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Elmer Yoder: Becoming an Auctioneer

Story by Kate Minnich: Amish Heartland Writer / Designer Published: April 1, 2016 5:00 AM

The path to a career is often riddled with indecision and uncertainty. Choosing a career to see an individual through their adult life, can often seem a daunting task, one that causes most to think twice about their decision. Will they want to be in the same occupation for the rest of their life? Will they be able to support a family?  Elmer Yoder was fortunate in that he knew what his dream occupation was, but he had to find the perfect supplemental job that would allow him the flexibility to be an auctioneer.  

At the age of 13, Elmer was able to acknowledge his dream occupation. The moment of enlightenment hit Elmer when his friends encouraged him to enter an amateur auctioneer competition being given at a local auction. Each contestant was asked to describe an imaginary horse and harness to the gathered crowd and then carry out the bidding process. While Elmer did not win this particular competition it created an interest and desire to learn more about being an auctioneer. From that moment on he carried a recorder to various auctions and would listen to them repeatedly.

The atmosphere and interactions with people were a couple reasons Elmer decided to become an auctioneer. Similar to that of a fair, the atmosphere at most auctions supplies a sense of anticipation and joy. Members of the surrounding community look forward to auction days, treating them similar to time spent at the county fair. The food vendors who work the auctions are generally those present at fairgrounds and their wares fill the air with familiar scents .

 There are steps to becoming an auctioneer; chief among them is the age requirement. In order to obtain a license to be an auctioneer an individual has to be at least 18 years old. This gave Elmer five years to wait and plan his future.

When the time finally arrived Elmer began his schooling to become an auctioneer. Attending a school in Medina for two weeks, Elmer learned all the logistics he would require in order to legally run an auction. The largest portion of the schooling was focused on the contracts that would secure the customer’s financial safety.

Typically all the money from the sale of each item is given over to the auctioneer. Then after the auction is complete, the auctioneer will write one check to the customer who ordered the auction. The contract creates a bond between the auctioneer and the customer, decreasing the likelihood of the customer being cheated.

Once the schooling is complete, the training continues for at least another year before the individual receives their license. Each participant will take a test to prove they know the information they came to learn. After the completion of the test, Elmer entered a year-long apprenticeship. During this time, Elmer was shown the ins and outs of being an auctioneer, further cementing in his mind that the occupation was for him. A trip to Columbus to complete a final test follows the apprenticeship. This test determines if the individual will receive their license.

Since becoming an auctioneer, Elmer has been able to work a variety of auctions and positions. The auctions an individual obtains is dependent upon their knowledge of the items up for auction. Knowing the value of the items is important because the auctioneer has to be able to start the bidding at a reasonable level. For instance, if the auction focuses on horses, then auctioneers who are knowledgeable about horses will be hired for the main positions.

When a large auction requiring several auctioneers takes place a hierarchy forms dependent on the knowledge of each auctioneer. When the auction takes place in a large arena a second tier of auctioneers are brought in to stand in a ring and take the bids from assigned sections. A single auctioneer in a large arena will have problems seeing every hand offering a bid.

An obstacle facing an auctioneer is having the flexibility and freedom to attend auctions. For Elmer, finding the perfect supplemental job has been trial and error, but the experiences gained from each position have been invaluable.

Elmer began his career working for Berlin Leather and Pets when he was 14 years old. Completing everything from stocking shelves to answering questions voiced by customers, Elmer did anything the store asked of him. Daily interactions with the customers of the store improved Elmer’s ability to interact with a range of people.

When Elmer was 19 years old he was told of a school in need of a teacher. More than willing to give the occupation a try, Elmer became a schoolteacher. The job required Elmer to prepare lessons for five different grades and be able to answer whatever questions any of the five grades may have. Elmer soon recognized the difficulty in taking time off for auctions and decided to leave the job of teaching to others.

Settling into a feed mill, Elmer now has the flexibility he needs to complete his dream job of being an auctioneer. At the feed mill Elmer answers the phone and processes checks received through the company.

Elmer loves being an auctioneer with the interactions and the adrenaline rush of leading a bid. That isn’t to say that the job is without its nerves. Standing in front of a large crowd can be intimidating, especially when expected to speak clearly and passionately about each product. Elmer has found that after the first couple of items are sold he settles into a groove . After realizing his dream career, Elmer has worked tirelessly and made several life choices that have secured his passion for auctioneering.

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