Young Harrington auctioneer bidding for success

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Auctioneer Ethan Simpson, of Harrington, is set up and ready to go for an auction at Wagner’s Water Buffalo Farm in Milford, on Nov. 30. The 20-year-old passed a rigorous 90-hour course to become a professional in the business. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

HARRINGTON — When Ethan Simpson told his friends he could chant like an auctioneer, they thought he was all talk. They were on their way to class at Delaware Technical Community College one day, and heard a radio commercial with an auctioneer prattling in the background.

To make good on his boast, while the others went to class that day, Mr. Simpson watched YouTube videos of auctioneers. When they met up again two hours later, he was chattering like an auctioneer.

Still, it takes more than a sharp tongue to cut it at this job.

“It’s more than just somebody that shouts out numbers,” Mr. Simpson said.

“There’s a lot more work. You have to check the sale merchandise, organize it, watch for bids, and there’s paperwork to do before and after, including writing checks.”

It also took more than two hours of practice for Mr. Simpson to become a professional auctioneer. More precisely, it took 90 hours.

In March 2014, after nine days at Mendenhall School of Auctioneering, in High Point, North Carolina, the then-18-year old Harrington native received his diploma. He spent 20 more hours on bid calling, chanting, rhythm, speed, breathing techniques, voice control and clarity.

Then came auctioneering law, settlements, statements, commercial code, contracts, and ethics, as well as the practical things like setting up and advertising. Finally, 30 hours of the training at Mendenhall were on miscellaneous topics, like dealing with specialty items, such as antiques, livestock, real estate, jewelry and machinery.

Some of this was familiar to the now-20-year-old, who says he has always been around it. He has been working at auctions for about 10 years, at local auctions like the Taylor Messick equipment auction, setting up and parking cars. He had thought about becoming an auctioneer, but he’d also thought about going to barber school.

When he accepted the challenge from his friends at Delaware Tech and discovered he could do it, he decided that

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Ethan Simpson begins an auction at Wagner’s Water Buffalo Farm in Milford on Nov. 30. At just 20 years old, he’s already carved a name for himself in local auctioneering. (Special to the Delaware State News/Dee Marvin Emeigh)

was what he really wanted to do.

For Ethan, it is all fun.

“He’s very much a people person,” said his mother, Laura Simpson, of her oldest son.

“Of the three boys, we knew he’d be the one to be the entrepreneur.”

Still, while being supportive, she and Ethan’s father, Darrin, who owns Blue Hen Construction, wanted him to have a realistic view of being self-employed. Consequently, Mr. Simpson works full-time at Southern States in Milford, but still hopes to make auctioneering his career.

“I will have to work into it in this area,” Mr. Simpson said.

That is his plan, and it seems to be working. His first opportunity came directly after Mendenhall, when Bruce Betts invited him to participate in the Delaware Livestock Exhibition auction.

“Herbie Kenton also heard about me. They got together. They wanted to know if I was ready,” Mr. Simpson said.

Mr. Betts and Mr. Kenton are known for their work with the Delaware 4-H Auction, among others.

The youth-oriented Delaware Livestock Expo was a perfect fit for Ethan. “He (Betts) sold the first half of the sale, and I did the second,” he states.

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Although he one days hopes to make a career out of being an auctioneer, Ethan Simpson currently works at Southern States in Milford. (Special to the Delaware News/Gary Emeigh)

Last year, Mr. Simpson conducted a fundraising auction for The Delaware Stars Youth Ice Hockey Association. That is where J.R. Ennis first met him. Mr. Ennis, who is the director of marketing for the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, was there to support his cousin.

“The second Ethan spoke into that mic, he demanded attention. I was very impressed because Ethan is a younger gentleman and I was not expecting the energetic, yet very professional tone in his voice,” Mr. Ennis said.

When it ended, Mr. Ennis knew he wanted Mr. Simpson to conduct the Annual Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce auction.

“I basically hired him on the spot! I have gotten where I am today because others placed their faith in me and I wanted to do the same with him,” said Mr. Ennis, who wasn’t disappointed.

“He did an amazing job and brought in record breaking numbers for our live auction portion. He will always be welcomed at our annual auction.”

More recently, the Simpson Auction Company conducted an event in Milford at the Wagner Water Buffalo farm. Where Mr. Simpson will be working into the area next is not yet certain, but for the young entrepreneur, one thing is sure. He will be having fun.

“It’s not work, because I love it. From setting up the sale, to cleaning everything, to the end; there is nothing else I would rather do. It’s 100 percent fun,” he said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dee Marvin Emeigh is a freelance writer living in Milford.

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