At 100 years old and with nearly 70 years of auctioneering under his belt, Pete Stewart still hasn’t retired, not officially. His last sale was in October when he sold some real estate in Indiana Borough. The only thing stopping him at the moment is — what else? — the pandemic.
Stewart’s auctioning career began in 1952 and he estimates that the number of auctions he has presided over number close to 10,000. However, over the years his fondest memories have been working with his family in the business.
“I enjoy the auction world very much,” Stewart said.
His granddaughter Erin is now following in his footsteps and has begun auctioneering herself.
The items Stewart has sold are many. But one big ticket item he’ll never forget is a Soap Hollow chest of drawers made in Somerset.
“It went for over $12,000,” Stewart said. “And after I sold it, I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to lift it because they were so afraid of breaking it.”
In the end, the chest of drawers situation got figured out as did other items has Stewart sold.
“There were lots of hard items to sell, but we always tried our hardest to get them sold how we could,” he said.
Over the years, Stewart — born on July 11, 1920 — has also seen the auction world change drastically.
“Everything used to be done by hand,” he said. All of the tallying of prices and the fliers, everything was done by hand. As it progressed, calculators and eventually posting photos over the internet entered the mix.
“The internet has really changed everything,” he said. “The auctioning method isn’t as popular. Now everything is done on the computer. It’s too bad, because auctioneering was the best way to sell things fairly and it employed people. I’m sorry to see it not doing as well as it used to be.”
Auctions are always great community events that bring people together, Stewart said.
“I learned how to handle crowds and people by working auctions,” he said. “It was a great community thing.”
Stewart is having a few celebrations to mark the occasion. There will be a private family party as well as an invitation-only party held Sunday at the Armagh & East Wheatfield Township fire company where Stewart is the last surviving charter member.