We have run an auction house since 1999. In that time, we’ve learned that there are some who attempt to treat these types of establishments as “drop off” sites for whatever they don’t want anymore. However, can you as an auctioneer be forced to sell whatever “comes in the door?” You cannot.
Working as an auctioneer is one of a client (principal) hiring an agent — a fiduciary — to act on his/her behalf with the agent’s (auctioneer’s) consent. Said another way, it’s a contract, which requires a meeting of the minds.
Leaving personal property with intent, lacking the intent to retrieve is generally considered abandonment. We wrote prior about lost, misplaced, and abandoned property here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/auctions-with-lost-misplaced-and-or-abandoned-property/.
Auction house owners (and all auctioneers) are advised to know they can accept or reject any items put forth as consignments. Importantly, it’s not always worthless items, as some auctioneers choose to not sell bibles, flags, and other certain chattels: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/bibles-and-flags-at-auction/.
As well, there are circumstances that play a part — it could be a “complete cleanout” situation for an attorney or the like, or a sizeable consignment with a few not-so-salable items. It may make sense to accept a few somewhat worthless items to secure a deal with many other very valuable items, for example.
If consignors are “dropping off” when you are there, it’s good to review what is coming in and refuse any items not desired. If this dropping off is when you are not there, or the drop off is concealing saleable and unable property, note with your clients that any undesired property will need picked back up, or possibly unilaterally discarded with a charge for that service.
Too, some auctioneers specialize and if your property doesn’t fit within any certain auctioneer’s specialty, expect that auctioneer to refuse your consignment. In fact, if your property isn’t in this auctioneer’s specialty, you would of course be best served by finding a different auctioneer.
This is no different than in my expert witness work, where we accept some cases and refuse others if we believe we can’t help, or the damages are insufficient. The last thing we would be involved in would be assisting in any frivolous lawsuits: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/11/16/frivolous-auction-lawsuits/.
While it can be a delicate balance, remember if you are an auctioneer you can refuse to sell anything, as anything you accept as a consignment has to result from your consent to sell it. Outside of a court order of sorts, you can’t be forced to sell any personal (or real) property.
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, Brandly Real Estate & Auction, 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.