After 50 years on the Pennsylvania State Board of Auctioneer Examiners, Pete Stewart is retiring.
In those 50 years, Stewart has served as president, treasurer and secretary. When his term recently ended, he was serving as secretary.
“My appointment time was coming up,” Stewart said. “I would have had to be reappointed,” and he chose not to be reappointed for another term on the board.
The State Board of Auctioneer Examiners, he said, regulates the practice and licensure of auctioneers, while conducting hearings, prosecuting auctioneers for misconduct and misinformation, and oversees license law.
To qualify to be on the auction board, he said, auctioneers have to conduct 20 sales or more a year, and cannot be an officer of an auctions association.
Stewart said the board is made up of four auctioneers, two citizen members from the public, two members of the State Department, and a prosecuting attorney and an attorney for the board, as well as an auctioneer representing internet-based auctions.
“When we met we had hearings,” Stewart said, “We studied complaints from the public and regulated licenses and all the problems that become before the board.”
The process of a hearing for the auctioneer board is very similar to a court hearing, he said, and the board works like the jury of the court.
It is one of 27 boards based in Harrisburg.
When his time on the board came to an end, Stewart received recognition from the State Board of Auctioneers for his years of exceptional service and dedication, and his “enduring dedication to protect the public, enhance the auction profession and service to his fellow auctioneers.”
He has also received recognition outside of the board as a past recipient of the Pennsylvania Auctioneer of the Year Award, receiving the recognition in 1978.
Although Stewart has retired from his position on the Auctioneers Examiner Board, he will continue to run his Indiana-based business, Pete Stewart and Son Auctioneer.
“I’ve been an auctioneer since 1952,” Stewart said, and in those 61 years he’s sold antiques and household goods, and performed farm sales and sold machinery equipment. He’s also a real estate broker.
The business has two locations, on Philadelphia Street in Indiana and in Armagh.
Though his business has lasted this long, the demand for the items he sells, he said, is going down.
“What happened was when you had a family gathering, your mother, your grandmother, used to get the fine china out,” Stewart said, “but now they just put a table in the kitchen and use paper plates. It’s just a way of life now.”
Stewart believes that this generation doesn’t feel a need to own items, such as fine china and glassware, like the generations before them did. They’re just not interested.
“It really is heartbreaking when you sell fine china for a low price because it’s not in a demand,” he said, reminiscing about a time when items like fine china and upholstered furniture were a commodity in many homes.
“It seems like the younger people just go to Walmart … it’s a changing world.”
Stewart works with his son, Charles Stewart, who followed in his father’s footsteps and became a licensed auctioneer in 1971.
PHOTO: Sherman Hostetter Jr., chairman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Auctioneers, presented Pete Stewart with a plaque for his years of service to the board. The plaque states that Stewart is recognized for “his enduring dedication to protect the public, enhance the auction profession and service to his fellow auctioneers.”