Saturday, March 01, 2014


Auctions are, quintessentially, a marketplace.  It's a very simple form of commerce where buyers and sellers come together.  The Seller has a forum to move his goods, and the Buyer has a place to purchase those goods.  Auctions move across cultures and countries because they are simple, easily understood, entertaining, and profitable for both the buyer and seller.  In this day of Ebay and other online auctions, I would rather go to a traditional auction, while I still acknowledge the benefits of the newer varieties simply because of the human interaction.

In a traditional auction, we find certain set-pieces.  First the venue, which might be a storefront, or a front yard.  Then the seller, who might be front and center, or might be anonymous.  Then the Auctioneer who is always front and center.  It is the Auctioneer's job to control the auction and to get the highest price possible for the goods.  In most cases, the Auctioneer does not own the product, but is only an agent for the sale.  The best Auctioneers are entertainers, jovial, friendly, and know  how to work a crowd.  Last but not least, we have the Boyer.  It's the Buyer's money that the Seller wants and it's the Auctioneer's job to get the best price possible.  It's the Buyer's job to get the product for the least amount possible.

In a pure marketplace, an item is only worth what a Buyer is willing to pay, and it's the Auctioneer's job to find that number.  That's where the human drama unfolds.

You see all types at an auction. Rich and poor, educated and uneducated, of all economic classes.  Everyone is equal at an auction.  It's all based on what you're willing to pay.  For example, I remember a recent auction where a simple, aluminum pitcher was available; one of many items to be traded that night, and a smalll bidding war erupted over that simple item.

Two buyers.  One was a local dealer, looking for scrap aluminum, the other a regular fellow who liked the pitcher because it was one like his grandmother had owned, many years ago.  The dealer knew what it was worth, having bought and sold much aluminum over his career and the regular fellow who knew what it was worth as a senimental object, and knew what he was willing to give for it.  The Auctioneer, trying to get the best price, let the bidding roll incrementally.  The aluminum dealer bidded in tiny amounts, and the sentimental fellow always topped him.  Finally, it went to the sentimental fellow because he was willing to pay more than the scrap dealer.

Young and old, rich and poor, credentialed and common, you'll find all types at an auction.  Everyone is looking for a deal.  It's great entertainment, it's an ancient form of commerce, and it's generally free to the public.  If you're find yourself bored this weekend, go to and find a local auction.  It doesn't cost anything to watch, but put a little jingle in your pocket.  You never know what you might find on the tables, and you're guaranteed to have a good time.


Old NFO said...

It is an interesting evolution, and occasionally gets down right CRAZY!!! Seen that at an auction of "western" stuff where they were bidding more for bronzes than they could be bought for new (totally caught up in the 'frenzy')...

Eaton Rapids Joe said...

Some items seem to go for more than new on a regular basis. Welders, for instance.

One interesting fact is that the price is set by the person who wants it second most. The bidding stops right after that person stops.

Thanks for writing about auctions!

Gerry N. said...

Right after High School I lived with an uncle who was more like an older brother. He and my aunt liked to go to the local Sat. auction about twice a month. I had no money so I just went to meet girls. (That Worked!) At one auction in mid Spring, my uncle ended up with half a dozen doe rabbits, all pregnant and two Jersey heifers, both carrying their first calves. Life got pretty hectic about two weeks on as the rabbits all kindled withing three days of each other, and both cows had their calves the next week. That was the Summer I learned to care for rabbits and to milk. If you're gonna have one or two cows to hand milk, get Jerseys. They are small, docile, friendly as cocker puppies and pretty. The milk is wonderful, but not overly plentiful. One teen age boy can handle two of 'em 'cause they are easy to milk. On the other hand owning milk cows is the epitome of responsibility. It is also wonderful exercise for the hands and arms. I learned by August how my Grandad could bend a half dollar into a "U" shape with his bare hands. I've got one I bent that way. I had no clue how strong I was until a smart aleck tried to start a fight with me. He swung, I grabbed his wrist and heard a noise like an egg shell breaking. It was his wrist bones. Broke both of 'em in his right wrist, I did. Didn't mean to, but there it was. That was when I learnd about farm boys and strength. Da Missus and I are still friendly with some of the girls I met at the auction and their families. Auctions are fun.