It probably happens all the time. Auctioneer says, “Folks, here’s the next lot and I have no idea what this is or what it’s worth.” While that itself isn’t a problem necessarily, what if that same auctioneer was charged with marketing that same item?
Auctioneers who contract with sellers to serve as their auctioneer to market, promote and secure the highest possible bid need to know what they are selling and how to market it. If not, they aren’t the right auctioneers to work with those sellers.
The above is an illustration of a 1676 Johann Christoph Sturm Griendels lantern. If a so-called “Griendels” lantern is consigned to an auctioneer/auction house and identified as such in marketing, we’re all good. However, if the auctioneer doesn’t know what this is …?
Without knowing what this is, this item cannot be property marketed nor promoted. And for those auctioneers who then post on Facebook or otherwise to endeavor to find out … there’s an issue. Now everyone knows you don’t know what this is.
What is far better is to search the Internet (eBay, WorthPoint, and otherwise) to see if you can find out what this item is without disclosing to the world your unfamiliarity with this item. What can happen when a lack of knowledge or expertise is well documented? Lawsuits can happen.
One such lawsuit we were privy to involved claims exceeding $5 million including property sold with the auctioneer having proven his ignorance all over the Internet. We wrote about this before: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2019/05/13/should-i-post-that-on-facebook-or-anywhere/.
Noting the answers we get on the Internet … how many times do we get 2, 3, 4 … 10 distinctly different answers. It’s a lantern, it’s a buggy light, it’s a hive smoker, it’s a chicken egg sensor, it’s a foot warmer, it’s a Zoopraxiscope … so what is it?
As the potential damages likely only become material as value increases, Facebook or other publically open forums might be workable for a low valued property (chattels.) However, higher valued items are certainly more scrutinized.
Which leads us right back to where we should have been at the beginning of our query — search the Internet rather than ask people with no way to gauge the accuracy (or sincerity) of the answers. Worst case, the Internet otherwise may not be any more accurate, but at least your questions aren’t recorded for all to see.
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.