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  • Writer's pictureMike Brandly, Auctioneer

The time between auction items

We wrote some time ago about how the faster you sell them … the higher the prices. However, is it how fast the item itself sells, or some other measure?

In this article, we will be exploring the time between auction items. Just how long does an auctioneer take between “Sold! for $3,500 to number 213,” and the invitation for bids on the next item, and does it matter?

First, we draw your attention to a study done by Namkje Koudenburg, of the psychology department at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

His recent study focused on how people who experience even 4 seconds of silence in a conversation feel distressed, afraid, hurt, and even rejected — far different from when the conversation went on without the 4 second pause with the participants feeling like, “everything is alright.” Further, the lack of silence was found to enhance the sense of belonging, self-esteem and social validation.”

In regard to auctions, it’s quite reasonable to assume some correlation to this theory. If after, “Sold! for $3,500 to number 213” there is upwards of 4 seconds of silence, the bidders may feel abandoned, distressed, afraid, or at the very least be open to other distractions.

We wrote about auctions and their hypnotizing effect on bidders. Koudenburg’s study suggests that 4 seconds of silence between items could break this hypnosis, causing bidders to rethink their strategy and/or “come to their senses” which most auctioneers would likely argue would be detrimental to prices.

Our second part of this analysis involves time and cost. Let’s look at an example:

Louis holds weekly auctions at his auction house in Hutchinson, Kansas. He employs 10 staff members to clerk, cashier, ring and serve as auctioneers. His auction usually goes about 5 hours, and about 1,000 items sell in that time.

Louis’ staff expense for one auction is about $500 as he pays all about $10/hour. But, if Louis’ auctioneers and ringman took an additional 4 seconds between each item (being silence, or product description, or other), his staff expense would grow to over $600 per auction, accounting for an additional 4,000 seconds (66.67 minutes, 1.11 hours).

Worse for Louis in this regard, he holds weekly auctions, so this additional 4 seconds between each item would cost him about $5,200 in additional labor each year. What if Louis’ auctioneers and ringman took an additional 10 seconds between items? That would cost Louis over $14,000 per year.

We might fairly combine these two central concerns for auctioneers, and say that an extra 4 seconds of time between items costs money in two regards — more staff (and other overhead such as rental and utilities) expense as well as causing bidders to bid less.

Does the time between auction items matter? It is indeed a very material issue.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.

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