Auctioneers wear many hats. They are salespeople, entertainers, marketers, and entrepreneurs. Many are also appraisers who specialize in certain collectibles or eras. And this week, they are the honorees of National Auctioneers Week. In their honor, here are some interesting facts about auctions and auctioneers.
· Auctions date back to the ancient Greeks, with one of their most famous items on the auction block being the entire Roman Empire in 193 A.D.
· The word “auction” comes from the Latin word “auctus,” meaning “increasing.” A fitting word since it’s the increase in prices that make auctions unique.
· One of the most avid American auction bidders was George Washington.
· During the Civil War, army colonels were responsible for selling off seized goods. As a result, auctioneers are still sometimes referred to as “colonels” today.
· The oldest existing auction house was founded in Stockholm, Sweden in 1674.
· The largest auction house is Christie’s, which has salerooms around the globe and holds approximately 350 auctions every year.
· In the U.S. alone, over a quarter-trillion dollars exchanges hands at auctions every year, not including online auctions or eBay.
· The traditional auctioneer bid call consists of a statement telling how much has been bid (“I have $5.00”) and a request for a higher bid (“Would you bid 10?”), both spoken at a high rate of speed.
· In the auction world, “SOB” isn’t a dirty word, it stands for “suggested opening bid,” which is set by the auctioneer to get the bidding started.
While most auctions consist of everyday items, there have been many unusual things offered – and sold – at auction.
· Hair from famous people seems to be a popular, although creepy, auction item. A lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair clipped off after his assassination sold for $25,000 in Texas. A jar of Elvis Presley’s hair was allegedly auctioned off for $115,000. And when Britney Spears infamously shaved her head in 2007, the salon where she did it attempted to sell her golden locks for $1,000,000.
· William Shatner’s kidney stone was purchased at auction for $25,000 in 2006. The proceeds were donated to Habitat for Humanity, causing the auctioneer to joke, “This would be the first Habitat for Humanity house built out of stone.”
· The same company that bought the kidney stone purchased a 10-year-old grilled-cheese sandwich with a likeness of the Virgin Mary on it in 2004 for $28,000. According to the seller, the sandwich freaked her out at first, then brought her good luck and had never grown mold.
· In 2008, a corn flake shaped like the state of Illinois sold on eBay for $1,350.
· One would think you wouldn’t want a famous phone number like 867-5309. But someone paid $186,853 for it with a New Jersey area code.
· And of course, there are many things that have failed to sell at auction, some of the most unusual of which include a grandmother from the UK and the entire country of New Zealand.
All kidding aside, auctions are a profitable way to sell items you no longer want to someone who does. If you have things you’re ready to part with, give an auctioneer a call. If not, call one anyway and wish them Happy National Auctioneers Week!