It seems that auctions have touched almost every century, every industry and every nationality. Auctions date back so far in history, that no one really knows for sure how they started or who started them.
Records handed down from ancient Greek scribes document auctions occurring as far back as 500 B.C. At that time, women were auctioned off as wives. And, in fact, it was considered illegal to allow a daughter to be “sold” outside the auction method.
A “descending” method was used for these auctions, starting with a high price and going lower until the first person to bid was the purchaser, as long as the minimum price set by the seller was met. The buyer could get a return of money if he and his new spouse did not get along well, but unlike a horse, maidens could not be “tried” before auction.
Women with special beauty were subject to the most vigorous bidding and the prices paid were high. Owners of the less attractive women had to add dowries or other monetary offers in order to make the sale.
In Rome, Italy, around the time of Christ, auctions were popular for family estates and to sell war plunder. Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius sold family furniture at auctions, for months, to satisfy debts.
Roman soldiers sold war plunder at auction. The licensed auctioneer, called “Magister Auctionarium,” drove a spear into the ground to start the auction. Today we use an auction gavel.
American auctions date back to the Pilgrims’ arrival on America’s Eastern Shores in the 1600s and continued in popularity during colonization with the sale of crops, imports, clapboard, livestock, tools, tobacco, slaves and even entire farms. Selling at auction was the fastest and most efficient means to convert assets into cash.
Fur was especially big during this time. In his book, “Going, Going, Gone!,” Bellamy Partridge says “the Bible and the beaver were the mainstays of the Pilgrims, the Good Book saving their souls and the beaver paying their bills.”
Initially, the furs were collected from Native Americans in the fall and winter, utilizing the “private treaty” method of exchange for “wampum” (the Native American word which meant money). The raw pelts (or hides) were transported to the closest shipping port. In the spring of each year, the auction method was used to sell the raw peltries to the European merchants who arranged the transcontinental voyage to the Old World. Once the ships returned to the port in Europe, the peltries were auctioned to manufacturers, who would process them for the retail market. The early fur trade was chiefly responsible for the settlement and development of North America.
Have you ever heard an auctioneer referred to as “Colonel?” It’s a fairly common practice, especially at auction schools across the country. This came about during the Civil War era, a time when auctions were beginning to flourish.
History has it that the art of auctioneering was a common practice for Civil War Colonels who regularly auctioned off the spoils of war and surplus. However, only officers of the Colonel rank could conduct them, spawning the use of the term “Colonel” by many auctioneers still today.
A short historical narrative from one of the top auction schools details this process: “As the Civil War progressed, many troop battalions made a practice of seizing property of land owners and merchants as they marched. Contraband would be collected and carried to a favorable area, then the Colonel or commanding officer would sell the goods at public sale. Even after the Civil War, military Colonels traveled to sell surplus goods and seized goods. Auctioneers followed some of the same trails and dressed similar to army Colonels to such an extent that the public began to recognize auctioneers as ‘Colonel.’
Colonel is only one name that auctioneers have been identified with over the years. Other names include “Knights of the Hammer,” and “Brothers”.” The tools of these auctioneers included the Colonel style hat, a cane, bell, hammer or gavel, and a red flag. The flag, often boasting advertising, was placed above where the auctioneer would sell on the day of the auction.
Many auction schools started in the early 1900s in America. The Jones’ National School of Auctioneering and Oratory was believed to be the first. It was started by auctioneer Carey M. Jones in Davenport, Iowa. For the first term, the school promoted “competent instructors teaching general merchandise, real estate and fine stock auctioneering.” However, many auctioneers at that time did not believe an auctioneer could be “trained.” They believed that auctioneering was a natural ability that you were born with.
Though finding goods to sell was not a problem in those days, auctioneers faced other challenges. There was no amplification system for their voices - no microphones as we know them today. So they had trouble both being heard, and keeping their voices intact.
Because travel was more difficult, and was mostly by horse and wagon, auctioneers enticed crowds by routinely offering lunch to those who came to the sale. Weather often dictated the time the auction started, as all were held outdoors.
