J. Bear Savo

BEHIND THE BLOCK: Alternative auction methods

BEHIND THE BLOCK: Alternative auction methods
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The traditional auction involves gathering both merchandise and bidders at a specific place and time, allowing said bidders to compete for ownership as each item is presented by an auctioneer, who governs the process and asks for bids via a melodic chant. There are some alternative methods typically used for charitable events, such as the Chinese auction and the silent auction. The most novel alternative auction method in the last 25 years is, of course, the online auction. However, since the advent of eBay and similar auction websites, there have been no great innovations in the world’s second oldest profession. Until now…

Bid and draw

This method would best be employed for a charitable event. Attendees would pay a flat fee to enter the auction where they would find a deck of standard playing cards next to each item up for bid. Hopefuls would choose what they were interested in owning, but instead of directly bidding on each item, they would bid on who gets to draw from the deck of cards. Both the top bidder and the back bidder are obligated to pay the amount they bid, but only those two get to draw from the deck of cards. The top bidder has the privilege of drawing first or second. Whoever draws the higher card wins the item.

Bonfire of the no sales

Credit for this method must be given to my late father. Dad had always dreamed of conducting an auction in the middle of a large field where a huge bonfire is raging at the start of the sale. Any items that don’t receive a bid are tossed onto the fire. A variation of this method could be used for a charitable event in which each item up for bid has a minimum amount that must be reached in order to save it from the flames.

Rattling and Gatling

This type of auction would be strictly for auctioneers and antique dealers. The items up for bid would be all the worthless stuff we’re sick to tears of being asked about: console stereos, console TVs, ringer washers, record collections, entertainment centers, aquariums, sleeper sofas, sewing machines… the list goes on and on. High bidders at this auction are given the gift of standing the items they win before a Gatling gun and shooting them straight to hell.

These alternative auction methods are perhaps not perfected yet in details, but are magnificent in concept, and I would certainly be willing to conduct any of them.

There’s far more to being a professional auctioneer than merely marketing merchandise. Each Wednesday, Behind the Block explores the precise methods, the elemental madness, and the intrinsic humanity of the auction industry.