Saturday auction still a mainstay in Hillsdale

Julia Baratta, Freelance Writer
Barney Barnhart still works as an auctioneer as he sells feeder pigs for the Hillsdale Auction. He is 98 years old and has been an active auctioneer for over 50 years.
A number of bicycles were available at a recent sale. Bicycles usually make an appearance at the Hillsdale Auction Saturdays.
Stacks of wood in various forms and landscaping plants are often found in the miscellaneous sale at the Hillsdale Auction.

HILLSDALE, MI -- On any given Saturday with the exception of the week of the Hillsdale County Fair, the south end of the fairgrounds is full of people, livestock, and “stuff” as the Hillsdale Auction conducts their weekly sale. This event will include the full range of homesteading wants and needs at good prices as well as a flea market that is held year round.

In 1913, the auction company began their sales. Today, Guy and Deb Russell are continuing the offerings with various areas and barns with specific interests. They are also presenting a myriad of special auctions to be held during the year.

The day begins with the accepting of consignment items and the opening of the market. Inside the barn is a flea market with a variety of vendors providing everything from antiques to bake sales. Many of the booths are regulars with some changing from week to week. Located in the middle of the barn is the auction office space, a concession stand and the livestock sale arena which will be full of spectators up to an hour before the auction begins.

Outside of the barns are vendors with a variety of goods depending upon the season. Currently the tables are loaded with plants for gardens and landscaping with others selling tools and household goods. Harvested produce will be featured later in the season with the outdoor vendors tending to set up between late spring until late fall.

The first auction calls heard are from the most southern end of the fairgrounds where a number of rows of miscellaneous items are displayed. This sale can include most anything that can be sold with a spinning wheel, a car, and golf bag with clubs as a few of the many examples. The do-it-yourselfer can acquire a truckload of supplies for a fraction of the cost of brand-new materials. Wood, tools, pla2nts, and other useful pieces for the home are common offerings during the sale.

Within an hour of the miscellaneous auction kicking off, the rabbits are in the spotlight with close to a hundred animals selling each week. Common breeds such as Dutch, New Zealands, and Californias make regular appearances with some rare sightings of Angoras and Flemish Giants. The lots will include single rabbits to a doe with her babies.

Poultry are one of the biggest sales during the daylong auction. The regular number of birds is usually in the hundreds with the offerings ranging from fertilized and infertile eggs to a variety of breeds of chickens, ducks, pigeons, geese, and turkeys with the occasional guinea or peafowl. This is a very popular sale with standing room only in the barn where it is run.

Feeder pigs are sold before the hay and straw auction commences with the few animals being sold by Barney Barnhart, the oldest active auctioneer in the state of Michigan, and possibly the United States. Numerous stacks of hay and straw are sold with a couple of rows set up regularly.

The final sale for the day is the large livestock featuring cows and calves, sheep and lambs, goats and kids and the occasional horse, alpaca or llama. The Hillsdale Auction used to sell these animals by the pound but recently changed their policy to the price by the animal selling. It saves them money as the scales needed to be checked on a regular basis and it was sometimes confusing for the buyers during the auction.

Their special auctions have become a popular draw with titles like “Toys for Big Boys” and features such as antique tractors and horse-drawn equipment. Goats and sheep are another auction as well as horses and tack. The next one will be held on June 8 and will be their annual “Toys” auction with 4-wheelers, kayaks, motorcycles and boats being offered at the 9 am sale slot.

More information can be found on their website ( or their regularly updated Facebook page . Everyone is invited to “The Working Persons Auction Where Friends Meet.”