The growth of the auction industry remained until the Great Depression of 1929. Some auctioneers traveled the country to liquidate the estates of farmers whose farms had failed because of drought and bank foreclosures. The decline of the auction method of marketing followed the poor economic climate and did not rebound until after World War II.
Auctioneering began to make great strides after World War II. The sale of goods and real estate was booming. There was a need in certain cases to move real estate and personal property faster than the private market would allow. Thus, the modern day auction business was born. Auctioneers were now businessmen who dressed in suits and ties. They began to nurture the business and raise the reputation of auctioneers. Besides the public, auctioneers began to have links to banks, attorneys, accountants, the court system and government agencies.
During the 1990s, technology was finding its way into the auction business. Auctioneers were using computers, fax machines, cell phones and other technology to make their businesses run faster and more smoothly. Some auctioneers began taking photographs of small auction items and projecting them onto big screens so the crowds could get a closer look at the merchandise.
Auctions burst into cyberspace in the middle of the decade. The ever flourishing eBay was launched in 1995 and would go on to become an “online leader” in the bidding business.
Many auctioneers today offer both live and online auctions to meet the needs of customers near and far. Technology allows buyers to participate in the sale without even being there.
Over the years auctioneering has progressed and changed, and today it remains more popular than ever. Most everything thinkable has been sold by the auction method of marketing: antiques, household items, automobiles, land, livestock, homes, designer dresses, business equipment, and more. And thanks to professional organizations like the National Auctioneers Association, auctioneers are privy to countless educational opportunities that help them to keep up on the latest technology and learn new business traits. They network with other auctioneers to exchange ideas and to find ways to continue to meet the growing needs of the American public.
Auctioneers today are working to earn specialty designations such as Graduate Personal Property Appraiser (GPPA) , Accredited Auctioneer Real Estate (AARE), Certified Auctioneers Institute (CAI) and Certified Estate Specialist (CES). (Tell about any designations you have or classes you have taken.) NAA auctioneers are also bound by a code of ethics that protects consumers against fraud and unfair business practices.
Auctions have been around since the beginning of time because they are a highly efficient and effective business tool - and they meet the needs of the public. But, they also are fun, entertaining and theatrical. Most people who attend an auction keep wanting to go back again and again.
If you have never been to an auction, join in and become part of history.
Auctions are the most unique and valuable way of selling almost any type of personal property. Some of the most popular auctions are those that involve household items, or livestock or antiques. But auctions involve so many more possessions: automobiles, office equipment, art, machinery, industrial equipment, electronics. One very rapidly growing area is real estate. More and more people are buying and selling their homes and land by the auction method.
Auctions are one of the oldest forms of selling property; their history spans centuries. And time has only increased their popularity. A research study commissioned by the National Auctioneers Association shows that auctioneering is an industry on the rise.
Did you know that more than half of the total U.S. population has attended a live auction?
In 2004, the value of all goods and services sold at live auction in the U.S. was approximately $202.7 billion. This figure is up 6.8% over 2003 and translates into a huge number of satisfied buyers and sellers of goods.
They’re entertainment at their finest. That’s what most consumers say about auctions and that’s the number one reason they attend. So what makes them so fun and entertaining? Some say it’s the unexpected and the idea of experiencing something original.
In addition, consumers find auctions fun because they’re a rewarding activity for the whole family to enjoy. On average, consumers are willing to drive 1.3 hours to attend a live auction, with 75% bringing the family when they go.
So how can auctions benefit you, as a seller? Why are they the best way to sell property? Well, there are a number of reasons
When you make the decision to sell by auction, the most important thing you must do is hire a qualified and experienced auctioneer or auction company to handle your auction.
There are thousands of auctioneers throughout the United States who offer a wide range of auction services to consumers. So what do you look for when hiring an auctioneer or an auction firm?
First, look for someone who specializes in selling the type of property you want to sell. All auctioneers have specialty areas and most have more than one. What do they know about the products or goods you are selling?
