Know what to expect when buying, selling

I have always done charitable auctions. While doing these, I run into many people who have no idea how an auction works. An auction is a process of buying and selling items by offering them to the person willing to pay the most money. It is not really known when the first auction was held, but I like to think it was probably back in the caveman days when a caveman decided to get rid of his old club.

It is always a good idea to preview items you are interested in before the auction. If you wait until it is up and bidding is going, you may only have a few seconds to decide what you want to bid. You will also need to register to become a bidder.

This is a simple process where the potential buyer gives their identification to the cashier, then is assigned a bid number to show the auctioneer if they are the high bidder.

When the auction starts, items are brought before the crowd one at a time. The auctioneer will briefly describe the item, and then the fun begins. The auctioneer will normally ask for a bid on an item at a price he estimates the item may be worth. Once bidding starts, the auctioneer starts speaking at a rapid-fire pace — a tradition known as the “Auctioneer Chant.”

The auctioneer will normally recognize the first bidder he sees, “I’ve got $50, who’ll give me $100. $100, now who’ll give $150, $150’s the bid who’ll give $200, $200 bid, will you give $250?” About this time, bidding may slow down a bit. Normally the auctioneer won’t slow down too much. He’ll repeat, “I have $200, anyone interested at $250?” Sometimes there will be a bidder in the crowd that won’t want to give $250, but is willing to bid $210.

“Now I have $210, who’ll give $220, $220’s the bid will you give $230?” The auctioneer may say “Last call, anyone give $230? Sold, $220 to bidder number (now that’s why you register — so show the auctioneer your card) 29.” Most auctioneers will always say the price and bid number two times, which is for the benefit of his clerk, who will record the transaction and then be ready for the next item. The floor crew will hold up the next item and the bidding starts all over again.

The time frame from naming the item to repeating the price and bid number for the second time is normally 30 to 40 seconds. That’s why it is very important to pay attention to what the item is and be ready to bid when the item is put up. Many times people try to bid after the auctioneer says sold. By then, it’s too late.

Other times, more than one item is put up for bidding. The auctioneer could say, “I’ve got five vases, selling your choice.” When this occurs, the high bidder gets their choice of the vase they want for the high bid.

The high bidder also has the option of taking multiple items for the same price, so if the vases sold choice for $10, bidder #29 might say she wants the two on the end and she will pay $20 for them. At that point, the Auctioneer will ask the runner-up bidder if they are interested in one of the others. Sometimes the runner-up bidder will take one, or sometimes they might think, ‘I might get them cheaper if I let that old gray haired auctioneer sell them again.’

Two things can happen at that point. The auctioneer will ask anyone else in the crowd if they want one for $10, and they might just take that one the runner-up bidder was hoping for, or the three left may be put up for bid and sometime they go higher than the first bid. I’ve had many times where I offer a runner-up bidder an item for the original price. They turn it down and then 30 seconds later they buy it for a higher price.

I can do this with a straight face and everything. Of course the fun of auctions is that many times the item they want they get for a lower price as well. Just pay attention to what is going on and you will love the auction.

Wayne Addison is chief probation officer for the Hancock County Probation Department. Send comments to

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or