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I certainly get asked this frequently … as an auctioneer, auction school instructor, and presenter otherwise. “Who’s the best auctioneer?” as if I would (or should) know. There are many really great auctioneers — depending of course on how you define “great.” Is one of those the best? Best sounding? Busiest? Most wealthy? Most knowledgable? Most championships? Most charitable?

We could ask other similar questions: Who’s the best skateboarder? Best gymnast? Best comedian? Best attorney? Best chef? Best race car driver? Best basketball player? Here again, it depends upon what constitutes the “best.” For instance, best in what regard? There isn’t necessarily a scoring nor ranking system, and even if there was, would that be the correct criteria?

Most people who ask me about auctioneers are likely grading on their sound (chant) and there are numerous contests each year where champion auctioneers are selected mostly on that basis. Yet, is this year’s winner better (greater) than last year’s winner? Is a winner of one contest necessarily better than a winner of a different contest? What about auctioneers who don’t enter contests?

I was surveying a group of auctioneers one night a few years ago, and with 12-15 auctioneers in the room, there were at minimum 6 “best” auctioneers named. That limited research (and further analysis) suggests “best” is more subjective and based somewhat on personal experience. And of course, this changes over time, as the best auctioneer one year or decade isn’t necessarily the best a few years later.

We should qualify … does “best” mean the best auctioneer alive today, or best auctioneer ever — dead or alive? Or does “best” mean currently the best, or the best he or she has ever been, or the best anyone has ever been? In my above research group, one auctioneer did name an auctioneer who had passed away a few years ago, and another prefaced his choice with “in his day …”

Of course, we all can’t be the best. If you’re an auctioneer, you should endeavor to be the best you can be, and that’s a worthy goal. If you’re as great as you want to be — or can be — in however you’re grading it, and happy with your occupation and work, that’s a great place to be. Think of all the people working in a job they don’t like and consider how lucky you are to be doing something you enjoy.

Should you enter an auctioneer contest? We explored that question here with many reasons why a contest will help you become a better auctioneer: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/why-enter-an-auctioneer-contest/. Another way to improve is to work or be around better auctioneers, where you can see, hear and interact with them. We wrote about that here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/11/05/if-you-are-the-smartest-auctioneer-in-the-room/.

It’s likely we all have our “favorite” auctioneers who we’ve heard or otherwise done business with, and maybe even one we consider the “best” of those. It seems our bid-calling craft continues to be refined in that each subsequent generation of auctioneers might indeed be better than the prior. In regard to other criteria, I’m not convinced there’s any such pattern

How do buyers and sellers typically grade auctioneers? Buyers look for honesty, integrity, and fair dealing and sellers look for obedience, loyalty, disclosure, confidentiality, accountability, and reasonable care. In many ways, it makes little difference to the public how an auctioneer sounds (and online-only, they don’t) so long as that person or entity feels the auctioneer is behaving correctly. Incidentally, auctioneers with great chants don’t acquire the right to behave badly.

If you don’t believe me, you can take it from Steve Proffitt that the chant really doesn’t matter (outside of accuracy and honesty:) https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2019/12/20/the-chant-is-not-important/. Of course, a good or adequate chant (sound) is helpful, but not material to any legal obligation nor tort constraints.

Relatedly, we continue to note that bid calling really does matter in that sellers often choose [especially contract] auctioneers primarily based upon their sound (and personality:) https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/bid-calling-really-does-matter/. As a result, you are likely to receive a bigger paycheck as more people like to hear you …

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, and an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and Western College of Auctioneering. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.