Good old fashioned auctioneering with a modern twist

I often hear the word Ebay and auctions used in conversation as interchangeable words, and as an auctioneer I tend to shake my head and try to smile kindly at the speaker.

The reason is that Ebay has rather hijacked the term auction. I would say an auction is only an auction when the event is controlled by an auctioneer taking bids and closing the sale when the gavel falls.

Yes bids can be delivered in by a number of channels, including bidders in the room, via the  telephone, commission bids or of course nowadays via the internet. This means for Biddle & Webb via our website.

However interestingly bids at a bricks and mortar auction are offers to buy at a price, and only become a bid when it is acknowledged and accepted by the auctioneer. This will form the basis for an agreed sale only when the hammer falls. At that point the contract price i.e. the last bid accepted by the auctioneer is set and the buyer confirmed by the auctioneer announcing a name or bidding number.

I know this is a little legalistic but highlights why as a proud auctioneer having conducted 1000s of auctions and sold tens of thousands of lots, I get rather piqued when people talk about timed Ebay sales as an auction. In timed sales, it is a ticking clock and the computer that control the process not an auctioneer.

The current timed auctions are I suppose a version of the old candle auctions held back in day’s gone yore. These were auctions that allowed bidding to continue while the candle was still burning.

You could continue to call out bids until the flame died. It does strike me that these events must have been subject to a few scams or tricks as mysterious gusts of wind blew out a candle to the advantage of one party and detriment of another. I could say this also rings through my mind when I hear about online auctions that have buy it now prices or when the sequence of online bidding is not transparent. Who is bidding, and when and why was a bid sent at the close, not accepted.

The great advantage of a public auction is that the event is open and transparent and is at B&W supported by and not driven by technology. The auctioneer controls the event and the market sets the price. Good old fashioned auctioneering with a modern twist.

From Jeremy

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