In-Person Auctions

People have been conducting in-person auctions

since the time of the Babylonians.

Auctioneer print of Christie's of London
The Microcosm of London (1808), an engraving of Christie’s auction room. Public Domain

In-person Auctions

An in-person auction is what most people think of when they think of an auction. A group of people gathered around tables full of smalls, along the edges or next to the tables there is furniture or larger items. Sometimes there is art or other items hanging from the walls.

There, on the ladder, or the raised platform is the auctioneer calling for bids. The auctioneer is often assisted by several “Ringman” or “Bid Spotters”. The Ringmen hold up, or present the items the auctioneer is currently selling t the crowd, and help the auctioneer by relaying bidders bids to the auctioneer, often times by using special hand signals. By the auctioneers side is the clerk who keeps track of what the auctioneer sold, who it was sold to and how much it sold for. Somewhere nearby one or more cashiers check bidders in and out, If the auction is of any size, you will also see a food concession truck or trailer,  there my also be one or more security guards. A large auction can start to look like the circus has come to town, there is often a large tent that is erected (by the auctioneer’s crew or others that he hires) in fact auctions can have several rings, just like a circus. It is not unusual to see auctions with 2, 3, sometimes up to 6 rings or even more rings. Each ring is it’s own auction, with it’s own auctioneer, ringmen, and clerk. The auctioneer may use clerking sheets, electronic clerking, or a combination of both.

The front end of an in-person auction

is very similar to an on-line only auction, the auctioneer advertises his services, prospects, uses his website, and gets a phone call, email or other type of message that someone wants to talk with him about having an auction.

Once the auctioneer meets with the prospective client and signs up the deal (it is a best practice for an auctioneer to use a written contract), the in-person and online-only auction begin to diverge.

For an in-person auction the first decision is normally “is the auction going to happen where the items (often referred to as goods) are located or are the goods going to be moved to an auction facility. Some types of in-person auction are normally held right where the goods are located (estate auctions are conducted on-site for a good percentage of in-person auctions) while other in-person auctions (like livestock auctions) normally move the goods to an auction facility. Online auctions (and some in-person auctions) are lotted (that is the goods are broken into lots). A lot can be one thing (say a gun, or a coin) or a collection of things that are sold together (a table with the chairs, or perhaps several coins). To learn more about lotting an auction see this blog post.

Benefit Auctions

are a subset of in-person auctions. Most benefit auctions are conducted in-person and live. Benefit auctions may have on-line bidding as well but that is uncommon. Benefit auctions also often have ringmen (bidder assistants), clerks, and cashiers.