Sold! On Going (Once!) to Auctioneer School

Getty Images

In this fun, delightfully nerdy piece at Texas Monthly, executive editor Katy Vine attends America’s Auction Academy to practice her patter and learn how to develop and confidently deliver her own auctioneer’s “chant.”

We sold a horse. We sold Yeti coolers. We sold wireless meat thermometers, Craftsman shop vacs, trailer tires, and vintage saddles. When stomachs were growling, we sold popcorn snacks. A rum cake, made by one woman’s ninety-year-old Hawaiian grandmother, sold for hundreds of dollars. A three-speed 1921 Emerson fan and a football signed by former Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops each went for much less. In desperate times, we sold whatever we saw nearby: eyeglass frames, an American flag, a Texas flag, folding tables, a lectern—even the very microphone we held.

We were six days into an eight-day course at America’s Auction Academy, practice-selling everything in sight.

Live bid-calling is like a series of contracts, and when an auctioneer says “Sold,” accepting the bid, the highest bidder is on the hook. Therefore, each part of the chant is crucial. “A chant is made of three components: a statement, a question, and a suggestion,” Jones began. The jumbles of syllables between the numbers are called filler words. The class scribbled. The basic chant Jones proposed—the one we would employ for the remainder of the class and that would provide a soundtrack for all our dreams and nightmares—was “One dollar bid, now two, now two, will you give me two?

This chant was the “Dick and Jane” of the form, the starter set upon which we would build our own auctioneer identities. A chant is as much a trademark to an auctioneer as James Brown’s scream and Bob Wills’s high-pitched holler were to them. All chants, Jones stressed, must be conducive to rhythm, melody, and clarity, exploiting words that easily roll off the tongue…The numbers need to be clear; the filler words are there for pleasure—to add an energetic, pressing, hypnotic quality. Filler words should give buyers time to consider their next offers but not so much time that the rhythm of the chant is broken. A clunky chant could lead to a hoarse auctioneer and confused or sluggish audience members, reluctant to bid.

Read the story