Historical Hobart Wool Sales

Hobart Wool Sales in Record Prices – The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) Fri 7 Jan 1910 / Page 5

“The progress of Tasmania as a sheep, raising country was strikingly instanced by the successful character of the annual wool sale, held for the ninth time in the Hobart Town-hall yesterday. There was an air of unwonted bustle about the big hall some time before the advertised hour of the sale, and by 1 o’clock the back half of the room was crowded to overflowing with spectators. A good number of these were men whose sunburnt faces and broad-brimmed hats proclaimed the farmer, and, as sheepbreeders, their interest in the proceedings was naturally a keen one. There were ladies, too, to the number of a dozen or two, while visitors to the town, and even business men whose work had nothing to do with the wool trade, came in scores to see the opening sale of the season. And the sight, for the stranger, was certainly a curious one. Before the dais, where stood the auctioneer, were half a dozen rows of desks, at which the buyers were seated “Onlookers must observe strict silence” was the notice placarded in big black lettering in front of the auction table, but prior to the start a hum of general conversation filled the room, and the buyers sat toying with hair pencils and catalogues, and in most cases smoking their pipes or cigars. There was a sudden hush as the auctioneer rose to his feet and declared the sale open. Then, in a moment, the front bench broke into frantic shouting with their bids for the first lot “Nine Nine” – barked half a dozen voices. “One!” Half Half Half” and three bidders at this figure reiterated the price as they stood up and waved frantic hands towards the dais, until the auctioneer had indicated the successful caller with a short nod “Three” ‘”Ten!” And at tenpence the lot went down. On the fall of the hammer almost bids for the next lot were snapped out. It sounded like nothing so much as a file of soldiers numbering off with unnecessary vehemence, as the different voices alternated with the rising prices. There was a wild appeal in the tone of every man who sprang up to bid for so keen is the competition to get in at the limit that there is no hope for the sluggard, and the concentrated effort to be first is reflected in every voice. In fact, the sudden outbursts, as each lot went up could be heard yards away in the street, and were a source of some surprise to the casual passer-by, who knew nothing of their occasion. ‘Half ‘ Half ‘ Half ‘” There were English, French and German buyers in the front benches, and the word was anything from ” ‘Arf” to a mere aspirated explosion of breath. “Take someone and save our voices,” said one man during a lull, after three separate buyers had been shouting the same bid for five seconds, but such appeals were seldom necessary. In fact, the auctioneer had a keen ear and an eagle eye for the man who shouted first, and when in fault the buyers always helped him out. At times, however, even his experience was unable to cope with the keen bidding, the excited babble precluding all possibility of distinguishing the buyer who had spoken at the right moment. On such occasions a halt had to be called, while the auctioneer denoted the man whose offer he had booked last, before the bidding could go on. It seemed to be a fine art to get noticed first, and, while some emphasized a bid with waving arms and stabbing forefingers, others relied on a shrill falsetto shriek, or a sudden startling howl to catch the bid. And catching the bid at the right time means a good deal at a big sale such as this. The big buyers must have a certain quantity of wool, and have figured out the utmost they can afford to pay, so that, where a rise of a farthing may mean a few score sovereigns in a large lot, getting in at the right point is an all-important consideration. As each auctioneer left the platform, he was given a round of applause, and the buyers had a minute’s respite till another took his place on the restraint, and the sale proceeded. The ordinary lots were finished just before 4 o’clock, when an adjournment was made for afternoon tea prior to the offering of ‘ the “star” or minor lots, the sale of which lasted well into the evening.”