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Recently, there as been considerable discussion on what being an auctioneer really means. The banter has mainly arisen due to a number of people solely facilitating online-only auctions for their clients, and operating under a business name inclusive of the word, “auctioneer.”

Let’s say Trisha graduates from high school, and decides to start her own company. She is proficient with computers and programming, and designs a website where she will accept consignments from clients and put them on her site (photographing, describing, etc.,) selling those items in a competitive fashion to the highest bidder. Following the conclusion of the bidding, she will pay her client the gross received from the buyer, minus her commission.

Our initial question is, “Is Trisha an auctioneer?”

For the most part, people in the United States associate certain skills with being an, “auctioneer.” For instance, the most recognizable skill is the ability to call bids (i.e. talk rapidly, with filler words …)

    It is fair to think that most people would characterize Trisha’s business model as selling items at auction; however, most all would not consider Trisha an auctioneer.

Let’s say that after a few months in business, Trisha is contacted by local resident, Paul, who wishes her to sell his remaining inventory of office equipment. Paul prefers Trisha to sell the items in-place, live, to an audience, rather than online. Trisha takes on the project and schedules this event for November 15.

Trisha takes pictures of Paul’s inventory, posts those pictures on her website, places a newspaper advertisement, and buys a portable speaker system. The day of the event, Trisha introduces herself, and tells the crowd in attendance that she, “would like an opening bid of $20!” for the first item.

    It is fair to think that most people would characterize Trisha’s event as an auction; and, most all would consider Trisha an auctioneer.

Thus the title of our article here: “Calling bids does not make one an auctioneer?”

We think the contrary, that in fact “Calling bids does make one an auctioneer.”

About one-half of the states in the United States require some sort of state-wide licensing to operate as an auctioneer. So, if Trisha operated in one of those states, before she held that live auction for Paul, she would have to obtain the proper licensing. In fact, most of these states dictate that if Trisha wants to “hold herself out” as an auctioneer, she needs to be licensed as such.

In the non-license states, Trisha may be required to obtain a permit or the like, but would likely be able to hold herself out as an auctioneer, and conduct live auctions independent of any similar licensing.

Let’s say further, that Trisha goes back to her previous business model, servicing clients with her online auction platform for the next several years. Is she still an auctioneer? If she’s operating in a license state, and maintains her license, then she is indeed an auctioneer from a licensing standpoint.

If she’s operating in a non-license state, although she might be claiming she is an auctioneer, most would consider her business as selling at auction, but not consider her an auctioneer due to her lack of conducting bid calling.

We think it is important to note that licensing is a form of “permission,” and doesn’t necessary resonate with the public actual practice, willingness nor stature.

Trisha’s grandmother Cora has a driver’s license, but at age 82 is hardly considered a driver. Trisha’s brother Ted holds a PGA card, but hasn’t golfed in over 10 years and would hardly be considered a golfer. Trisha’s uncle Calvin sold real estate for 35 years, and maintains his real estate license, but hasn’t sold any real estate in the last 12 years; most all in the community do not consider Calvin a real estate agent.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”

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.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.