STEELE, N.D. — The balcony at Pifer’s Auction & Realty’s new Auction Center of North America filled up as the center’s consignment auction began on Tuesday, July 18, as did most of the chairs below, along with much of the standing room.
So, presumably, did chairs in dining rooms, offices and living rooms across the region as bidders who couldn’t make it to the new central North Dakota facility logged on to watch the sale screen online.
Kevin Pifer, founder and president of Pifer’s Auction & Realty and Pifer’s Land Management, said 20 to 21 percent of buyers at his company’s auctions now bid online, a convenience that allows people to forego traveling to see and bid on the items they want. That, in turn, gives sellers a larger pool of bidders.
“Buyers like the convenience of internet bidding,” he said.
The consignment auction at the Auction Center of North America was the facility’s first official sale since completing its state-of-the-art building. Pifer’s held previous auctions on the site, one when it was an empty lot and one when the building was under construction.
At the Tuesday sale, equipment was showcased on site, but buyers and spectators didn’t walk from piece to piece with the auctioneer. Instead, screens throughout the facility showed photos of the items, along with up-to-the-minute bidding information — the exact same screens that someone sitting at home on the computer sees.
“A lot of these people we’ve never even met because they just don’t have time to come on site and look at it,” Pifer said. “They trust the fact that we’re representing factually the equipment and the machinery that we’re selling.”
The bids coming in at the first sale included a good mix of in-person and online. The sale featured numerous semis, along with construction equipment, grain trailers, farm equipment, skid-steer loaders and attachments, and various other items. Spectators on hand included buyers and sellers, along with some people who just wanted to check out the new center.
Dave Sabot of Bismarck consigned a skid-steer loader to the sale, something he’d never done before. He had advertised the loader online, but saw little interest in it and figured he might have had it priced a little high. So, he figured he’d see how it did at auction, where competitive juices can push prices higher or lack of interest any given day can bring bargains to buyers.
Some of the big draws were antique tractors and an antique pickup. On those items, the online bids seemed especially important. A Minneapolis-Moline U tractor, for instance, sold for $1,350 with bids coming exclusively from the internet.
The antique items were part of the draw for Pete Meidinger of Wishek, N.D. Meidinger also is in the consignment sale business, running Pete Meidinger Consignment. He said he came to the sale partly to see “how the big boys do it,” but also partly to check out a 1960 Case 400 tractor and a 1953 Chevrolet 3100 pickup. His top bid of $3,100 for the Case was the runner-up to the eventual winner of $3,200, another in-person bidder.
The Chevrolet 3100 was what auctioneer Andy Mrnak called the “marquee” of the sale. The shiny green restored pickup already had garnered $10,000 in online bids before the real show began. Meidinger found himself out of his price range quickly, and the winning bid ended up at $11,000.
“I know how to pick them,” Meidinger said. “We’ll put it that way.”
He was impressed with the new facility and said it’ll be a good place for sales in inclement weather. But he wonders if the indoor sales will cut down on impulsive, competitive bids that often come at auctions. And given the large crowd that came for the first sale, he thinks Pifer’s may need to plan for a bigger parking lot.
Pifer said when his company was planning the Auction Center of North America, proximity to “the greater Bismarck-Mandan area” was important. They wanted to be where people noticed and recognized them. He said the new location right off Interstate 94, within driving distance of Manitoba and South Dakota and centrally located in North Dakota, was “probably the best spot you could find.”
Pifer said people are invited to stop by and check out the Auction Center of North America.
“When you walk in here, it’s pretty amazing when you see how it looks inside and how it functions both for the seller and the buyer,” he said.
For more information, visit https://www.pifers.com.