Daily Archives: March 24, 2010

The Call

24 March 2010

The first time you go to an auction you will find it strange to listen to the auctioneer’s call.  Every auctioneer has a personal style.  Some are easy to follow while others might as well be speaking Urdu or ancient Egyptian.  Why don’t they just speak normally?  Hey! What fun would that be?

The auctioneers call is steeped in tradition.  The rapid pace has a very practical purpose: to move the goods.  Time is money.  The sooner a final bid is reached the sooner a new item can be put on the block.  In general it seems that the pace is slower at the high class houses where serious art and antiques are headed for the homes of the mega-rich.  The rest of us need to develop an ear for the bid levels that  are within reach.

Usually you must register for a number to be able to place bids.  The number may be on a paper card or a paddle.  The idea is simply to raise the number to place a bid.  In practice the veteran bidder will not make such an obvious display.  Use a subtle motion.  If you can block the view of the paddle from the rest of the room, even better.  In most cases you can make your first couple of bids in an obvious manner.  After that use a signal.  Nod your head. tug on your ear, rub your nose. 

This may seem strange but the auctioneer will know what you are doing and he will go along with it.  His goal is to realize a high sale price .  Secret bidding helps to build suspense and appeals to the buyers competitive nature.  In a room full of dealers and collectors there are frequently some very intense feelings.  when you are familiar with the personalities involved a good auction can be way better than TV. 

When an item first comes up for bid the auctioneer will give his starting bid, repeating it until someone responds.  If nobody places a bid the auctioneer will name a lower bid.  The opening bids may go ridiculously low.  When someone finally takes the bait the bids will rise, usually to somewhere above the starting price.  Why does this happen?  Because everyone loves a bargain.  Take your kids along and show them the free market in action.

As a bidder the game can be played with a bit of strategy.  I prefer a little psychological warfare, harmless warfare of course!  But the game actually begins before bidding starts.  Hold that thought for next time when we talk about the art and practice of being Mr. Cool.

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