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How do auctioneers know something? How does anyone know anything? Generally, people learn things through observation and research. We either observe with our senses or use these same senses to research.

It’s widely held that while observation is widespread, we learn more by research. Most people know that research is a much more reliable source of knowledge than most other ways of knowing.

Let’s say an auctioneer has a Stevens 940e 20 gauge shotgun come into his auction house (as we just did.) What did we know and what did we have to either further observe or research? Were all those facts obvious?

Actually, a person walked in with it and I was about 75 feet away, not able to discern (observe) if it was a man or woman, nor what he or she was carrying. Once the [presumed] owner and firearm got closer, we observed that the markings were “Stevens 940e” and we measured to confirm it was 20 gauge.

We then researched endeavoring to discover more latent (somewhat hidden, not casually discoverable) issues … checking to see if it was unloaded (it was,) inspecting the wood and metal components for imperfections, and verifying the serial number which was somewhat hidden from view.

While there are auctioneers who say that we only have to disclose known issues (that a person brought in a long thin item into the auction house?) we hold that there are things that auctioneers should know, and not all those issues are patent (obvious, easily discovered through routine observation.)

As we’ve repeatedly held, auctioneers only researching or disclosing known material facts is untenable as it gives license to just say, “I don’t know …” The standard has to be “What auctioneers should know” so that we are held to some external standard, rather than our own desired contentions.

Lastly, does this firearm have to be sent out to a metallurgy expert for examination to test the barrel for stress fractures? Probably not, as likely that falls outside of a reasonable duty to investigate.

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 Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.