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Do online-only auctioneers hide sale prices (auction results?) It appears to me that most do.

Why would an online-only auctioneer do that? We discussed that here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/why-is-the-online-auction-final-sale-price-not-listed/

Some people believe that many online (online-only) auctioneers describe and catalog so poorly that it is in their interest to hide results. Just as I was apt to hide my school grades when they weren’t so good.

Let’s examine two issues here: Bad descriptions and bad pictures, although an online-only auction listing could certainly have both.

penniesThis item was described as follows: “50 Abe Lincoln Penneys with dates prior to 1960. 50 cents face value.”

This item is actually 50 Lincoln pennies (not “Abe” nor “Penneys”) and are known as “wheat pennies” due to their dates being prior to 1960. More importantly however, in this lot was both a 1914-D and 1931-S coin that wasn’t identified.

Sale price online? $1.00
Buyer received coins and sold them the next day for $272.00
Estimated actual market value? $272.00
Potential online sale price? $272.00

badphoto2This item was described as follows: “Outstanding 1983 Casio CFX-200 Scientific Electronic Calculator Wristwatch, LCD Technology, Equipped with Calendar, Alarm, Calculator. Battery Operated, Working Well.”

This item is actually an Outstanding 1983 Casio CFX-200 Scientific Electronic Calculator Wristwatch, LCD Technology, Equipped with Calendar, Alarm, Calculator. Battery Operated, Working Well (just as it was described) but with a picture leaving potential bidders wanting, and an example of a clear disservice to the auctioneer’s client.

Sale price online? $15.00
Buyer received and sold it the next day for $225.00
Estimated actual market value? $225.00
Potential online sale price? $225.00

Yes, to save the reputation of these online-only auctioneers, it would be prudent to keep these pictures and descriptions hidden from view (as they are,) so that future clients are not alerted to this troubling malpractice.

And, it’s not always that the item sells for too little. Sometimes it sells for far more than market value due to an exaggerated description or picture either enhanced or lacking a material defect. In the case of this type of misrepresentation, it’s likely a buyer would demand a refund and possibly other monetary compensation.

How is this happening? Why would online-only auctioneers describe property so incorrectly? I offer two possibilities:

  1. The people charged with listing these items are not sufficiently educated regarding the research and identification of traits such as manufacturer, condition, age, type, etc.
  2. The online-only environment suggests the material part of selling something online is getting “a picture” and “a description” uploaded, rather than the content of each.

Are there some online-only auctioneers doing a very good — if not outstanding job with descriptions and pictures? Certainly there are. However, a question with just as much validity is, “Are there some online-only auctioneers doing an unacceptable — if not horrible job with descriptions and pictures?”

Why would (or should) an online auction hide results? Bad descriptions, bad photographs and less than reasonable results?

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.