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Education and Training Varies—see profile

Salary Average—$46,062 per year

Employment Outlook Varies—see profile

Definition and Nature of the Work

Auctioneers sell various kinds of property at public sales. Auction sales may be held for individuals or businesses or by court order. Most auctioneers specialize in one type of merchandise, such as antiques, livestock, real estate, industrial equipment, or inventory liquidation. Many of these workers are self-employed, meaning they are hired on a job-by-job basis. Others, such as those employed by art and antique galleries, may be retained on a long-term basis.

Auctioneers appraise the merchandise before a sale and arrange it according to type or estimated worth. When the sale begins, items are brought up to the auction block or platform either by assistants or by the auctioneers. Auctioneers describe each item to the audience and ask for opening bids. Once the first bid is made, other people at the sale may offer higher bids for the item. When it looks as if the highest bid has been made and there are no further bids, auctioneers announce that the item is sold and then go on to the next item. If an item does not attract a bid acceptable to the seller, auctioneers may withdraw it from the sale.

Auctioneers are paid on a commission basis, which means they are given a percentage of the selling price of each item; therefore, they try to get the highest possible price for each item. When an item is sold, one of the auctioneer's assistants hands it to the buyer while another acts as cashier and record keeper. Auctioneers usually speak dramatically and very rapidly. They use their own jargon to keep the audience excited and entertained.

Auctioneers conduct many different types of auctions. Gallery auctions usually involve the sale of antiques and works of art in a gallery or showroom. Gallery sales operate in much the same manner as real estate auctions., but real estate auctions usually take place on the property or estate that is being auctioned. Industrial auctions, a highly specialized area of auction sales, involve the sale of industrial property. At produce auctions, auctioneers sell fruits and vegetables to food brokers, retailers, and wholesalers. Other wholesale auctions involve the sale of tobacco, livestock, and grains. Produce and wholesale auctions are often conducted by telephone or over the Internet, with auctioneers relaying the sellers' descriptions of their goods to the bidders.

Auctioneers are usually responsible for advertising sales in newspapers, on the radio, in trade magazines, via the Internet, and by mailing out circulars and tacking up handbills. Gallery sales are often advertised through catalogs that have descriptions of the objects up for an auction.

Education and Training Requirements

An individual interested in becoming an auctioneer can receive formal training in the field by attending a reputable auction school. A high school education is recommended because auctioneers need a great deal of general information in order to make intelligent appraisals. Auction schools usually offer two and four-week training programs that cover elocution, proper breathing techniques,

auctioneer jargon, and appraisal. After attending auction school, beginning auctioneers can sometimes become apprenticed to experienced auctioneers. Auctioneers who specialize in art objects and antiques often take college courses in the fine arts.

Getting the Job

Interested individuals can enter the field as an auctioneer's assistant by applying directly to auction houses and self-employed auctioneers. Some jobs are advertised on career sites on the Internet and in newspapers that circulate in areas where a large number of auction sales are held.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Auctioneers with good reputations receive lucrative assignments and high commission rates. Many experienced auctioneers eventually go into business for themselves, increasing their earnings and booking more profitable sales.

The employment outlook for auctioneers will likely depend on the field in which they work. For instance, real estate auctioneers specializing in farm estate sales will likely receive much business in the future if livestock prices tumble and banks foreclose on farm owners who cannot make their payments. In general, the Internet will continue to take business away from auctioneers. Auction sites such as eBay allow people to bid on just about anything over the Internet—without the need for an auctioneer. Jobs in auctioneering, however, will become available as trained workers retire or leave the field.

Working Conditions

Auctioneers are in an exciting and demanding line of work. Their work is highly diversified and requires good organizational and promotional skills, effective public speaking, and a knack for entertaining audiences. Auctioneers need physical strength because they frequently carry heavy objects up to the auction block.

They also need stamina because they conduct auctions while standing and talk nonstop for long periods of time.

Auctioneers may work evenings and weekends. Some, especially those who are self-employed, work more than forty hours a week. Many work only part time and have other jobs as well.

Where to Go for More Information

National Auctioneers Association
8880 Ballentine St.
Overland Park, KS 66214
(913) 541-8084

National Auto Auction Association
5320-D Spectrum Dr.
Frederick, MD 21703-7337
(301) 696-0400

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings for auctioneers vary greatly. According to Salary, auctioneers made an average wage of $46,062 per year in 2006. Most auctioneers work on a commission basis, with rates ranging from less than 6 percent to more than 30 percent of the item sold, depending on the value of the property up for sale and the experience and reputation of the auctioneer.