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Armstrong Auctioneer Wins Canadian Title Valley Auction's Peter Raffan Top in Canada

Armstrong Auctioneer Wins Canadian Title Valley Auction's Peter Raffan Top in Canada

Public speaking doesn't bother Peter Raffan. Every week, the award-winning auctioneer faces a wall of people, gathered to bid on an item or animal at Valley Auction, the busy Armstrong auction yard owned by the Raffan family. This May, Raffan won Canada's top Livestock Auctioneer title at a competition at the Kamloops Livestock building. In Kamloops, Raffan and 24 other contestants sold eight "drafts" or groups of cattle at a regular livestock sale.

"We're under pressure to do our best in a strange environment," says Raffan, explaining that most auctioneers work at the same sale barn every week. "The competition isn't staged -- it's a real sale, with buyers from all over Canada."

Five judges judged the auctioneers for appearance, mannerisms, clarity, rhythm and speed. Raffan won a silver trophy belt buckle, a jacket and boots, and paid entry to the world competition, held this month at the Calgary Stampede. No stranger to competition, Raffan attends yearly auctioneering contests. Auctioneering is in Raffan's blood -- his late father, Jim, and brother, Don, are both auctioneers. In '97, Raffan won the prestigious Canadian Champion General Merchandise Auctioneer title.

"General merchandise is like 'miscellaneous'," explains Raffan. "I sold everything from art, antiques, woodwork to crafts."

At estate sales, Raffan sells everything from household items to draft horse harness to farm machinery. "Usually, farm sales aren't a forced thing," he says, "sometimes families argue, or someone passes on, and holding an auction is the fairest way to divide things."
Raffan attended the World Wide College of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa. At the intense nine-day course, Raffan and other students studied from 5am until eleven o'clock at night, "I met auctioneers from all over. My Dad and brother went to the same school," Raffan says proudly.

The oddest item Raffan has ever sold was a "home-made ski-mobile" -- an airplane fuselage mounted on skis, powered by a jet-boat prop, meant to travel over snow. "When we started up the engine, dust flew and the auction barn doors slammed shut," laughs Raffan. In another humorous incident, an exotic silver pheasant suddenly burst out of the wire box and flew away across parking lot.

Auctions are a popular a meeting spot, says Raffan, "People can have a coffee, talk with friends, and look for something useful."

To Raffan, his job is "all positive. I know community and business people. I meet stock buyers, farmers and ranchers, and families." Raffan leaves on the 12th for Calgary, after a morning of selling cattle at his hometown auction. In his spare time, Raffan rides horses, team ropes, practices karate, and builds fence at his farm.

Before the world competition, Raffan conducts one Armstrong sale. In the Valley Auction office, the smells of coffee, sawdust, and cattle linger. On the walls, photos show the Raffan brothers on horseback, selling cattle in ranch feedlots. Livestock futures are silently broadcast on a computer screen.

The competition atmosphere can be tense, says Raffan. Each auctioneer must scan the crowd of unfamiliar buyers and "pick up" their bidding signals, like a nod or small wave. "Usually, an auctioneer has a ring-man to help pick up bids. At a competition, seeing bids is the auctioneer's responsibility -- that's added pressure," explains Raffan.
Raffan says he'll treat the world competition like any other sale, "I'll do the best I can and have a good time. Winning doesn't matter."

Other articles by Tammy Thielman

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