Have you ever used the auction site eBay.com? It’s always exciting when last minute bids make the price skyrocket. As time expires there is one happy seller and a thrilled highest bidder. It’s fun. But what did people do without this Internet marketplace? They went to real life auctions run by professional auctioneers.
An auctioneer appraises items, organizes auctions, and sells items for the best possible price to the highest bidder. They work at regional or national auction houses in both public and private auctions.
Auctions are a fast paced marketplace. When an auctioneer goes to work, he can plan on staying busy. People bring in items for the auctioneer to appraise. The auctioneer researches the item’s history, ownership, and any important details – like if a painting used to belong to Napoleon. This information comes in handy when trying to set a price. After a price is set, the auctioneer writes a description and advertises it for the upcoming auction he will organize.
When the item comes up for auction, the auctioneer asks for an opening bid. Then he must watch the audience for slight gestures that indicate bidding – a raised paddle, a pointed finger, or a tipped hat. The auctioneer attempts to increase the bids until the highest possible price can be reached. He is in charge of the bidding war that ensues. This process is fast. A good auctioneer can sell 100 art pieces in an hour and this is why the stereotypical auctioneer speaks a mile a minute.
After the highest bid is received, the item is sold. An assistant brings the item to the bidder and receives payment. When the sale is finalized, the auctioneer gets a commission on the sale price. It’s just like on eBay.
Auctions come in all shapes and sizes. Just about anything can be put on the auction block – antiques, livestock, art, real estate, cars, excess inventory, liquidations, foreclosures, police seizure. Auctioneers usually specialize in an auction niche. That way they will be experts on the laws, rules, products, and going prices.
Auctions are quite common. Check the local paper or check the Internet. There are plenty of auctions to attend. Go to an auction to learn the business. It’s the best way to see an auctioneer at work.
Many auctioneers start working in auction houses, like Sotheby’s or Christies, as cataloguers, sales room assistants, or clerks. Most auctioneers attend an auction school like the Missouri Auction School or Reppert School of Auctioneering. Two to four weeks of training should cover how to manage an auction business, legal aspects, advertising, auction bid calling and voice work, auction preparation, appraising, and specialties. Most auction schools will prepare students to obtain their state’s auctioneer license. It’s also good training to participate in mock auctions and find an apprenticeship.
Auctioneers need to be organized, business-minded people. They need to be able to write contracts, market items, write catalogs, determine values, research products, deal with customers, organize auctions, sell items, increase bids, and finalize sales. It takes great communication skills behind the scenes and fantastic, confident public speaking skills in front of the crowd.
It’s always best for an auctioneer to get the highest possible bid because he is paid a percentage of the final sale as commission. The commission rate is agreed upon with the original owner of the item. Every item sells for a different price. Every niche varies tremendously. On average, an auctioneer makes about $46,000 per year depending on where they work and their specialty niche.
Auctions are an excellent way to sell things. It’s a fast paced gig and a fun marketplace. Auctioneers do a lot of different things. If you think you can do what an auctioneer does, give it a try.
Quick Facts About Auction House Jobs
Job Title: Auctioneer
Office: Auction House
Description: Appraises items, organize and runs auction
Certifications/Education: Auctioneer License, Appraisal License
Necessary Skills: Appraisal, Communication Skills, Public Speaking
Potential Employers: Auction houses, Public or Private Auctions
Pay: Average $46,000, Pay is based on sales commission