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In discussions with other auctioneers, topics such as “tie bids,” “reopening the bid,” and “who’s on or not,” usually arise when discussing bid calling.

Typically someone will mention that, “My ringman had a bid,” or “My ringman was on,” in regard to where the bid was and who was in or out.

I would agree that the ringman’s bidder (the bidder the ringman is indicating he has in) can be in, or out. I also agree that ringman can be “on” in the sense that their bidder is the one actually, “on.” Yet, there is one aspect of ringman taking bids which is perilous — ringman accepting bids.

We submit here:

  • When an auctioneer is bid calling, he opens the auction and invites the bidders to make him an offer. When an offer is made, the response is normally acceptance — so long as it is a higher offer than previously accepted, and doesn’t contain adverse conditions.
  • Primal contract law dictates that the only one who can accept an offer at an auction is the one who invited the offer and the one to whom the offer is extended — the auctioneer.
  • The auctioneer alone has a client/agent relationship with his seller, and thus the clerks, cashiers, ringman or other staff have no authority to actually accept bids; the auctioneer is the only person who can accept offers from bidders.
  • What ringman do is relay, or communicate bids to the auctioneer, and communicate with bidders as to who the auctioneer has in or out.

Where this issue is most discussed is when an auctioneer will say that he had a bidder (say bidder # 171) and the ringman had another bidder (say bidder # 97). Some describe this situation as a tie bid, because two bidders are, “on;” however, there is only one bidder on — the bidder the auctioneer has (bidder # 171) and the other bidder (# 97 and all other bidders) are out.

If a bidder asks a ringman, “Do you have me?” the question should be thought of as, “Does the auctioneer have me in as the high bidder?” and not whether or not the ringman has him — as it matters not if the ringman thinks he is in, tells him he is in, indicates he is in … unless the auctioneer has him, “in.”

There are some auctions where the auctioneer conducting the bid calling doesn’t see (or can’t see) any of the actual bidding. In such events, the ringman are critical components of the auction, as they relay all the bids to the auctioneer.

Given the auctioneer actually sees no bids or bidders, the auctioneer will say that he “Has Gary’s man,” if Gary is the ringman and has a bidder, or “I’m with Roger” if Roger is the ringman with a bidder.

In these cases, the auctioneer will defer to the ringman to tell him who is “in” or “out” and who, ultimately, is the buyer. Yet, even in these situations, the ringman are still merely relaying (communicating) the bid to the auctioneer, and the auctioneer is accepting the actual bid.

Good communication between the auctioneer and ringman is critical.

Auctioneers and ringman use certain words and hand signals to tell each other if the ringman’s bidder is in or out, and who’s in or out. Ringman will yell and hand signal to the auctioneer when they see a bid, and the auctioneer must advise the ringman if that bid is accepted — or not, because another like bid was accepted instead.

Steve Proffitt, attorney and auctioneer noted:

    The auctioneer ought to always be in charge of the auction, and the ring people should communicate bids back to him, not have the authority to accept bids. The only bids accepted ought to be those taken by the auctioneer himself.

We agree.

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.