Auction Business Keeps With Tradition While Going Digital

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CALLAWAY COUNTY - The earliest recorded auction dates back to 500 B.C., but owner Carol Irish has added on to Value Auction Barn's current business to conform to the increasingly digital era.

The Value Auction Barn has launched a new digital bidding system where customers can log onto Value Auction Barn's website, view items and place electronic bids. They input their highest bid, which is then carried over to the live auctions. Irish said the online bidding system has only been in place for two auctions, but so far there has been a good response from customers.

"People look at [the website] and research, so when they come here, they are very educated about what those items are and what they can buy it for," said Irish.

Despite the new digital service, live auctions are still held twice a month that are full of tradition.

Each begins with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Irish's 94-year-old mother, Fran Meinershagen. It's a habit that Meinershagen fostered when she was a teacher in Columbia schools.

"I'm happy to live in America. So let's say so," said Meinershagen.

Irish serves as Value Auction Barn's auctioneer. Missouri law does not require that auctioneers be licensed, but Irish graduated from the Missouri Auction School in 2000 and is a member of the National Association of Auctioneers.

"It isn't about how fast the auctioneer chants, but how well you market the merchandise," said Irish.

John Greene recently sold items in one auction and said the experience brings back childhood memories.

"A lot of stuff gives me flashbacks to when I was younger, seeing things from the 50's and 60's...things we may have thrown away when we were younger that have value to them now," said Greene.

According to Irish, each auction brings in about 120-150 people and typically lasts for about five hours. Live music and homemade food make the event more than a place to simply buy and sell things; but a way to connect with the community.

"Columbia's been good to me. It's my turn to be good to Columbia," said Meinershagen.

"The people are so much fun. It's a social thing, they tell us about the merchandise, like 'This was my great-grandmother's' or 'I hand-carried this clock from Germany,'" said Irish.

Irish is also a local realtor and appraiser.