Franklin County man is top bid caller in state

February 23, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

A Franklin County, Pa., resident took home the title of 2004 Pennsylvania Bid Calling Champion for the first time in the contest's 24-year history.

Matthew S. Hurley, 31, of Waynesboro, won the State Auctioneer Bid Calling Championship at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January.

The 23 competitors from across the state were all licensed, professional auctioneers. About 300 people attended and bid on items the contestants were selling.

"It was a real auction, with antiques, collectibles, small tractors and china," Hurley said. "Each contestant sells two items in a practice round. In the second round, they are judged while they're selling the items."


Hurley placed high in the contest in previous years, taking home second- and third-place honors. This year, he received the huge, silver traveling trophy, which he will turn over to the winner of next year's contest.

Judges are champion auctioneers from other states.

As the winner, Hurley can no longer compete, which doesn't bother him at all.

"Now I can go and enjoy it without the stress," he said.

He will be one of the six judges next year.

Competitors were judged on the speed and clarity of their chant, presentation of themselves and the items they are selling, and control of the crowd, which involves knowing where the bids are and using body movements and voice to encourage the crowd to bid more, Hurley said.

Hurley is eligible to compete in the nationals in Madison, Wis., in July.

"Eighty to ninety auctioneers compete there, in front of a crowd of about 1,000," he said.

Hurley said he always wanted to become an auctioneer.

"My father took me to auctions since I was old enough to ride on his shoulders," he said.

He earned a degree in agriculture and education from Penn State because "I knew those would help me in auctioneering," he said.

He apprenticed under local auctioneer Bob Benshoff for two years.

To become a licensed auctioneer, candidates have to pass a state exam, Hurley said.

"I studied day and night," he said. "The exam has nothing to do with your chant; it's on law, accounting, livestock, automobiles, real estate law, and furniture styles and periods."

Also a licensed Realtor, Hurley said his favorite auction item is real estate. Hurley said he recently sold a property for more than $1 million, and in the week before the auction he practiced adding "one million, one million" to his chant.

"I'd never said it before. It was a lot of fun," he said. "You don't get to say that every day."

After retiring from a 30-year career with Mack Trucks, Hurley's father, Gene Hurley, apprenticed under his son. Now, father and son are the main auctioneers at Matthew S. Hurley Auction Co. Inc. of Greencastle. They sell estate and collections at the auction house along Pa. 16 between Shady Grove, Pa., and Waynesboro.

Hurley and his wife, Shannon, have three children - Madison, 5, Kaleb, 4, and Jacob, 2 - who are showing an interest in the family business.

"I hope they become auctioneers, and I can retire someday," Hurley said.

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