Lesson Learned- - *&^%*&*$# Auctioneers

Mar 25, 2008
Went to an estate auction today in St. George Kansas. It was supposed to start at 10 so I got there at 9:30. About 20 rifles, all good condition, brand new Ruger Charger, 4 or 5 Ruger revolvers, you get the picture. Most auctions around here list the time guns will be sold and they usually go first at the start. This auction flyer didn't and when the auction started, the auctioneer announced guns would sell at 12:00 p.m.....which is almost the end of the auction, given what else was there (two flatbeds of various mechanical junk). There were maybe 45 people at the auction. It was 75º at 10 a.m., supposed to be over 90 by afternoon.:what: About 4 of us looking at the guns promptly turned in our bid numbers because we didn't want to wait around that long, so the idiot auctioneer hurt the seller and himself by decreasing the gun bidders. I'll never attend another auction that doesn't list the time the guns will sell.

As I was leaving, they were selling a small box of used OFF spray cans. What a way to start the auction...worthless crap first, the most lucrative stuff at the end.
I’ve only attended a dozen or so live auctions. Half of them were pointless because crazies were paying more than NIB for used guns. At the others i usually ended up with an average of 2 guns. But by the time you factor in a few hours for driving, gas money and then sitting around for hours you’ve got a lot invested in the process. Internet auctions don’t have as good of deals in my experiences but end up being way more convenient all things considered.
Auctioneers often try to keep a crowd by holding out the best for last, but many of the wiser consumers peel out for other auctions or less wasted time. Those who hang in there rarely see bargains because each potential buyer who has stuck it out has so much time invested that frustration and anger drives the bidding. Not posting the time of sale of high value items means the seller is not organized, is playing bidders for suckers or at the very least doesn't care how much of our time they waste. I have better things to do with the limited time I have left.
I just today received a flyer from a local auction house with 200 firearms coming up the weekend after next. Haven't had a chance to look it over yet, but can't go anyway. There are 5 places I should go that day and competition a gun auctions is crazy.

NRA Benefactor
I had high hopes for today's auction, which made my disappointment greater. The firearms all were in great shape and the 10:00 start time was just before the 11:00 kickoff of the K-State home football game so I expected that would keep many buyers away. (since the neighboring county population is about 75K and the game draws 55K!). I'll probably hear tomorrow that they all went for bargain prices!
Around here, the best stuff is auctioned off last, firearms included. If that is not what you like, visit the online auctions.

I actually don’t care if it’s first or last as long as they state ahead about when the guns will be sold. I just don’t have the interest or luxury of time to sit through an entire estate sale waiting for it, especially on a rare day off. Auction guns seem to draw about half the crowd to the sale so most auctioneers here provide the courtesy of being upfront about the timing.
Went to one like that years ago with my Father. Auctioneer made us stand around all day for the firearms stuff. In the end there were maybe 4-5 guys left and things went CHEAP as we would simply would not bid against each other. Stupid auctioneer played a game with us and lost. I'm sure it hurt the estate and I felt bad about that but not my job to help there (that is the auctioneer job which he failed at).

It makes no sense as boxes of junk are going to go for $5-10 each lets say. A rifle with a motivated crowd could also double in realized price and that be an extra $1k for the estate.

Or, as the OP points out. Sell things when you SAY you will!
As I was leaving, they were selling a small box of used OFF spray cans. What a way to start the auction...worthless crap first, the most lucrative stuff at the end.
Gotta see the auctioneer's viewpoint, he knew everyone was there for the guns and if he sold them early there'd be no one there to bid on items like that, tempting though they may be!
I when to a high end auction near Asheville NC. Double rifles, Pudy Shotguns, Pre Clinton sport guns, TONS OF guns. A/C building, bidders on the phone. They put out the High End guns at the beginning, Middle, & End! … why, so people will stay and bid on the other guns!

Someone was selling BBQ and ice cold Ice Tea outside too!

