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We’ve all heard it at an auction … “Well folks, we have a tie bid, so we’ll have to reopen the bidding …” or “We’ve got it all over the house, so somebody give me …” Neither of these types of statements hold up under contract law, and here’s why:

  1. When bid calling, there can be only one high bidder who is in contract with the seller (i.e. one seller, one buyer). If it were possible for any more than one, then what would we do if: Item is put up for auction and the auctioneer took 2 bidders, both bid $25 — a “tie bid of $25 …” and then nobody else bids. So, how do we break the tie? The auctioneer could ask either bidder to bid, maybe, $27.50 but let’s say both decline. What do we do now? The point here is, the auctioneer is not authorized under agency law to take a bid from more than one bidder at a time, and for good reason.
  2. Upon, “Sold!” we have auctioneers who say, “We’ve got a tie bid here, so we’ll have to reopen the bidding …” This begs the question: How would the auctioneer have 2 bidders in if he is only authorized to accept bids from one bidder at a time? Typically, this occurs when the auctioneer has Bidder A on and upon, “Sold!” the ringman says he has Bidder B, or Bidder C holds up their bidder card, and says “You had me!” What if the entire crowd help up their cards, and said, all at once, “You had all of us!?” Remember, one seller, and one buyer (bidder). Just because someone thinks they are the high bidder doesn’t make then the high bidder.

Could an auctioneer have two identical absentee bids placed on the same item? Maybe, except one most likely came in before the other, such as one at 1:00 p.m. and the other at 2:15 p.m. So, no different than during live bid calling; if a bid for $25 came in and was accepted, the auctioneer would be unauthorized to accept any other bid for $25 that came in subsequently (see Does bid calling form contracts?)

Can the auctioneer reopen the bidding under any circumstances? Yes, actually he can, and we’ll discuss that particular legal allowance in a future post. However, a good rule to remember is “There are no tie bids at an auction.”

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: www.face book.com/mbauctioneer. He is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.