Oftentimes people will see something up for auction and want it. That’s good. Auctioneers love it when people want to buy the items that are up for auction. They get especially excited when more than one person wants an item. It makes for a good auction. Lots of bidding, fast-talking, anticipation, and electricity fill the air. It’s a lot of fun.
But what about when you see something and want to buy it outright before the auction even starts?
That’s a different story.
As a general rule, the simple answer is no. N.O. Not at all. Nope. You can’t purchase something pre-auction.
I can’t put it much more simple than that. So I’ll have my Minion helper tell you:
The reality could be a bit more blurred as different auction houses and internet auction companies may have different policies, but in general, it’s just not done. Here’s why.
Bidder Expectations: Many auctions nowadays have printed catalogs (often printed a few days before the auction). Many auctions are on-line with lots and pictures and active bidding. This also is considered a catalog, albeit an electronic one. Then there is the advertising. Before an auction, the auctioneer creates newspaper advertisements and flyers which list many items (some very specifically) that are to be auctioned off. An e-mail goes out to the people on the “contact me about upcoming auctions” e-mail list. Because of this, people come to the auction specifically looking for an item or two (or twenty-eight) that they want to bid on. Because the Farmall Cub was prominently listed, there will be people who will attend the auction specifically just for that Cub. Can you imagine their disappointment when they get there, walk around and around the property and can’t find the tractor? It was advertised in the newspaper. It was on a flyer they picked up or saw in town. It was even listed online. So where did it go? When it’s advertised, people expect to see it. When they don’t, they are disappointed, and sometimes can get angry and hostile. It also leads to other questions about the auctioneer’s ethical behavior.
Consignor Considerations: Consignors need to remember that a contract is a contract. It’s legally binding. Somewhere on that contract is probably a statement about no pre-sales. While you might think that if you sell that vintage Mustang ahead of time because your friend is offering you big bucks for it, you could potentially be losing out on even bigger bucks. Yes, you might sell it for less at the auction, but if you sell it ahead of time, well, there could be other repercussions. The auctioneer, not you, is probably going to end up being on the blunt end of the anger of other potential buyers who came specifically for the Mustang. Also, the auctioneer, because you’ve already broke the contract also has the right to pull the plug on the auction (and will likely tell other auctioneers in the area what you’ve done so they won’t work with you either). Keep in mind that if your friend really, truly wants the Mustang, he will come out to your auction or leave an absentee bid for it for up to the amount that he paid you for it. If there are a couple other serious bidders, you might actually earn LESS money by selling it outright than you would have received because you chose to sell it out from underneath the others’ feet.
Auctioneer Ethics: Auctioneers have a reputation to uphold. They want to be known as fair to all, and of upright character. At least the good ones do. A good auctioneer will not sell an item that is already lotted and itemized online or was advertised. They know that selling the Griswold cast-iron pans that have been advertised and have a couple online absentee bids on them a day or so before the auction will result in some pretty nasty business. Buyers will not trust the auctioneer and his auction company and not attend auctions, because if he sold the Griswold’s out from under them, what else might he sell before the auction starts? Future potential consignors may choose to not consign with this auctioneer thinking that they may not be getting the most money for their items, or that he doesn’t have their best interest in mind.
Is that to say that every auctioneer, auction house, or other community auction sites have the same rules? No. You would need to check it out first. Is that to say that an unlotted item (an un-numbered item that is not listed specifically in the auction catalog) might not get sold pre-auction? No. But most auctioneers won’t sell items pre-auction, and usually not without the express permission of the consignor.
Then there are times when an auctioneer may choose to pull an item from the auction before the auction date. But there are clear cut reasons for doing so. Notice that I said pull an item from the auction, not sell an advertised item before the auction. Those are two different things. We’ll get into those reasons in another blog. But until then, may all your auctions be fun and successful. And may the item you want to bid on not be sold before you get there…