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In my time as an auctioneer, and before that as a teenager and frequent auction attendee, I have read well over 50,000 auction advertisements, mostly in newspapers and printed fliers, but also more recently online as well.

As an auctioneer, I have written 1,000’s of auction advertisements. As Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, I have taught auction advertising in pre-licensure and post-licensure education classes, and I have repeatedly been asked to judge state auctioneer association marketing (advertising) contests.

Based upon my experience, I have generally classified auction advertisements in four (4) categories:

  • Exceptional. The auction advertisement contains all the essential information necessary, and also uses color, graphics and layout to grab attention and create curiosity about the auction.
  • Good. The auction advertisement contains all the essential information necessary. The auction advertisement is complete, and is otherwise acceptable in use of fonts, alignment and sequence. However, this auction advertisement is not as likely to grab attention and/or create curiosity about the auction.
  • Bad. The auction advertisement does not contain all the essential information or is otherwise deficient in use of fonts, alignment, or sequence. The auction advertisement may lack the date, time, location, directions, property description and/or contact information which makes the auction advertisement incomplete, and/or otherwise is less than what auction clients and customers have a right to expect.
  • Misleading. The auction advertisement is using words or other techniques to portray an image in the mind of the potential bidder which is inaccurate, and may lead the auction advertisement viewer to be mislead. To mislead, we mean that the reader of the auction advertisement may be lead into error of conduct, thought, or judgment.

What makes the above advertisement misleading?

First, some overall comments:

  • This advertisement was placed in the retail section of a major newspaper, rather than in the auction section, and on a “off-day” for auction advertisements (an off-day is any day other than the day, or days, when auction advertisements are typically run by auctioneers in the area) — suggesting the auctioneer is desiring only naive auction bidders, and wants to avoid a crowd of experienced auction buyers.
  • This advertisement is not found on the Internet at all. It is not listed on www.auctionzip.com and no website or other Internet address is listed in the advertisement. Here again, this suggests that the auctioneer is desiring only naive auction bidders, and wants to avoid a crowd of experienced auction buyers.
  • This advertisement does not have the name of any auctioneer who is a “person” listed, and rather only lists a generic company name and phone number [I’ve omitted the company name and contact information.] This suggests that this auctioneer doesn’t want his or her name associated with this auction.

And, now some other observations:

  • 2 Days Only?
    2 Days? Most auctioneers in the United States sell personal property at a pace of 2-3 items per minute. If this auction is 2 days in length, then there must be upwards of 1,800 items in this auction. Yet, the auction description lists only some general descriptions, and nowhere else notes thousands of items — not even hundreds of items.
  • Fine Art & Estate Auction?
    So, the fine art is not part of the Estate? What belongs to the Estate? Fine art is a type of personal property, and the word Estate, used here, suggests someone has died. An Estate can contain fine art, but this advertisement suggests these are distinct categories.
  • Featuring Items From The Estate Of A Famed HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER?
    It is interesting that it is important to note that some of these items are from a famed Hollywood producer, but the famed Hollywood producer is not named in the advertisement. This seems odd, as if this is a famed Hollywood producer, the name of that person would be of interest to bidders, and would normally be noted.
  • Must be Liquidated at Nominal Bid, or No Reserve?
    It must be liquidated? In other words, by law or court-order? No mention of that. Then, at “nominal bid” or “no reserve?” How many of the items are selling at nominal prices, and how many items are selling at no reserve? No mention of that. Finally, what is a “nominal bid?” Is $10,000 a nominal bid on a Persian Rug “appraised” for $45,000?
  • EXTRAORDINARY PERSIAN RUGS FROM SMALL TO PALACE SIZE. INVESTMENT CALIBER FINE ART – PICASSO, CHAGALL, DALI, DELACROIX, L. NEIMAN, TARKEY & MORE. HIGH VALUE ITALIAN AND FRENCH FURNITURE, CLASSICAL BRONZES, CERTIFIED JEWELRY AND HIGHLY COLLECTIBLE OBJECTS OF ART …?
    So, what is being offered here? Rugs which are of various sizes? Art which is being called, “Investment Caliber” but no mention of any particular works, sizes, etc. Furniture which is being called, “High Value” but no mention of the actual furniture pieces — desks, chairs, tables, lamps …? Bronzes which are being called, “Classical” but no mention of artists, sizes, age, etc. Jewelry which is being called, “Certified” but no mention of the actual items — rings, bracelets, necklaces? Gold, sterling, platinum …? Objects of art which is in itself somewhat obscure, and being called, “Highly collectible” with no further explanation.
  • …plus items from various other estates and sources?
    So, which items belonged to the famed Hollywood producer? How much of the auction consists of items not previously belonging to the famed Hollywood producer? What other estates? What other sources?
  • Items Have Been Relocated For Convenience Of Sale?
    With a two-day auction, and well over 1,000 items (we would be lead to believe), this location seems curious. The rent for these two days, plus days to relocate and setup this auction total over $10,000; sufficient square footage and parking is available for far less at any number of locations in the area. Secondly, is it fair to assume the famed Hollywood producer lived near Hollywood, California? Wouldn’t it be more convenient and cost-effective to sell those items closer to California?
  • Saturday, Feb. 5th & Sunday, Feb. 6th, Preview starts at 1 P.M. > Auction at 2 P.M.?
    One hour of preview before the auction starts — on both days? With all this investment caliber, high value, classical and highly collectible inventory, would bidders normally require much more time than one hour to preview?

The balance of this auction advertisement lists the address of the facility used for the auction, and directions to that location — which is normal and expected.

Advertising such as this could, conceivably, be legitimate. However the omissions of some material information along with the placement of the advertisement — and where the advertisement isn’t (such as on www.auctionzip.com) — make that a difficult argument.

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.