State Champion Auctioneer Contest. The Virginia Auctioneers Association sponsored the event Aug. 4, in Powhatan, Va.

Josh Puffenbarger, of Mount Solon, Mark Craig, of Bridgewater, H.L.Wenger, of Harrisonburg, and Ben Yoder and Steve Howell, both of Stuarts Draft, competed against 10 other auctioneers from across the state. Yoder, Puffenbarger and Wenger took fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively. Brian Damewood, from Leesburg, was named this year’s champion.

“There’s nothing more aggravating and nerve wracking than to be judged by your peers,” Puffenbarger said.  “It makes you pretty nervous. All auctioneers’ nerves play a big part in getting up there.”

The contestants faced a five-judge panel of prominent auctioneers that included past state champions, one national competition winner and two out-of-state judges.

The bid-callers were graded on chant, rhythm, presence and auction ability. For the first round, they sold “everything….good stuff” at a live auction, Puffenbarger said.

Six advanced to the next round. In addition to being questioned on their knowledge of the auction industry, the finalists auctioned more items including “fabulous coins and sports memorabilia,” Puffenbarger said. “I sold a tool set and a Mickey Mantle autograph, which you can’t get anymore.”
“This year’s contest was one of the strongest ever,” said VAA president Shield Jones in a press release. “The judges, who did an outstanding job, had one of the greatest challenges of the night.”

The ironic part of the competition for Puffenbarger was competing against his former employer, Mark Craig, of Mark Craig Auctions and his current employer Ben Yoder, owner of Enlisted Auctions. Yoder jokingly told Puffenbarger if he won, he couldn’t be on his crew anymore.

Puffenbarger, who’s been an auctioneer for less than two years, got into the business on a whim.

“I actually never even thought about it. It all got started by a friend of mine,” he said.

Puffenbarger traveled with his buddy to St. Louis, Mo. for an 80-hour auctioneering class, which is a prerequisite to the Commonwealth’s state-regulated test.

“A room of rookies” practiced chanting constantly for the 10-day course.

“We practiced on the way up and down the road, in the room, on lunch break,” he said. “….These idiots talking to themselves.”

This was Puffenbarger’s second year competing in the annual VAA event. Last year, he didn’t make the top six and doesn’t know where he ranked.

“I’d like to think I was No. 7. That’s what I tell everybody—that I tied for No. 7,” Puffenbarger quipped. “My goal this year was to make the top six and I succeeded my goal. So next year, we’ll set the goal higher and try again.”
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