By Linda Cicoira — “A new record-setting auction” brought $271,700 for 50 colts and fillies sold at the annual Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company’s Pony Penning, according to spokesperson Denise Bowden.
The average price was $4,700 with the high being $17,000 and the low being $2,000. It took half a dozen Saltwater Cowboys to control the first pony to be paraded out in front of a crowd of thousands. It sold for $3,900.
Also early in the auction a “buyback” pony — one that is bought by a bidder and then given back to the fire company to stay with the herd and be raised on Assateague — was sold for $16,000. The proceeds went to the local United Way. The winning bidder got naming rights and a certificate to take home.
The ponies swam the narrow Assateague Channel last Wednesday to Chincoteague. They were then herded down the streets to the Fireman’s Carnival where they were auctioned the next day. Those that weren’t auctioned, swam back to Assateague last Friday.
The tradition of Pony Penning started in 1925. The event was made famous by Illinois author Marguerite Henry when she wrote about Misty, the palomino pinto with markings resembling a map of the United States on her side. Henry paid $150 for Misty at the auction in 1946.
A popular pony that was sold this year, Elvis, went for $6,000. He was Bowden’s favorite and will make his home in Ohio.
In 1982, 50 ponies were auctioned and brought a total of $15,400. The top bid that year was $600. Others were sold as low as $175. The auctioneer insisted one filly was a Misty look-alike. In spite of his sales pitch, the pony sold for less than the $308 average.