Quilt auction goes digital

Six quilts bought by online bidders 

July 3, 2019 | News | Volume 23 Issue 14D
Janet Bauman | Eastern Canada Correspondent
<p>The 2019 feature quilt, “Little Brown Church.” (Photo by St. Jacobs Printery)</p>

Over the last 53 years, the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale has raised more than $12 million for relief, development and peacemaking efforts around the world by Mennonite Central Committee. In that time, in addition to favourites like doughnuts, strawberry pies and spring rolls, more than 10,000 quilts have been pieced, quilted, donated and auctioned off at the New Hamburg sales.

This year, 210 quilts were donated for sale at the late May event at the New Hamburg fairgrounds. But for the first time, prospective buyers could watch the sale and place their bids online. Organizers decided to add the use of modern technology to the well-known sale, hoping to attract a wider audience of potential bidders and generate better prices for the handcrafted works of art. 

According to John Reimer, the relief sale’s chair, the focus this year was to prove that the technology would work. “The trial passed all our goals and we will continue with it next year,” he said. Six quilts were purchased by online bidders. 

Reimer noted that there were not enough online bids to significantly increase the prices on the quilts this year, but he hopes that in three to five years, with improvements to the system and wider marketing of the auction, the prices paid for quilts will rise. This year, the feature quilt, “Little brown church,” described as a giant puzzle with more than 3,000 pieces, sold for $3,200, the highest bid at the sale. 

Preliminary estimates put the total profits from the two-day sale at just over $260,000, which is down from the previous year’s total of $314,000. While the Friday evening was the busiest on record, bad weather forced the cancellation of the Run for Relief and put a damper on in-person attendance on the morning of May 25, which meant profits that day were down from previous years. 

See the story behind the 2019 feature quilt, “Little Brown Church” 

The 2019 feature quilt, “Little Brown Church.” (Photo by St. Jacobs Printery)

Bids are tracked on a large screen at the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale and quilt auction on May 25. This was the first year for online bidding, with six quilts going to buyers who placed their bids electronically. (MCC photo by Jesse Bergen)

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