Background check was done on site. Guns were handed to buy
The practice of selling the "good" stuff last at auctions has been around probably since the beginning of auctions. I grew up on a family farm and in the late 1960's and early 1970's if there was a farm auction that had something of interest to my Dad he would send me with a check and tell me not to pay too much for the item he wanted. Farm auctions always had hay racks full of junk that was auctioned first and the tractors and good equipment always went last. I learned patience and thrift by attending these auctions as many farmers had things to do so would leave early as you did. Whether it is a good practice or bad practice will always be debated depending on your perspective.
Gotta see the auctioneer's viewpoint, he knew everyone was there for the guns and if he sold them early there'd be no one there to bid on items like that, tempting though they may be!

Totally understand; but my point is if they advertised that guns sell at 12:00, I'd have come at 12:00 not 10:00. I'm not going to buy some used cans of OFF if I come early.
A good friend whose auction service regularly handles estates, large gun collections, and the occasional small town museum (at least once anyway) said he prefers to spread the good stuff throughout. Says it's easier to get a feel for the type of buyers present if he breaks it up and people get a feel for what kinds of prices different stuff will bring. Then the tire kickers tend to disappear.
I have NEVER been to an in-person auction where the guns sell at the start unless it was a pure gun auction. Never. In over a decade of going to auctions. That's not how auctions work. In my experience, guns have sold in the second half of the auction at the earliest.

As I was leaving, they were selling a small box of used OFF spray cans. What a way to start the auction...worthless crap first, the most lucrative stuff at the end.
The auctioneer didn't hurt himself or the seller in the slightest. They are balancing several factors that are important. That's how auctions normally start. For the reasons that @Howland937 stated. The auctioneer and ring-man are getting a feel for the crowd. They're learning who are the people that they need to pay attention to and what their auction signals are.

Do you have people in the crowd who place bids with subtle signals? You need to find out when the lots are going for $60 and not $600 or $6,000. (Yes the auctioneer hates you for using a subtle signal, but they'll tolerate you as long as the check clears.)​
Do you have some moron who tagged along and talks with their hands when chatting with the person next to them? Better find that out before the bids on the work truck are at $10,000.​
Do you notice someone buying certain types of lots? Looking towards them when selling similar lots can encourage bids.​
Is there a heckler in the crowd who tries placing late bids with subtle signals, then tries causing a scene? You REALLY need to find out who they are ASAP.​
Additional factors they have to consider are,

Big crowd = Higher bids. Losing 4 people at the start is irrelevant if it means keeping the crowd. This makes bidders feel like there is more competition than there may actually be. If I have 2 competitors for a lot right next to me, I can eye them up and estimate how close they are to their max. When they're mixed in a crowd of 50-100, I can't do that.​
Sell all the lots. The auctioneer has been brought in to sell all of the lots. If they sell all the good stuff first and end up with half the lots not selling because everyone left, how many future auctions do you think they are going to get?​
As for 90 degree afternoon, bring a backpack of ice packs, a canteen, a hat, and an umbrella. You're bidding at an auction, not spreading asphalt. Perhaps I take auctions a bit too seriously. :confused:
Over the years, I have gone to a lot of auctions. Was years ago that I went with high expectations of getting what I wanted or getting a 'ell of a deal. Not that it doesn't happen, but I became a realist. Never go thinking it's going to be short and sweet. Always expect to spend the day. If I didn't, I'd stick with garage sales. Most I go with sell the good stuff last or at least, towards the end. Many times, sticking around to the end is when I get those "real deals". Kinda like sitting on deer stand, or Musky fishing, one has to have patience in order to be successful more than once.
If there was something I was really interested in, I would hope for even higher temperatures and would try and drag out the sale of preceding items but I spend most of everyday outside and know most don’t.

Maybe the auctioneer is like me. The more people that walk away, the cheaper it’s going to be for me. ;)