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Ed Williams has been an auctioneer for over 30 years.

Ed conducts an “Every Friday” consignment auction in Carlin, Nevada.

This particular Friday, he opens his auction with the first item up for bid:

    “Folks, we have here a wonderful pair of World War II binoculars. Somebody start the bid at $500?”

What Ed Williams doesn’t know, and probably what only one person in Ed’s crowd knows (at this point) is that these binoculars are a rare pair of Japanese Carl Zeiss U.758 binoculars, likely worth over $5,000.

Nancy Hill is in that audience, and is that one bidder to whom we refer. Nancy has been collecting rare World War II items for over 25 years, and is the foremost expert on World War II binoculars, telescopes, and other optical equipment in the world.

Nancy has testified numerous times in court regarding the value of such items, and has appeared on several television shows regarding World War II collectibles. Her personal collection of World War II optical items is unrivaled.

Nancy bids (offers) Ed Williams the $500 he is asking, and Ed asks someone else to bid $600. Almost ten seconds pass when Ed says,

    “Hey, look here … that’s Nancy Hill bidding on these binoculars … how are you, Nancy?”

Just then, another bidder bids $600 and Nancy bids $700. The bidding continues $800, $900, $1,000, $1,500, $2,000, $2,500, $3,000, $3,500, $4,000, $4,500 … with Nancy ultimately becoming the buyer at $4,750.

What has happened here is Ed Williams announced Nancy Hill’s name to the crowd for one reason: to alert the other bidders that Nancy Hill was bidding, and they could safely bid against her and know that her bidding would serve as a guide to true market value.

Nancy is furious with Ed in the fact he identified her to the other bidders in the audience. Ed’s seller (and Ed for that matter) couldn’t be much happier as his technique has seemed to net his client over $4,000 more than he otherwise would have gained, and earned Ed more in commission.

We wrote about buyers wanting to keep their identity and/or sales prices confidential and the same theory could apply to bidders as well: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/buyer-wants-his-identity-and-sales-price-kept-confidential-at-auction/

Our conclusion before, and here again is that sale prices and bidder/buyer identities are quite public information unless the parties to the auction agree in advance to limit the distribution or broadcasting of those details, or the bidder/buyer takes steps unilaterally to conceal his identity.

What this means is Nancy Hill has a duty to discuss with Ed Williams prior to the auction that she wishes her identity to be kept confidential, and/or conceal her identity by either bidding by proxy or maybe disguising herself so Ed and other potential bidders do not recognize her.

And what is Ed’s duty? Ed’s duty is to represent his seller and his seller’s best interest. Therefore, Ed has a duty to announce Nancy’s name, and take other similar measures, unless announcing such is against any prior agreement between Nancy and his client, or in violation of local, state or federal law.

Certainly, Ed could have a policy that he doesn’t announce bidder or buyer names at his auctions, but Ed’s clients would have the right to know this policy before engaging Ed to be their auctioneer (have knowledge of it, and consent to it.) This way, Ed’s sellers would know to expect Nancy to be not identified at Ed’s auction.

Should auctioneers announce the buyer’s (or bidder’s) name? In many cases, the answer could well be, “Yes.”

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.