We have written extensively about auctioneer bid calling. For those in the United States, bid calling is nearly all uniform in one respect, where bid calling in England is distinctly different.
How does bid calling in the United States differ from England?
In the United States, auctioneers customarily communicate with the audience two numbers: The “have” and the “want.” For instance, an auctioneer in Nebraska, for example, would almost assuredly ask for a bid of $500 and if a bid was made for $500, the auctioneer would then communicate to his audience that he “had” a bid of $500, and “wants” a bid of $550. This type of exchange between the auctioneer and the audience would continue, such as, “I have $500, and I want $550, $550, $550 .. I’m at $500, bid $550, $550, now $550 …”
In England, however, an auctioneer in London would typically suggest a starting bid, for example, by saying “Who would start the bid at $500?” Once a bid of $500 was made, the auctioneer would say, “I have $500” or “I’m at $500” and basically wait for the next bid to be made. Once a hand went up, or otherwise another bid was made, the auctioneer would accept this bid and state a new amount — typically the amount set by the pre-established increments of the auctioneer. For example, if the increments at around $500 were $50, the next bid would be $550.
The key difference here is that in England, the “want” is not expressly noted, but rather implied. In the United States, the “want” is expressly communicated.
Are there advantages or disadvantages to either of these methods? Apparently not. It seems more so that bidders prefer whichever method has become familiar. Bidders accustomed to English style bid calling find the United States method unusual, and those bidders in the United States find the English style unusual.
Finally, the other key difference typically noted is the speed in which the bid calling is communicated. In the United States, most auctioneers talk fast — faster than those auctioneers in England. However, this isn’t to say that the auctioneers in either culture actually sell items quicker than the other. The actual sale speed (minutes per item, or items per minute) might favor the United States auctioneers just a bit, but isn’t greatly different.
As more and more people become familiar with other countries, and other customs, it is becoming less unusual to hear English-style bid calling in the United States, and United States-style bid calling in England. In fact, Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York still utilize English-style bid calling, due to their English heritage and tradition.
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 serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.