What is Auctioneering?

D. Jeffress

Auctioneering refers to the highly skilled profession of taking bids and selling various items at a live event. A wide variety of things can be auctioned, including real estate, automobiles, livestock, commodities, artwork, and antiques. Most events feature one or more auctioneers, who charismatically collect bids from participants and try to encourage higher and higher offers. Many auctioneers receive professional training at specialized schools and academies to learn the trade and obtain licenses.

Auctioneers, such as those who help sell classic automobiles, must be able to learn long lists of individual models.
Auctioneers, such as those who help sell classic automobiles, must be able to learn long lists of individual models.

The key element of successful auctioneering is mastery of the auction chant. Chanting involves the quick, rhythmic calling of numbers and phrases as an auction is taking place. A skilled chanter is able to maintain the excitement and interest in an auction by shouting out numbers, persuading people to place higher bids, and warning the audience when the auction is coming to a close. An auctioneer usually shortens or slurs phrases while chanting to keep up the pace of the auction.

An auctioneer may specialize in selling farm equipment.
An auctioneer may specialize in selling farm equipment.

Many auctioneers specialize in the types of items that they sell. Professionals may work exclusively with antiques, art pieces, property, farm equipment, or machinery, among other specialties. Auctioneers are generally very knowledgeable about the items they sell, and many are either appraisers or collectors themselves. They may help other workers organize events and erect stages. In addition, many auctioneers actively promote and advertise events at community gatherings, in newspapers, and on the Internet.

Auctioneers do not typically enjoy regular work schedules. Many professionals do hold full-time auctioneering jobs, but their hours vary based on the number and location of auctions in a given time period. It is very common for auctions to take place on evenings and weekends, times when the largest number of potential bidders can attend. Auctioneers frequently travel to different cities and towns in their area when few local auctions are taking place. The majority of professionals work solely on commission, which gives them more incentive to travel and perform their jobs well.

An individual who is interested in learning the auctioneering trade can attend professional academies, enroll in distance learning courses over the Internet, or work as an apprentice to an experienced professional. A prospective auctioneer receives detailed instruction on how to chant, persuade audiences, close bids, and keep records. Studies in ethics, law, and communications are also featured in an auctioneering program. Upon completion of an apprenticeship or training program, which may take anywhere from one to six months, a new auctioneer becomes eligible to take a licensing exam administered by his or her state or country. Auctioneers who sell real estate and certain types of property must complete additional licensing requirements.

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