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Going Once, Going Twice...Sold


It was this month 50 years ago when Lawrence Eisner travelled to Iowa for a two week auctioneers’ course that would allow him to start one of the biggest consignment auction services in the Parkland region, bringing bidders and their dollars from far and wide into the Swan Valley.
He was one of four people from Manitoba to attend the school in Mason City, Iowa, in a class of 153. One of the other Manitobans was fellow Minitonas local Otto Hart. While Eisner didn’t work with him much after auctioneer school, Hart went on to his own career as an auctioneer.
“I always liked the auction business,” said Eisner. “I worked the auction market and the ring for a while and did thousands of sales, before going off to auction school. It turned out well having it on my own because we had a fair amount of sales right off the bat.
“In the school, we had dormitories and they would divide the classes. You didn’t leave the building for two weeks. I learned the basics there and came back to put it together.”
Eisner ended up having his own first auction sale following his schooling on Jan. 31, 1970. Eisner’s take of a consignment sale or farm auction still remains the same at 5 percent, but the revenues that come in are now far greater. While his first sale he could recall made $2,600 in sales, the sales running today could raise well over $1 million, largely due to farm equipment being far more expensive and valuable.
“Otto Hart used to laugh at (my consignment sales) and call them ‘junk sales’, but then they turned out to be pretty decent,” said Eisner.
An Eisner auction is decent indeed. His regular consignment sales, which enlist the help of plenty of family and friends to make the event successful.
“We average probably 150 consignments every sale, and we have no trouble getting crowds,” said Eisner. “People come from all around, 150 mile radius.”
Eisner is happy to see his family working alongside him, even if many of them are only able to help out on auction day.
“(My son) Ryan is our main guy,” he said. “If it weren’t for Ryan, we probably wouldn’t keep this thing going.
“The grandchildren come work on sale day too. There are probably 25 people that we hire on sale day to work.”
Two of Eisner’s other sons, Clint and Chris, also help out on auction day, and Eisner noted that they do fine work, even if they aren’t available to assist in the business more the rest of the time.
The business of auctioning has changed quite a bit in the 50 years that Eisner has been calling bids. The revenues have gone up, but so have the costs, particularly wages and advertising. But, the technology has changed too which allows a sale to reach a different market.
“Our website (at eisnerauctions.com) has been a really big help,” said Eisner, proudly noting that his wife, Glenys, learned how to run the website and still maintains it today. “Most farmers have computers now, and we have quite a few guys looking at our pictures online and bidding over the phone.”
While some auction houses offer online bidding, he finds that the live bidding experience can often fetch a higher dollar value.
“We were taking bids over the phone, and had pretty much the same tractor as a guy in Yorkton who was taking online bids,” said Eisner. “He got $76,000 for his tractor and we got $92,000.
“You don’t need online bidding to get these big bucks. Those online bids can promise you a lot of things, but anybody who is going to be spending $100,000 on something is not going to be buying without having a look at the thing.”
Eisner appreciates doing business in the Swan Valley and the Parkland as a whole.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had anybody complain about a sale,” he said. “We treat (our customers) well and we are one of the few bigger outfits that pay out (farm auctions) on the same day. On the consignment sales, we have the sale on Saturday and the cheques are in the mail on Thursday.”
Eisner also takes pride in the fact that the money they make off an auction gets spent in the Swan Valley, instead of calling in another operation that will attend the auction and take local money away with them.
Eisner Auctions continue to do a fair share of business, with thousands visiting the yard on a sale day, but the markets have changed with smaller farmers getting cornered out and big farmers leasing much of their equipment.
“It was a good business for 50 years,” said Eisner. “It kep the farm going anyway. I don’t know whether it was the farm or the auction that was the main income. The auction, I think.”
Lawrence and Glenys Eisner also appreciate the people that they have met as well, and how they are recognized on the street, even as far away as Regina.
While Eisner Auctions used to run three consignment sales a year, they have cut back to two – last Saturday in April and second Saturday in August. Their 50th anniversary sale is due to take place on April 25, starting at 9 a.m..

Jeremy Bergen