Why Mecum Auctions at the Pa. Farm Show Complex is a ‘rock concert’ for car collectors

In major cities like Chicago and Dallas, Mecum Auction puts thousands of rare and classic vehicles up for auction.

This month, they’ll be doing the same at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex. But while Harrisburg might seem small potatoes next some of the other metropolitan areas Mecum visits, the particular geography of this area makes it a perfect location for car enthusiasts, despite its smaller urban footprint.

David Morton, manager of communications and event marketing for Mecum, said that “the area is easy to get to” for car enthusiasts from Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Jersey and DC

“And with Carlisle and also Hershey being car destinations already, that pent-up demand and that enthusiasm is there,” Morton said.

Sam Murtaugh, chief operating officer for Mecum Auctions, said that the four-day event in Harrisburg is likely to bring in between $25 and $40 million in sales for the 35-year-old auction house, making it a “top tier” event that easily ranks alongside Mecum’s events in major cities like Houston or Las Vegas.

“We’ve had some really successful auctions there in the years past, and haven’t been there in a couple of years due to the pandemic,” Murtaugh said, noting that Mecum Auctions had first set up shop at the Farm Show Complex in 2014. “We’re excited to get back. Last time I looked, I know that we were tracking about 25 percent increase in presale tickets compared to 2019, the last time we were in Harrisburg. So I think that kind of gives us a sense of some pent-up demand for us to be back.”

Morton added that the Mecum Auctions are like “a rock concert” for the participants, many of whom line up outside of the gates in the morning before the events open. If the show and the cars themselves are the music, the auctioneers are the rock stars.

One such “rock star” of the automotive auction world is Jimmy Landis, an auctioneer with decades of experience in all sorts of auctions and more than 20 years working with Mecum specifically. He grew up working with his father, an auctioneer who sold everything from farm equipment to real estate, who began working on auto auctions the same year Landis was born.

“So I was always in the automobile auction business,” Landis said. “I was a wholesale automobile auctioneer – I did wholesale auto auctions in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Virginia for 30 years. Then I started doing collector car auctions and started doing my dad’s in Lancaster.”

Landis began working in collector car auctions around 1990, and for Mecum specifically in 2000. And he said that “through my over 30 plus year career, yeah. I mean, it’s the best of the best. It’s the big show.”

Like Morton, Landis said that the Harrisburg show is “basically a hub for all of the Northeast and the Southeast,” with both the Carlisle Events car shows and the Hershey AACA Museum being draws for the region. The upcoming Mecum Auction, he said, will likely “pull customers from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont – you can just go all the way down – New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia, Ohio. So it’s a huge populated area.”

Landis and three other auctioneers will each take turns in 30-minute shifts each day of the auction, going through an average of roughly 40 cars an hour to get through the full 1,200-car inventory. And while he does this work across the country, there’s something special about being able to return to central Pennsylvania for a show this size.

“It’s really it’s really neat to come home and do one in your hometown,” he said. “Each region is different, but everywhere we go, we are with car people. People that love cars, people that love auctions. We all have that because that pulls us all together. So now when we go back to a city, quite frankly, it just always feels like we’re going home.”

The gates open at 8 am and the auction starts at 11 am on July 27, and 10 am on July 28-30. For more details, check out our story on PennLive.

  • READ MORE: Mecum Auctions returning to Pa. Farm Show Complex with more than 1,000 cars

If you’re unable to catch the auctions in person, they will be aired on the MotorTrend cable channel from July 27 to the 31. If your local cable provider doesn’t carry that package, you can sign up instead for the MotorTrend+ streaming service , which includes a seven-day free trial.

Leave a Comment