When the gavel raps to start a sale this month at the offices of a 73-year-old auction house, the third-generation family business will take farm auctions into the Internet age.
Scott Brown and his son, Jamie, owners of Brown Auction and Real Estate, along with employee Mike Burkhart, have formed AgAuctions LLC to offer a live simulcast auction via the Web.
The auction will combine traditional farm sales with Internet technology, allowing bidders around the country to join those at a live auction in Greensburg, Jamie Brown explained.
Unlike timed Internet auctions, such as on eBay where there's a deadline to submit a bid online, the auctions by AgAuctions "will offer the excitement created by the auctioneer's chant," Scott Brown said.
"We've been doing Internet bidding on antiques for three years," Jamie Brown said. "We saw a need in the marketplace to extend it to farm sales."
Every item included in the auction will be listed on the business website in advance of the sale, offering information about the item and its location, so that potential buyers can inspect the item in person prior to the sale if they desire, Jamie Brown said.
For the first sale, set for Dec. 17, they expect several dozen items on site or at a storage site the business owns about three blocks away, Brown said. They're still accepting consignments for the sale.
"Items not here in Greensburg will usually be sitting wherever the seller happens to live," Brown said. "We have some in Scott City, some in Great Bend, there's a tractor in Woodward, Okla."
During the sale "we'll have an on-site live crowd for the auction and we'll sell the items off a big screen projector," he explained. "At the same time the crowd is bidding live, Internet bids can come in."
Rather than stand outside in the weather next to the equipment being sold, buyers can sit inside in comfort, enjoying a cup of coffee at the live auction, as well as at home.
"Bidders more comfortable with Internet bidding will be able to participate in the bidding from their office, tractor or on the ranch," Scott Brown said. "We think this is the best of both worlds."
Thanks to the Internet connection and computer software, buyers will also be able to pre-bid for items, Jamie Brown said.
"If for some reason they can't be present, they can leave a maximum bid in front of the sale and the system will automatically bid for them," Brown said. "It doesn't bid up unless someone bids to push it up."
For example, if a bidder leaves a maximum bid of $10,000 for a vehicle, if the opening bid is only $1,000, the pre-bid may start at $1,250 and step up in increments automatically as other bids are received. Lower bid totals will result in lower incremental increases.
Page 2 of 2 - Brown Auction has been in business in Kiowa County since 1940, founded by Scott Brown's father and his brother, John and Jerry Brown. In the 1970s Scott Brown took the business over and Jamie joined it about 10 years ago.
"It's pretty much a small family operation, with me, my father and mother and two other full-time employees," Jamie Brown said.
Using the live online auction brings a wider audience to sellers, but also keeps it relatively local, Brown said.
"Our area of focus is from about Interstate 135 west to Colorado, and from the Nebraska state line to the first couple of counties south into Oklahoma," he explained. "There are other companies selling online from this area, but they're such large companies, spread out all over the Midwest and U.S., they don't really focus heavily in this area."
"When you go to our site, the first thing you'll know is that everything for sale will be located in this area, in western Kansas. As a bidder you're not going to be looking at an item and find its four states away."
The Browns expect to offer an online simulcast three or four times a year. After the December auction, the next will probably be in March, as farmers gear up for spring planting and dealers make room on their lots for new equipment, Brown said.
"By doing only three or four a year, that allows us enough time for each auction on both the front and back ends, to do due diligence and treat the seller and buyer alike with a good quality customer service experience," he said. "A lot of times after a sale, if there's a little hiccup or trouble getting the seller and buyer lined up on the right day to pick up an item, we're here to assist. We spread them out so we have time to do the service and we're not so busy focusing on the next auction."