Auctioneers manage public sales where property or merchandise are sold to the highest bidder. These items can be anything from real estate or farm equipment to jewelry or exotic animals. Because knowledge of the value of such goods is important to the successful auctioneer, many choose to specialize in three or four types of auctions. Auctioneers represent sellers but should also be able to work with buyers One should have a strong voice, a good sense of humor, and an agile mind. Auctioneering is a fast-paced, unpredictable career that can bring financial rewards to those who show ability in all these areas.
Auctions can take place in large convention centers, barns, yards, and parking lots. Travel is often required. An auctioneer faces the crowd (usually between fifty and ten thousand people), introduces items, and calls out bids with the help of assistants or "ringmen." While many use public address systems, bid calling for four to six hours per day still puts considerable strain on the voice. Over 75 percent of auctioneers are independent contractors who work for a daily fee or a percentage of sales. As independent contractors, marketing and drumming up business are the auctioneer's responsibilities, so business skills are important. Auctioneers also render appraisal values in two realms; on the value of the asset itself and the price the asset is likely to command. Successful auctioneers have some understanding of the psychology of the auction as well as a blanket appraised value. The range of value of sales at auctions can run from $2,000 all the way to $300 million, so financial acumen is critical.
The community of auctioneers is fairly supportive, and the majority of auctioneers belong to one of the major professional associations. Many entrants to the field work for (or with) more established members of the community. The old vision of the auctioneer as slick bid-chanter has changed with the scale of auctions in America; one auctioneer mentioned "There...has been an improvement in the area of ethics in the auction industry," and was very positive about the future of auctioneering. Many auctions take place under the auspices of the federal government, so an understanding of federal regulations and the ability to work with federal agencies is important.
An auctioneer must have at least a high-school education, and more and more auctioneers are going to four-year colleges, agricultural colleges, or two-year specialty colleges. Coursework should include finance, accounting, management, psychology, and public speaking. Many auctioneers have experience in marketing and a few cited acting as a helpful course of study. Many spend a year or two learning about valuation in their intended area of specialization; others work as assistants or ringmen in the industry first, then choose an area of specialization. An auctioneer should have a quick mind, an ability to speak clearly and honestly with prospective buyers and sellers, and strong organizational skills. Many states require licensing (particularly for those auctioneers who intend to preside over real-estate auctions), and others require passage of an examination and some apprenticeship, so check with local authorities to find out the restrictions in your area.
Auctioneers' strong valuation skills and excellent communication skills transfer well into marketing and sales fields. Auctioneers become brokers, merchants, professional buyers, entrepreneurs, and salesmen. Those whose specialties focused on the psychological and financial aspects of auctioneering find employ in financial institutions, marketing, and public relations. A few go into public speaking and negotiation-skills teaching for private firms.