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“Sold! [for $] to buyer number 973 (who is holding her bid card up high in the air)” … everyone in the crowd knows Jessica was the buyer of that diamond ring, painting, statuary, or 1968 Mustang Bullitt …

Our question today is “Why would an auction buyer want to remain anonymous?” There could be a myriad of reasons:

    1. Security. More knowledge and disclosure of materially valuable property puts that property and owner at an increased risk for theft.
    2. Future purchases. The buyer may want to bid on and buy other similar items. By staying anonymous, those future prices might be more manageable.
    3. Gift. A husband buying a special gift for his wife? It won’t be much of a surprise if it makes the news before the presentation.
    4. Reputation. Some choose to not make a deliberate or pretentious display of one’s accomplishments or property holdings.
    5. Privacy. Buyers sometimes want to be left alone, not bothered by the press, curiosity seekers nor others including the seller or desirous purchasers.

There are certainly other reasons, but our point here is that some buyers indeed do not want their identity made public. We wrote in 2010 about auction buyers wanting their identity and sales prices kept confidential: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/buyer-wants-his-identity-and-sales-price-kept-confidential-at-auction/.

As we noted in our prior treatise on this subject:

We would suggest sale prices and 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 buyer takes steps unilaterally to conceal his identity.

Further, online bidding can appear to conceal identities, but those records are all tied to an identity that can be (and are) reveled either by the auctioneer/seller or a court of law.

For the benefit of sellers — and especially for high valued assets — auctioneers should endeavor to accommodate bidders and buyers wishing to remain anonymous. Such arrangements can increase the seller’s position, and relatedly the auctioneer’s earnings.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.