Our Annual Auction
For 44 years, Rocky Mountain PBS' annual Auction was a popular community and on-air fundraising event that involved the dedication of hundreds of volunteers, donors and bidders.
The "live" televised Auction, held each year from 1966 to 2009, gave local businesses the opportunity to support Denver's educational television station, KRMA, by contributing merchandise and services. In turn, donors were recognized on-air – giving viewers and volunteers the chance to hear about and support the merchants who supported Auction.
In the early years, several of Denver’s commercial TV stations simulcast an hour or two of Auction to help publicize the event. Major community newspapers covered the Auction and its volunteers. Politicians, professional athletes and other celebrities helped the effort by serving as auctioneers on live TV. The Auction's slogan was "Watch! Bid! Buy!," and it was truly a community-wide effort.
The first televised Auction took place June 1-3, 1966 from 3 to 11pm. Denver-area TV and radio personalities and other celebrities served as auctioneers, inviting viewers to call in their bids after items were shown and described on TV. Bids were posted on oversized chalk boards so viewers could keep track of the bids and call in their own.
By the third year of Auction (1969), a separate Art Auction was established to give art buyers the chance to see work in person. The Art Auction, held for the first time at the Moffat House, was not part of the televised Auction. A professional auctioneer volunteered to sell the 100 pieces at the live in-person auction. In 1970, the Art Auction was held in the New Banquet Hall of the Denver Museum of Natural History, attended by more than 500 art lovers. Meanwhile, the televised Auction continued to offer a wide variety of general merchandise and services.
After four years’ experience with Auction, KRMA conducted an informal survey of participants. Based on the responses, KRMA decided to move Auction from June – when many Colorado residents were starting their summer vacations – to March or April.
Houses were donated to the Auction and offered for bid from 1977 until 2003. In 1979, a solar home worth between $90,000-$100,000 was pronounced “the largest single item ever donated to a public TV auction.” The donated houses were open for public inspection prior to the Auction. The sale of the houses brought much-needed revenue to Rocky Mountain PBS.
Channel Six’s Auction staff and volunteers introduced a number of innovations to maintain excitement around Auction. In 1985, the most exclusive pieces of art were separated out for sale in a limited “Anniversary Collection of Art.” Up to 40 art pieces by top artists in the Rocky Mountain region, with values exceeding $1,500, were selected annually for the Anniversary Collection. Another innovation was introduced in 1999: online bidding, which, for the first time, offered an opportunity for viewers to bid online for travel, home furnishings, art and entertainment items.
A highly popular segment of the televised Auction was "Children’s Auction," introduced in 1985. Local school children were given the unique learning experience of being auctioneers on live television.
At its peak, Auction sold several thousand items a year, including foreign travel packages, jewelry, tickets to sporting and entertainment events, cosmetics, vet services for dogs and cats, sporting equipment, car care services, hotel stays, and the popular and mysterious grab bags, which contained items around a theme. It took more than 300 volunteers to gather, document, number, photograph and display these items each year.
The Rocky Mountain PBS Auction won critical acclaim from the PBS system over the years. Channel Six won a PBS award for Best Auction in 1979 among stations holding auctions more than 8 years. In 2001, RMPBS won the Best Auction Award in markets with a “million plus” viewers. A similar fundraising award was given to Rocky Mountain PBS in 2003 and 2004.
In 2009, Auction was discontinued based on a decision that Rocky Mountain PBS could not afford to continue airing Auction because it was not earning the returns that it once did
Did You Know?
- The first Channel Six Auction coincided with KRMA’s 10th anniversary in 1966.
- Volunteers who canvassed the front range for Auction donations from local businesses were nicknamed "Go-Getters."
- In 1970, the Art Auction was telecast in color; general merchandise was televised in black and white.
- The Auction kept up with technology, becoming computerized in 1980.
- Station’s Archived Memories (SAM) archives of Rocky Mountain PBS