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Auctions to buy and sell goods have taken place since antiquity. Almost everything imaginable has been sold through auctions: expensive artwork, antiques, stamps, coins and rare books being the most commonly known auction items. Yet auctioneers may also specialize in certain types of goods such as livestock, produce, real estate, vehicles, plants and equipment and general household items. The auctioneer's job is to obtain the best price possible for an item and then sell each piece to the person offering the highest purchase price. Therefore, auctioneers must be completely familiar with the goods they are selling so that they can recommend a realistic reserve price to vendors.

Auctioneers are best known for their fast-talking, which is called chanting. The rhythmic and speedy chant is used to create excitement and keep the sales moving steadily. The sometimes-confusing sounding chant is merely a series of numbers connected by "filler" words, which give buyers a bit of time to think between bids. Auctioneers must chant clearly in order for buyers to understand what they are saying. A typical chant may sound something like this: "Eighty, we got seventy five, looking for eighty, standing at 80,000, do I hear eighty? Can somebody gimme 80? We've got 75, any takers for eighty! Come on, 75 going once, going twice...sold to woman in the blue dress for 75,000 dollars. Thank you ma'am."

Auctioneers must appraise each item to be auctioned and set a reserve price in their catalog describing the item's potential worth. Auctioneers try not to sell items for less than the reserve price. Auctioneers will either advertise the auction in newspapers or established auction houses will hold auctions weekly or monthly on set days. Before the auction begins, the auctioneer tells bidders about the conditions of each sale. Bidders must register at the auction if they intend to purchase items. Holding up a bid card or raising a hand are methods of signalling one's next bid. When the bidding stops, buyers often must pay for purchases immediately, as well as make arrangements for pickup or delivery, at the buyer's expense.

Auctions are often held when companies go bankrupt and to sell off estates of people recently deceased. Therefore, businesses can buy special equipment at bargain prices or people can furnish their homes at a cheaper cost. Auctioneers generally work on a commission basis, taking a piece of each sale they make.

In the last few years with the explosion of the Internet, auctions now take place online and auctioneers work in the World Wide Web. Web based auction houses where millions of buyers and sellers auction off items each day, are becoming increasingly popular; however there is no traditional auctioneer involved.
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  Interests and Skills  
Auctioneers must have a strong, clear voice, speak with fluency and intonation, be patient but firm and have a good business sense. Successful auctioneers enjoy working with people, compiling information and supervising the work of others. They must gain the trust of buyers and work with a sense of humor. Many are interested in antiques and fine art.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Appraise and inspect property and articles for auction
  • List items to be cataloged and arrange placement of advertisements in newspapers and magazines
  • Display and arrange merchandise for inspection before the auction
  • Consult with vendors to determine the lowest price at which the vendor is prepared to sell (the reserve price)
  • Read out the terms and conditions of sale at auction's and, if necessary, present relevant documents
  • Answer questions to ensure the terms of sale are clear
  • Comment on any special features of the item being sold, call a starting price, and ask for the first bid
  • Ask for bids and carefully adjust the amount by which bids are advanced until the item being sold goes 'under the hammer' to the highest bidder
  • Maintain the interest of prospective buyers by chanting to encourage higher bids
  • Endeavor to sell items at fair market value
  • Supervise the work of others as sales are finalized at the auction
  • Auctioneers work both indoors and outdoors in all weather conditions. Those in the agricultural field spend much of their time in auction marts or farm yards. Traveling is usually required, for real estate auctioneers to appraise land values and sometimes to conduct auctions. Hours may be long and irregular when sales are running and auctions can be held on weekends and evenings to accommodate buyers' schedules. Some auctioneers spend most of their time in an office inspecting jewelry or art.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Auctioneers usually work for auction houses, marts and rooms or are self-employed. A number of auction businesses are family-owned operations and openings for new employees are limited. Some auctioneers are hired on a contract basis with these firms. Other auctioneers work purely freelance. They advertise their services and conduct only the auctions they personally arrange.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Auctioneers' success usually depends on the reputations they build in their communities. Auctioneers could work in any sales professions, in museums or antique stores and as teachers. Some auctioneers say that they could become stand-up comedians, actors or motivational speakers.

  Educational Paths  
There are no standardized, formal educational requirements for becoming an auctioneer and many people learn the job by working as an assistant in an auction house in combination with taking classes.

Auctioneers should have a working knowledge of current market values of the types of merchandise they sell. Self-employed auctioneers must have financial backing in place before advertising their services.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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