Relief sales adapt to online auctions, find bidders

Auctioneer Ric Muscio collects online quilt bids at the microphone July 18 at the West Coast Mennonite Central Committee office in Reedley, Calif. The Celebration for World Relief and Southern California Festival and Sale teamed up to auction quilts online after their annual events were canceled. — Laura Stephenson/Southern California Festival and Sale Auctioneer Ric Muscio collects online quilt bids at the microphone July 18 at the West Coast Mennonite Central Committee office in Reedley, Calif. The Celebration for World Relief and Southern California Festival and Sale teamed up to auction quilts online after their annual events were canceled. — Laura Stephenson/Southern California Festival and Sale

It can pay for a Mennonite Central Committee relief sale to try out an online auction.

Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, many sales around the U.S. and Canada are shifting to virtual events, often with positive results.

While the Celebration for World Relief did not take place as planned April 17-18 in Fresno, Calif., it did hold a livestreamed online quilt auction July 18 — which raised a similar amount to 2019’s physical event, though roughly half as many quilts were sold.

Sale chair Steve Goossen said 100 quilts collected bids with the help of auctioneers over four and a half hours, bringing in $55,920. Last year’s quilt auction raised $56,985 by selling 185 quilts, comforters and afghans.

The South California Festival and Sale, usually based in Upland, also took part in the event, contributing 10 of the 100 quilts.

“We had a great time. Doing this for the first time, we had no idea if the microphone would even work,” Goossen said. “Once we got in the groove, things really went well and everyone — the auctioneers, the bidders and everyone that helped out — had a great time.”

The top-selling quilt was “Roses on Blade in Fields of Green” by Barbara Hofer, which brought in $2,600.

While most winning bids came locally from the Fresno and Shafter area, other winning bids originated in Denver, Colo.; Goshen, Ind.; McAllen, Texas; and Lake Stevens, Wash.

“One of the joys of the auction for me was calling the people who had to have their quilts shipped instead of picked up ­locally,” Goossen said. “I called each one up and got to know why they were at the online auction. Did they ever enjoy it. . . .

“I feel since our auction was canceled in April this was something to look forward to.”

While the New Hamburg (Ont.) Mennonite Relief Sale has been auctioning quilts online for a few years now, this year’s May 30 online event also raised more money for MCC than last year with fewer quilts.

One hundred quilts generated $78,025 in revenue at nhmrs.hibid.com, and a silent auction at another site sold 30 quilts for $7,840. These 130 quilts totaled $85,865 compared to 202 quilts raising $82,700 last year.

Winning bids came as far away as the United Kingdom and California, and the top-selling quilt, “Night Light” quilted by Brotherston Sewing Circle and donated by Marjorie Daglis, raised $2,600.

Sale chair John Reimer said about 57 quilts remain to be sold this year, and the relief sale committee is planning to sell them and two antique tractors Oct. 17 in a live online auction.

MCC North American relief sales and My Coins Count coordinator Les Gustafson-Zook sees these developments as evidence of a trend.

“I’m expecting sales will explore how to incorporate online bidding into their live auctions next year, which will enhance the prices and the opportunities for bidding to people beyond the auction ring, which will be a good thing for quilt prices,” he said.

Northern Michigan’s relief sale wrapped up its two-week effort to collect bids eBay-style on Aug. 1. It is being joined by several other sales dipping their toes online later this summer and fall.

The Pennsylvania Relief Sale’s online coin auction concludes Aug. 14, and the Nebraska Relief Sale’s online auction is the last week of August.

Relief Sales in Ohio and Michiana will collect online bids in September, followed by October online events by sales based in Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington. Details and bidding processes vary, with more information at each sale’s website and Facebook page.

Goossen said the Fresno sale still has more than 100 quilts and believes another online auction will happen next year. The sale’s board is already considering how to implement an online supplement to the in-person 2021 auction.

“As you can tell with how far we reached in the United States, the people interested in quilts and an auction could be a big draw,” Goossen said. “. . . We are all new to this technology, and it’s time we embrace it.”

Online auctions

Several relief sales are offering online bidding at events this fall. More information is available at sale websites and social media accounts.

Aug. 14 — Pennsylvania Relief Sale online coin auction concludes.

Aug. 23-30 — Nebraska Mennonite Relief Sale online auction.

Sept. 26-Oct. 3 — Ohio Mennonite Relief Sale quilt auction.

Sept. 18-26 — Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale online and quilt auction.

Oct. 3 — Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale online auction.

Oct. 3 — Mennonite Country Auction and Relief Sale, Ritzville, Wash., online auction.

Oct. 10 — Oregon Mennonite Festival for World Relief online auction.

Oct. 17 — Rocky Mountain Mennonite Relief Sale online auction.

Oct. 16-24 — Pennsylvania Relief Sale online quilt auction.

Oct. 21-Nov. 6 — Oklahoma Mennonite Relief Sale online auction.

Tim Huber

Tim Huber

Tim Huber is associate editor at Anabaptist World. He worked at Mennonite World Review since 2011. A graduate of Tabor College, he and his wife Heidi Huber served with Mennonite Central Committee in Germany, where the first of their three children were born. His family attends Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton,

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