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We recently wrote about the disclosure of a “sale price” such as one real property or other personal property item. Today, we explore disclosing the auction [event] total — for instance, selling 500 collectible cars at auction and disclosing to the public or otherwise the total revenue for all 500 cars combined as $67,385,125.00.

That previous writing can be found here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2021/03/31/auctions-and-disclosing-the-sale-price/. We hold that real property prices can be disclosed by anyone (some governments don’t) and personal property auction results for a single item are as well quite often public information.

It does not appear to us that auction totals of multiple items sold are necessarily public information, and rather confidential to the client. That is, if someone asked our previous auctioneer what that 500-car auction totaled, he or she would be under no obligation to disclose and may not have the authority to disclose otherwise.

However, some sellers do disclose — for instance, if a seller of these 500 cars told people, “The total of the auction was $67,385,125.00” Similarly, an auctioneer might want to disclose the auction total, such as, “Our auction brought $67,385,125.00” but such disclosure would likely require the client (seller’s) consent.

Such consent to disclose could be (should be) memorialized in the auction contract (between the auctioneer and seller) or if the seller otherwise disclosed, it would be considered “public information.” Of course, if the auction itself is public, an observer could essentially clerk (or online, add-up the individual sales) and make a disclosure of the total. Such is the risk of disclosure with almost any auction.

We did note prior that some auctioneers choose to not disclose their [online] auction results: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/why-is-the-online-auction-final-sale-price-not-listed/. There appears to be a variety of reasons this “non-disclosure” in a live and/or online auction might happen.

In our decades of experience, we know of many sellers who have told their family, friends, coworkers, neighbors what their auction event totaled. It wasn’t necessarily to brag nor complain, and rather to answer curious people who may have asked, “So how did your auction go Saturday?”

Too, as an auctioneer often working with attorneys handling estates and/or guardianships, the auction totals might well be public information in that the county probate court would record such proceeds and have that accounting available as public information, making disclosure otherwise academic.

Our auction just the other day had a pair of Magnepan MG-II B Vintage Midcentury speakers and several people have since asked me what those sold for, as well as how the auction went overall. I told them the [individual lot] price of the speakers, but didn’t reveal the auction event total as I didn’t feel I necessarily owed any of them that information.

Similarly, if we sold the aforementioned 500 collector cars, I would likely tell anyone what any one car sold for, but not be as eager to tell anyone what the entire auction totaled lacking my client’s consent, that information being in the public domain otherwise, a court order or to protect my license (or business.)

Finally, in multiple-consignor auctions where we have 500 collector cars from 18 different owners, disclosing the auction event total isn’t as material to any one seller, as the grand total doesn’t reflect any particular seller’s gross proceeds. We see many auctioneers disclosing such where no one seller’s position is revealed.

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.