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This is my third “aberrant auction law” find, and numbered as such. When I find more, I’ll attempt to number sequentially, although I hope my searching is generally unsuccessful.

Aberrant auction law refers to auctioneer licensing law (or other auction related law) that is abnormal, odd, bizarre, or otherwise unusual. The basis for determining if an auction law is aberrant is all the other auction law that is out there, which collectively is widely considered normal.

The District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) is governed by federal law, and not state law, unlike the 50 states of the United States. I have probably posted before or said, essentially, “auctions are not governed by federal law in the United States,” and that’s true almost everywhere, except the District of Columbia.

The District of Columbia has what is called TITLE 16. CONSUMERS, COMMERCIAL PRACTICES, & CIVIL INFRACTIONS. Under Title 16 is CHAPTER 11. AUCTIONS AND AUCTIONEERS so here for reference, we are talking about: CDCR 16-1100 (2004)

The particular statute we find aberrant is:

1102.6 A person, firm, or corporation desiring to sell property (either real or personal) at public action may, for the purpose of attracting attention to the prospective sale of that property, ring a bell once a day for a period of time not to exceed five (5) minutes, in front of the premises to be sold or the place where the personal property to be offered for
sale is stored. The bell shall not to exceed six inches (6 in.) in diameter at the bottom and five inches (5 in.) in height perpendicular from the level to the crown.

I’m not sure any further commentary is necessary here, as to why I find this odd, but it does suggest a few questions: Why for only 5 minutes a day? Why only 6″ in diameter? Why only once a day? Why does this statute exist at all?

As I and others have researched the history of auctions in the United States, there are mentions of bells or whistles being used to attract attention to an auction. And, in the 1960’s, there were several states that outlawed the use of bells, whistles, and other noise making devises at auctions.

So, maybe this is a left-over allowable noise devise from years ago, or suggests possibly some auctioneer with political connections happened to have a bell of just this size? Nevertheless, we find this interesting to say the least.

We find the District of Columbia Section DCR 16-1102.6 (2004) aberrant.

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.