An auction is a public sale in which property or items of merchandise are sold to the highest bidder. The profession dates back many centuries.

When most of us think of auctioneers, we immediately envision the melodic, rhythmic chant of the auctioneer as he or she seeks bids for each item. When all bids have been exhausted, the famous "sold!" call closes the item's sale.

The auctioneer then calls out the sales price and the bidding number of the person who purchased that item.

The chant is only one aspect of a successful auction, but by far, not the most important. An auctioneer could be appropriately be labeled a "Master of Versatility."

The following examines the auctioneer and the multitude of skills required to become established in this career.


Auctions have historically been seen as a "last resort" method to dispose of property. However, they are currently seen as a primary means of disposing of anything and everything imaginable.

Auctioneers also are well-known for conducting charity auctions, which are a fast-paced and effective method of fundraising.

The following is a sample of items sold today at auction: automobiles, personal property, residential real estate, commercial real estate, development properties, antiques, collectibles, coins, livestock, farm real estate, farm equipment, heavy equipment, firearms, tobacco, dolls, commercial equipment, restaurant equipment, business assets, leases, special licensing permits, art, furs, jewelry, toys, exotic animals, aircraft and manufacturers' equipment and inventory.

The field of auctioneering is wide open to men and women. The auctioneer represents the seller, and the first obligation is to auction the seller's goods for the best market price on the day of the auction. However, he or she must have the skill to work with both buyers and sellers and keep everyone happy.

A strong voice is a definite asset. Bid calling for four to six hours is very exhausting and demanding. A sense of humor helps the auctioneer keep the atmosphere light and relieves some of the tension of a fast-paced auction. Working a crowd of up to several hundred people requires mental agility, the ability to entertain people and the tact to settle disagreements and keep the auction moving at a fast pace.

Bid-taking assistants (ringmen) can help locate and register bids.

The auctioneer must also have strong leadership skills. Throughout the entire process, from marketing, preparation and conducting of the sale, an auctioneer has to see that all details are attended to properly.

The auctioneering profession can be adapted to individuals with various disabilities. For information, individuals should contact their state office for vocational disabilities, state department of labor or local employment counselors.



With the exception of auctioneers working as employees and contract auctioneers, most auctioneers work on a commission basis.

Many auctioneers, especially when starting out, hold down two jobs.

They are paid a percentage of the sales price based on the services they provide to the seller. Earnings vary depending on whether the auctioneer works on a part-time or full-time basis.

Auctions are conducted in almost every arena imaginable, including auction barns, consignment houses, a farm yard, the front yard of a home, a multi-lane auto facility, hotels, warehouses, civic arenas, livestock barns and massive auction facilities. All offer unique challenges to the auctioneer.

Although inclement weather may threaten, it can never dampen the spirit of the auction.

Most auctioneers use some type of public address system. Hundreds or thousands of people may be in attendance and a good sound system saves the voice and ensures that all can hear what is taking place during the auction. Some auctions are audiotaped and others may be videotaped to resolve bid conflicts and provide security for the auction.

To become an auctioneer, it is desirable to have a high school education. However, more and more auctioneers are attending college or earning college degrees.

Public speaking, leadership background and marketing experience are useful in developing presentation skills. Technology is rapidly moving into the industry, with computerized clerking and fax marketing, as well as online marketing.

Most auctioneers attend an auction school to learn more about the industry and to develop bid-calling skills. Many states require auction school attendance for an auctioneer to be licensed.

Licensing laws vary from state to state. Most states require a real estate license to auction real estate. Several states require an examination and/or apprenticeship as part of the licensing process. Check with state officials about the laws in your area. Information also is available from the National Auctioneers Association in Overland Park, Kansas. Several states require annual continuing education classes.
Founded in 1949, the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) is the world's largest professional association dedicated to professional auctioneers. The NAA was built by auctioneers, for auctioneers. Headquartered in Overland Park, Kan., the NAA represents the interests of thousands of auctioneers in the U.S., Canada and across the world.
The NAA also represents the individual auctioneer and a range of auction professionals servicing a variety of industries. The association is dedicated to providing its members with educational programming and resources to help them advance themselves as professional auctioneers.

Members of the NAA abide by a strict Code of Ethics and are connected with an extensive network of professional auctioneers. As a member of the NAA, auctioneers have access to several benefits developed specifically to help them grow professionally and advance their auction careers and businesses.


The majority of auctioneers are independent businesspeople, and often the business involves family members. Family members may serve as bid-taking assistants, clerks, cashiers, set-up personnel, bid callers, etc.

Others, like auto auctioneers, livestock auctioneers and tobacco auctioneers, work on a contract basis, earning a daily flat fee based on the services provided to the operator. A small percentage of auctioneers work as employees of regional auction companies.

Marketing the business is a key responsibility. Nothing happens until an auctioneer meets with the client and a sale is booked. Effective sales skills are imperative.

An effective auctioneer must know the value of what he or she is being asked to auction. Whether it is real estate, personal property, livestock or equipment, the seller looks to the auctioneer to know the value. If unknown, the auctioneer must network with other auctioneers or business professionals to determine the value of an item. Because of these skills, many auctioneers are called upon to render appraisals on assets of every type.

The auctioneer is also responsible for advertising the upcoming sale. Knowledge of local radio, TV, newspaper and printing companies is vital to the success of the auctioneer. He or she is constantly challenged to find the most effective media to advertise with limited resources to accomplish the task.

The auctioneer also is responsible for working with the seller to prepare items for the auction. Repair, cleanup and placement of items on display are all part of marketing the auction. Decisions must be made whether to sell items individually or with others in a lot. It may seem like a small detail, but it is critical to the success of the auction.

On auction day, the auctioneer, clerking staff, cashiers and bid-taking assistants work closely together to orchestrate the auction. It is fast-paced, detail-oriented and demanding to auction hundreds or thousands of items, account for all the funds, clean up the site, provide a financial record and disperse proceeds of the auction to the seller. Conducting a successful auction entails many long, laborious hours of work.

The future for auctioneering is very good.
If you like people, are not afraid of hard work
and want to be rewarded based on your
efforts, it offers unlimited opportunity.

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