Basic selling goes high-tech

Cochran Auction ups the ante on bidding

Cochran Auction ups the ante on bidding

December 05, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

BOONSBORO - Walking through the new state-of-the-art Cochran Auction Theatre, James Cochran and Tom Bikle remarked on how the business of buying and selling has changed over the past 35 years.

The new building is to the rear of the Cochran complex at 7704 Mapleville Road. It is 60 feet wide and 160 feet long, and boasts bleacher seating and a huge remote-controlled door that opens up one whole side of the building.

Outside that wall, there is a platform where large construction equipment can be displayed for prospective buyers inside, Cochran said.

"I can remember walking around in mud up to my knees," Bikle said of the earlier days in the business. A 30-year veteran with Cochran, Bikle is now director of marketing and real estate.

Inside are the Cochran offices and a waiting room with an antique car right in the middle of the floor. The entrance to the auction theater is marked by a set of ornate, solid brass doors weighing 1,800 pounds that were purchased from a Chicago bank.


A ceremonial grand opening was held in late October, Cochran said. LeRoy Van Dyke, national recording artist and one of America's best-known auctioneers, appeared at the event.

The first official auction in the new building will be Jan. 5 and 6.

Cochran said his auctioneering business actually began at the Hagerstown Fairgrounds. Then the lot off Mapleville Road was purchased and the first building was built to be used for estate auctions.

Bikle was working in respiratory care at Washington County Hospital when he met Cochran.

"Jim was in auctioneering then and I would go along," Bikle said. "It became a good part-time job."

Back then, there were 30 to 35 auctions a year - now there are 200 to 250, Bikle said. Several years ago, he became a full-time employee.

Over the years, the scope of Cochran's auctioneering business has widened. For example, in February, Cochran's will be handling a two-day liquidation auction of the Indian Springs Country Club in Silver Spring, Md.

The Cochran crew often travels to on-site auctions sometimes as far away as Southern Maryland, throughout West Virginia and beyond.

And then there is the Internet. When Cochran is standing at his auctioneering post, there often is an Internet representative beside him, coordinating bids from all over the world.

"Recently two dump trucks went to Arkansas for way more money than expected," Bikle said. "We can utilize international markets now."

But even with all the electronic wizardry, big buildings and the Internet, auctioneering is still quite basic.

"It's live bidding ... they hear me and they see the items," Cochran said.

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