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photo(29)I started working in the auction business in 1979.

The auctioneer I worked for was a fairly busy auctioneer, holding 1-2 personal property auctions per week in the Columbus, Ohio area.

For a typical auction we booked in 1985, we would advertise it in the Columbus Dispatch and maybe some neighborhood weekly newspapers.

    Cost? In 1985, around $400.

My company booked an auction in 1995 for which I ran advertisements in the Columbus Dispatch, weekly neighborhood papers, and Antique Week.

    Cost? In 1995, nearly $1,000.

For an auction our company booked in 2005 I ran a small advertisement in the Columbus Dispatch and utilized AuctionZip.com.

    Cost? In 2005, about $200.

Today, in 2013 many auctioneers advertise auctions solely via AuctionZip.com, Global Auction Guide, Facebook.com, Craigslist.com, emails, phone calls, signs, and the like.

    Cost? In 2013, almost $0.

A reduction in the cost of auction advertising? Surely. But, actually a shift which has gone from dollars to time.

While still some auctions demand and deserve multicolor catalogs, extensive newspaper coverage, periodical advertisements, mailed fliers, and the like constituting sometimes thousands of dollars in cost, most auctions in the United States are now advertised with mostly low-cost to no-cost methods.

Yet, these low-cost methods cost time. Most potential bidders viewing an auction online want multiple pictures of each item being offered with extensive descriptions. Taking 100’s if not 1,000’s of pictures and writing associated descriptions can take hours — many hours not needed back in the days of running 1 or 2 newspaper advertisements, typically without any pictures.

In the same exact house, contrasting a 1985 auction versus a 2013 auction:

  • In 1985, we would have spent maybe 1-2 hours doing an inventory, and then submitting that advertisement to the newspaper, and then maybe spent another 15 minutes to proof the advertisement. Maybe a $500 cost + 2.5 hours time?
  • In 2013, we would spend in this same house 4-5-6 hours doing an inventory, and writing descriptions, to upload to AuctionZip.com and then another 2-3-4 hours updating other websites, social media sites, and emailing out. Maybe $0 cost + 8 hours time?

Today, auctioneers are spending a lot less money advertising auctions, but spending much more time. And, time is money.

Furthering the issue, most of the auctioneers I know have more money than time. In other words, most would be willing to trade 5.5 hours for $500.

But, the world has changed. People now look to the Internet for auctions, and the days of relying on a newspaper advertisement are nearly gone; so too, is that 5.5 hours I suppose.

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.