The following is a news release from the Idaho Transportation Department.
The “Welcome to Idaho” sign at the Idaho/Nevada border in south-central Idaho was getting heavily stickered by visitors, so rather than simply replace it, ITD did something quite innovative and installed a new sign in that location that included a few pre-placed stickers to attract those with stickers to apply them there. In the meantime, a new “Welcome to Idaho” sign was put up nearby, and the old stickered one was removed.
But the new ideas didn’t end there.
Rather than simply discard the old sign, ITD’s District 4 office decided to try something brand new. They put the old sign up for public auction. Boy, did it pay off!
The District anticipated intense public interest. They were right. Social-media mentions and media attention helped fuel that interest.
It started with a bid of $100 on Sept. 12, and with six days left until the final day Sept. 26, had grown to $430.
“It was very slow going for quite a while,” explained D4 Program Specialist Technician Shara Stowell. “After a Facebook post and some tweets were made, the media took notice, and bidding started to pick up as the public became more aware.”
“I was very happy when the sign hit $500,” Stowell said.
KTVB in Boise ran a story on it and overnight the bidding grew to $1,600. The Associated Press picked up the KTVB story and put it on the wire, meaning any member newspaper could grab it and run the story. KTMV and the Times-News newspaper in Twin Falls also ran their own stories on the auction. By the morning of the final day of the auction, the bidding had reached $4,500.
At that point, it became a bidding war between two parties, who pushed the final price to $11,200. The winning bidder requested anonymity.
“I never thought it would go that high,” Stowell said. “I was absolutely blown away.”
ITD’s Senior Leadership Team is looking into applying the money toward a safety project in the region, or applying that money toward innovation, since it resulted from a new idea.
“We had 12 different bidders throughout the two weeks of this auction,” Stowell said. “The public spoke, and apparently they really did want that sign!”
Auctioning off surplus signs like this one could be a future trend for the department as it looks for ways to stretch limited funding and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.