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'Hobby' pays off for Pa. auctioneer

August 16, 1999

Matt HurleyBy ERIN HEATH / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - When Matt Hurley was 4 years old, he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.

While other boys his age were dreaming of becoming firefighters or professional athletes, he was envisioning a career as an auctioneer.

But unlike most young children, Hurley never changed that goal. Today, Hurley, 27, owns his own successful auction business, Matthew S. Hurley Auction Co. Inc., in Waynesboro.

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"I had always wanted to be in the business," he said. "I did an auction for my family Christmas party when I was 8."

As a young boy growing up near Waynesboro, Hurley said he was goal-oriented. At age 16, he started his own tree removal business, which he maintained for about seven years. He said he used the profits to pay his way through Penn State University, where he pursued a double major in education and agriculture.

While in college, Hurley also decided to take a two-year apprenticeship under Waynesboro auctioneer Bob Benchoff.

Juggling two majors, a business and an apprenticeship was hard, Hurley said. It required a lot of traveling and late-night study sessions, and sometimes he didn't feel like he was getting the typical college experience.

After completing his apprenticeship in 1995, Hurley decided to focus on getting his degree and starting his own auctioning business.

"I had to make a choice," he said. "I decided that if I was going to go out on a limb and start my own (auction) business, it was better to do it when I was young."

After graduating, Hurley spent a year running his auction company and teaching agriculture at South Hagerstown High School. Although he said he enjoyed teaching, Hurley decided to operate the company full-time as business started to rise. Now he sells mainly real estate and items from people's estates, and he's gotten bidders from all over the country.

While many auctioneers still rely on pen and paper, Hurley said he likes to use newer forms of technology.

He has a portable computer that he can use at the site of any auction. It records sales and sends data to the cashier by radio signal. He also uses a video system at his off-site auctions, which take place at Quincy Township Municipal Building.

In addition, Hurley is setting up a Web page that will allow people to view items and bid online.

"I look at it as an advantage being young," he said. "A lot of people thought it was a disadvantage. But when the Internet really came into being, I was right there in college."

Although Hurley says he's "slowed down" since the birth of his daughter, Madison, he says he still works 75 hours a week. He recently bought an 11-acre plot to build a new auction complex.

After lowering his voice and demonstrating his craft in a speedy blur of numbers, Hurley revealed why he loves his job.

"It's my hobby and my business," he said. "I get paid for my hobby, so I consider myself pretty lucky."

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