Young female auctioneer breaks boundaries
Among a sea of men in cowboy hats and an auction house full of bidders, young and old, a boisterous voice erupts in a sing-song chant. The voice commands the room, even though it belongs to a 19-year-old woman who stands just 5 feet 2 inches tall.
Mapes, from Bennington, Nebraska, is happily pursuing her craft and her dream career of auctioneering. When she is not chanting loudly in an auction house, she is studying economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Mapes has been working as an auctioneer since she was 15 and it hasn’t always been easy in a field traditionally dominated by older men.
“For women auctioneers, it’s hard to be taken seriously,” she said. “No one expects someone my age, and I guess my gender to be up there selling.”
The start of her career
At a young age, she would attend auctions and antique shows with her grandparents. After attending a number of auctions and forming relationships with both bidders and auctioneers, she was given the opportunity to attend an auctioneer school at age 14 to become licensed to practice.
Mapes attended the St. Louis, Missouri Auction School, where for two weeks, learned the ins and outs of the field. Although she was familiar with this business, Mapes found herself feeling estranged from the others in attendance.
“The average person there was a white male, age 45,” she said. “One of the teachers at the school told me to tell everyone I was 16 rather than 14, so others would take me more seriously.”
Mapes said before she began the training, one of the owners of the school called her into his office to make sure, because of her age, that she was dedicated to learning and wouldn’t be a distraction to others.
Despite the doubts, Mapes became licensed – the youngest person to ever be certified by the St. Louis, Missouri Auction School.
Mapes has done countless auctions and mastered her craft while working for The Auction Mill in Omaha, where she has worked under the supervision of Tom Millie, her boss and mentor.
Millie, who has been an auctioneer since 1998, said the last 7 years working with Mapes has been an honor.
“She is a very hard worker; extremely smart and sharp. She isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and get to work,” he said. “I feel like I’ve gotten more out of Michaela working for me than she has from working for us.”
Her hard work paid off in 2015, when she was awarded Nebraska Rookie of the Year at the Nebraska Auctioneer Conference.
Mapes’ mother, Michelle Mapes, has watched her daughter develop and overcome boundaries as an auctioneer.
“I think at times people may underestimate her as this is an industry dominated by older males.” Michelle Mapes said. “She is an anomaly and it doesn’t take long until her audience knows she is for real.”
Both mother and daughter know that chasing such a dream will take drive and determination, but Michelle Mapes is confident that her daughter has what it takes.