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Most auctioneers in the United States probably don’t think so, but it’s likely any government can stop any auction and/or auction event. Such is the case as Spain’s Culture Ministry has stopped the auction of a painting thought to be of Italian master Caravaggio.

The auction house reported that the government told them the painting could not be exported and that experts were studying the provenance to determine the painting’s true artist, age, etc. The auction house complied with the Culture Ministry’s request (order?)

In the United States, there have been auctions and auction events stopped with court orders (cease and desist orders,) governor’s orders, by federal agencies, and others. It’s always a good idea for auctioneers to obey any such orders even if such proves otherwise detrimental to his or her client and/or auction company.

We note this in light of (at least) one auctioneer in the United States defying a court order to cease with the auction event, and conducting the auction nonetheless. Damages included loss of his license and substantial financial costs. He’s not conducted one auction since …

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic closed some auction events and auction houses in early 2020. Yet, some auctioneers in the United States went ahead with auctions, despite governors’ orders. We wrote about such in March 2020: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/03/19/so-youre-still-having-live-auctions-despite-a-pandemic/.

Many auctioneers moved from live auctions to online auctions to accommodate this pandemic. Some of those auctioneers have gone back to conducting live auctions, but many now foresee doing online auctions exclusively. Despite all this — the auction industry in the United States remains strong.

What’s the future? There will be challenges ahead — maybe another pandemic, maybe a court order, maybe a federal agency or law … and it will be extremely prudent for all auctioneers to close pay attention. We’ve offered it’s quite reasonable to see the forest for the trees: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/07/10/forests-trees-and-policies/.

On the contrary, ignoring or openly defying applicable laws and rules can jeopardize one’s business and livelihood. This defiance can affect not only the auctioneer himself or herself but family members, staff, contractors — even our entire industry … it’s almost always bigger than just the auctioneer.

We’ve suggested every auctioneer secure competent legal counsel, as well as a contact to discuss and procure insurance and related accounting services. Maintaining legal compliance and developing prudent practices, having enough and the right kind of insurance, and tax counseling to minimize liability is critical.

The auction industry is strong as we’ve noted, but interesting times await all us auctioneers. As we’ve alluded, waking up every morning and paying attention may be the most important task for all auctioneers in the next several years, if not every day here forward.

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.