Meet the Contract Auctioneer Who Doubles as a Horse Race Announcer

From rare comic books to changes in the industry, Katelyn Callahan has seen a lot of interesting things in her nine years as an auctioneer.

Callahan is a contract auctioneer with Embassy Auctions International, based in Kinzers, Pennsylvania.

As a contract auctioneer, Callahan has called bids in Pennsylvania, along with Delaware and Maryland.

She grew up in southern Lancaster County, and went to a lot of auctions when she was young.

Attending auctions inspired both Callahan and her father to go to Harrisburg Area Community College to earn an auctioneering diploma.

During the HACC program, Callahan worked at New Holland Sales Stables to earn the necessary hours to complete the program.

Not only did Callahan learn how to call bids in auction school, but she also learned the legal aspects of auctioneering.

Not long after Callahan and her dad became auctioneers, her mom and sister attended the same auctioneer program. Now the whole family has Pennsylvania auctioneer licenses.

“It’s really exciting when we all get to work together on a sale,” Callahan said.

As a contract auctioneer, Callahan calls a variety of sales. Some are big estate sales with an array of items being auctioned off. Others are ultra-specific, like coin or jewelry sales.

These specialty sales are a newer trend in the industry, and while it attracts a smaller group of buyers, they are serious customers.

When selling at estate sales, Callahan said many people who come out are just curious and are more spectators than potential buyers.

Another trend that’s taken off since the pandemic in 2020 is online auctions and also hybrid sales.

Callahan sees both benefits and drawbacks of online auctions. These kinds of sales are easily accessible, but there can be issues with glitching internet, and getting good photos or videos of the items can be a challenge.

Selling online also adds a required responsibility of shipping. At in-person auctions, buyers can leave that day with their purchases.

Callahan said one of the biggest drawbacks of online auctions is losing the overall experience of being there in person.

“You’re also getting the entertainment value that an auctioneer provides,” Callahan said.

In addition to bid calling, Callahan grades items, which helps sellers and buyers mitigate risk.

“Grading is like a little mini insurance policy,” she said.

Callahan said she enjoys the process of grading, especially when she later gets to sell the items she graded.

One of her most memorable sales was a Batman Adventures #12 comic book with the first appearance of Harley Quinn.

Callahan had graded the comic before the sale, and at the sale it set a record price of $1,936 at the time of sale in January 2021.

“It was really exciting to take them through the grading process,” Callahan said. “It’s exciting when you get to be a part of a milestone piece. I mean it’s exciting to be in that moment in time and be a part of something like that.”

Comics are one of Callahan’s favorite things to sell. Through auctioneering, she’s learned more about the history of comics and has come to appreciate the American art form of comic books.

While much of what Callahan calls bids for are typical items like antiques, she’s also sold her fair share of oddities, like bull semen and mortuary equipment.

“I have fun selling a variety of items,” she said. “It’s always neat because you never see the same thing.”

The first thing Callahan ever auctioned off was a horse at the New Holland Sales Stables. She said she would love to sell more horses, and has a goal of being the first female to sell for a major Thoroughbred auction company in North America.

In addition to auctioneering, horses take up a lot of Callahan’s time.

Callahan enjoys fox hunting with River Hills Foxhounds, owns three Thoroughbred steeplechase racehorses and even announces horse races.

Announcing a horse race and calling bids actually have a lot of similarities, Callahan said, so she was able to take the skills she learned from auctioneering and transfer them to announcing.

“Both are face-paced,” Callahan said. “You need clarity, and being able to create that enthusiasm and excitement like you do in an auction.”

Callahan certainly has skills when it comes to her chant. In 2022, she was the top female at the Pennsylvania Auctioneers Association bid-calling contest. She was also the first runner-up that same year in the Mid-Atlantic bid-calling contest.

But for anyone looking to get into auctioneering, Callahan suggests patience when it comes to perfecting a call.

“We’re all trying to have the best chant,” Callahan said. “But it really takes a little bit of time before you get a good chant. It just takes repetition and experience.”

On top of developing a chant, auctioneers also need to be able to react and adapt during auctions.

“Strange things can happen,” she said. “You have to be able to just shoot from the hip.”

Callahan auctioneers part time. She also works for her family’s roof and floor truss plant.

While Callahan said auctioneering can be profitable, for her it’s more about gaining knowledge.

“I’ve learned a lot along the way,” Callahan said.

Source: Meet the Contract Auctioneer Who Doubles as a Horse Race Announcer | Antiques, Collectibles & Historical Stories |

Stephanie Speicher, Jun 9, 2023

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