Yesterday at the State Fair, there was a mock tobacco auction. Today, tobacco auctions are extinct, replaced by contracts with tobacco companies. But for more than 150 years, they were THE way N.C. farmers marketed their cured leaf.
Retired auctioneers, buyers and warehousemen staged the mock auction in the Expo Center. Today’s fast-talking ad men, the guys who fly through the fine print at the end of those car ads on the radio, have nothing on these auctioneers. They are colorful, lyrical even, and, yes, fast.
A crowd of about 50 people gathered to watch these old pros demonstrate how auctions worked. The sacks of tobacco were laid out on the floor. The auctioneer, buyers and warehousemen walked down the line, pausing at each sack while the auctioneer chanted the price. The buyers gestured to indicate they were willing to pay the announced price.
Our thanks to Billy Yeargin, Dale Coats and Duke Homestead Historic Site for coordinating the mock auction.