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Professional auctioneer shares bidding strategies

Avoid these common bidding mistakes

IN THE SHOP with Rachel

By Rachel Gingell

I called my first bids when I was 8 years old – and I was hooked. A few years later, I started out in the auction profession by clerking for a friend who was a local auctioneer. At age 16, I took a few weeks off of high school to attend auction school. Ever since then, I’ve enjoyed spending weekends working as an auctioneer, specializing in (what else?) farm equipment.

As a professional auctioneer, I’ve seen people make plenty of mistakes when bidding. Here are some good strategies to get the best bang for your buck at auction.

1) Don’t bid on the first number that is called. Auctioneers want items to sell high and to sell quickly, so they’ll start the bidding by asking for a relatively high number. Wait a bit to bid, since auctioneers will lower that price until they get a nibble. Once the price is low enough that you think you’d be getting a great deal (typically one half to one quarter of the item’s retail value), go ahead and place the first bid

2) Don’t bid against yourself! In a busy auction, the bid caller might work with a few spotters (also called “ringmen” or “auction assistants”) to gather bids. The spotter will represent bids from their area to the auctioneer. This approach is necessary in large crowds, where the auctioneer can’t see all of the bidders. Most auctioneers and spotters work well together. Occasionally, however, there can be a miscommunication when the spotter represents your bid to the auctioneer, then the auctioneer turns to you and asks you to bid again. The solution: know when you hold the high bid and turn your bids into just one person (either a spotter or the auctioneer).

3) Don’t be sneaky about bidding. While there’s no need to whoop and holler every time you bid, it’s very risky to be sneaky about your bids. Small gestures, such as winks, nose twitches and tiny nods, can be easily missed or misunderstood, causing you to lose out on items you want. If there’s a reason why you want your bidding to be completely private, than a public auction probably isn’t the best place for you to buy. Go ahead and raise your hand!

This article is the final installment in a short series that I’ve called the spring auction playbook. If you missed the previous three articles, be sure to check them out. Now it's your turn – what tips do you have for attending farm equipment auctions? Share with us in the comments below. 


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