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  • Writer's pictureMike Brandly, Auctioneer

When to sell that “best item?”

We’ve written that you as an auctioneer should have an “order of sale” and of course, most auctioneers do. We’ve also written that once your order of sale is established, you should stick to it — except for extraordinary circumstances such as weather, a court order, and the like.

Many years ago we asked the question if the “order” itself mattered? It seems that the order (sequence) rightly matters to auctioneers, sellers, bidders, and buyers. That treatise is here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2011/01/01/does-order-of-sale-matter/.

While auctioneers may disagree as to the exact order, it seems to most that a general rule is to sell the better — best items — not first, not last, but “early” in the auction. The theory rests in the reality that if this best item is sold:

  1. First — a bidder may be late due to traffic or other obligations and miss it.

  2. Late/Last — a bidder may not buy anything else prior, keeping his money close in anticipation of this best item.

  3. Early — a bidder can realize if he’s the purchaser or not, and if not, can use his unused funds for other [remaining] purchases.

The most egregious plan would be selling that best item last — because it’s likely more than one bidder would keep all his money “in his pocket” (not buying anything else) awaiting this best item — and then when it sells to “one buyer” and all that remaining money walks off the property, and/or leaves your platform.

Further, the “better” this best item or items are, the more important it is that bidders don’t have to wait very long to see them put up for auction. This maximizes the money available for these best items, and thus increases the sale prices of the balance of the inventory.

Here again, the “just because you can” theory is not a prudent rule when it comes to arbitrary, capricious behavior in regard to “order of sale.” While virtually any such behavior is questionable, changes in the order which result in the best items selling anytime other than early is foolhardy.

Also important to this discussion is that auctioneers [can] develop a reputation — and once any auctioneer decides to prescribe to a pre-determined order of sale, bidders and buyers will react accordingly. Once bidders/buyers know what to do, when to do it, how to do it, they do.

Bidders/buyers who don’t know what to do, when to do it, how to do it … don’t do it, as they can’t. Capricious and arbitrary behavior is chaotic, and chaos (mayhem, disorder, havoc) is exactly what auctioneers should avoid. Relatedly, two Nobel Price winning economists found conclusively that more disclosure and transparency increase prices at auction: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/10/16/providing-as-much-information-as-possible/.

Maybe the key issue is product knowledge? Where is that best item? Where are the better items? If you as an auctioneer have to rely on your bidders to tell you what to sell when more knowledge and research is likely prudent, or maybe partner with an auctioneer or consultant who can help you.

As well, that ever-so-helpful bidder who says, “Hey, if you move that item … I’ll bid … “ might not actually be helping you or your seller at all? Bidders/buyers often rightly advocate for their own position/profit under the guise they are helping you when they aren’t.

Manson Slik maybe said it best and it’s (in theory) not hard to remember:

Tell your client and bidders what you are going to do, when you are going to do it, how you are going to do it and what it will cost and then just do it. Simple millionaire formula right there. Don’t waiver off it, ever.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services, and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, and an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and Western College of Auctioneering. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.

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