Experience is another critical element. How long has the auctioneer or the auction company been in business? What is their reputation? Look at their web site, if they have one.
Most importantly, look for an auctioneer who is a member of the National Auctioneers Association. Most will display this logo on their business cards, signs, web sites and other business materials. The NAA is the largest professional association for auctioneers in this country, working for the betterment of the auction industry. It offers continuing education programs for auctioneers to help them keep up-to-date on the latest trends and technology for the auction industry.
The NAA also offers a wide range of designation classes to make auctioneers “specialists” in areas such as personal property appraisal, real estate, estate auctions and more.
All members of the NAA abide by a code of ethics that guarantees high standards to customers and fair business practices.
In short, this symbol means you have made the best choice when it comes to auction services!
We work hard for our money, but most of us spend the majority of our waking hours working. Our money pays for our homes, our land, our automobiles, insurance, clothes, food, all of our possessions and so much more. So when it comes to selling those possessions and property, the smartest thing you can do is let an auctioneer help you continue to get the value you deserve. A professional auctioneer knows what land is worth, what household items and office equipment are worth, and what personal property is worth. A professional auctioneer will manage your sale so you can get a good value from these items in which you have invested your hard earned money.
You work hard for your money, and we will work hard for your money, too
If you’re new to auctions, there’s nothing to fear. This step by step guide will show you just how easy it is to find, scout and participate in a live auction.
If you’re new to auctions, there’s nothing to fear. This step by step guide will show you just how easy it is to find, scout and participate in a liveauction.
1. Find an auction. You can even search for a specific type of auction, if you’re just looking for antiques, dolls etc.
2. Preview the auction
Many auctions let you preview what is going on the auction block a few days or even weeks in advance. Once you’ve located the auction you want to attend, call the auctioneer or auction house to see if they will have a preview date.
3. Arrive early
On the day of the auction, try and get there early enough to register and get Good seat. It not only important for you to be able to see the auctioneer, but for the auctioneer to be able to see you.
Carefully inspect any items you’re interested in. Are they damaged? Do you see other people looking at the same items? How much competition does it look like you’re up against?
5. Set a price
What are you willing to bid? You should have a number in mind, so you don’t go way over your budget in the heat of the moment. Don’t forget to include your total costs, like repairs, decorations, fees, and delivery charges. Use the bidder’s package you were given if you were given one at registration.
Have fun! Carefully follow the auction and get a feel for who you’re bidding against. And remember, the maximum bid you’re willing to make is just that; a maximum. Don’t jump to that number unless it’s necessary. You might very well get the item you want for much less.
If you win, find the Bookkeeper or Clerk and take care of your bill. You can also arrange for delivery at this time.
You just had fun and got a great deal. Now enjoy your new item(s)!
A few suggestions to help you not only bid successfully, but to enjoy the auction experience.
Pack the items you’ll need before you leave for the auction.
Dress comfortably. Remember, it might be hot/cold outside but the air conditioning/heat might be working overtime inside.
Eat something before you go. There’s a good chance you won’t have access to food while you’re there.
Save a seat before you look at the preview. Popular auctions fill up fast, and you will want to be close to the front if you are bidding. This is one time where it’s good to be the teacher’s pet.
Ask what types of payment are accepted. If the auction house charges a buyer’s premium and inquire about hauling/delivery concerns before you bid.
Don’t bid on anything you don’t examine in the preview. Unless you really, really want to.
Pay attention! Make sure you know what item number is being bid on at all times, or else you might end up taking home that 1972 Formica table instead of that 1850 antique one.
Raise your paddle to bid. Once you’ve been acknowledged, further bids on an item can be made by a nod of the head, etc. Don’t worry; sneezing won’t accidentally put you into the poor house.
If you’re traveling to the auction, make sure you have a way to get the items you purchase packed properly and home with you. Remember, bubble wrap is your friend.
The following are some basic terms you might want to know when you go to an auction. Don’t worry though. There isn’t a test or anything. Just ask if you have questions.
(Information supplied by the National Auctioneers Association)
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