HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
February 19, 2007, Herald Journal

Some auction advice


I’ve been meaning to write this follow-up to my column from a couple months ago about auctions.

I received a good number of comments about the topic from people who were either curious about auctions and hadn’t yet attended one, or from those thanking me for asking people to respect those whose property is up for auction.

So, for those who have not yet stopped at these well attended sales, I’d like to provide some basic tips.

These tips, by the way, are geared towards the outside auctions like farm, property, antique, and my personal favorite – tree auctions.

Most of the auctions I’ve attended were well advertised. I would check out the ad or poster and if there were a few items I was interested in, I’d plan to attend and I’d have a maximum dollar amount in my head that I would be willing to fork out.

I try to get there 30 minutes in advance to see the items up close and scout for other treasures.

There have been a couple auctions that I just happened to stumble on as I was driving along minding my own business. I wouldn’t know what time the thing had started, if it had started or if it were about to start. I’d just wander over to the action and scope things out.

Don’t feel intimidated by the large crowd of people. Simply park your vehicle alongside the road behind all the others and make your way to the small trailers parked centrally within the auction area.

Usually one trailer will have food and the other will probably just have a window and maybe brochures posted on its exterior of upcoming auctions.

The latter trailer is where you’ll go first, even if you’re hungry, to receive your auction/bidding number. You want your number ASAP because you don’t want to be stuck waiting in line after the auction starts.

You can’t bid unless you have a number, and you can’t get a number unless you present your driver’s license to the person working in the trailer, which they will promptly return to you as they issue you your bidding number.

What if you get there late and the auction has already started? Good question! No worries, just go up to that trailer and get a number, then mosey over to the action and settle in to a good spot to stand.

If I really want something, I strategically stand close to the front of the crowd and well within view of the auctioneer.

When you’re bidding, don’t be afraid to get your hand up there if they can’t see you well. Once they see you’re interested they’ll keep an eye on you.

Also, if they don’t see your hand go up or maybe they aren’t scanning the crowd for bidders in your direction, it’s more than acceptable to make some kind of southern twangy “yep” sound or possibly a grunt – hey this is an auction, let’s have some fun!

People will respect you for not standing there like a mouse.

This next tip is a technique my husband has mastered, but I have not. If you want the bid to be cut in half, they will do that, then you hold one hand in front of you, palm side up, as you take the other hand and pretend like you’re going to slice the palm-side up hand. I’m sure someone at the auction could show you. Anyway, it works.

You could probably yell “half” or the dollar amount as well, but the hand thing is more common.

When you are sure you have bid on every item you were interested in, you can leave at any time.

First, you go over to the trailer where your bidding number was issued, hand them your number, and they will punch it into a computer to bring up your bill.

Pay for your items, make sure the crowd has moved past the general area that your items are sitting at, then grab your items and head out.

If you’ve purchased very large items that need to be loaded into a truck or onto a trailer, you may have to wait until the end of the auction to get in there and load up.

You can always ask the people at the trailers for advice as well; they’re usually a friendly bunch.

I hope this has helped. Now get out there and find some deals!


My boys often get anxious for me to stop exercising and to do something fun with them. Apparently I’ve told them that I need to get my behind in shape too often because one day my 6 year old said at the end of my workout, “Mom, your butt looks good now, you can stop!”