Some people have the idea that the only thing required to be an auctioneer is the ability to talk fast. Actually, most states require their auctioneers to be licensed. Only about 20 states do not have license requirements for their auctioneers. In addition to the initial license, many states require continuing education in order to renew the license. Different states have different criteria for issuing an auctioneer’s license so I’ll just address what my home state of Indiana requires.
You begin by taking an 80 hour course taught by a state approved school. During the course students are required to take and pass three tests The course covers such topics as license laws, ethics, advertising, conducting estate sales, math, antiques, how to properly fill out paperwork associated with an auction. appraisals, contracts, how to properly set up an auction, how to work the auction ring, firearm laws, insurance, specific types of auctions, and bid calling among other topics. When the student passes the class he or she is eligible to take a 100 question exam conducted by the state. Many of the students fail the state exam the first time they take it. Licenses are good for four years, and 16 hours of continuing education is required before they will be renewed.
Fortunately, Indiana has license reciprocity with 15 other states. I currently have a reciprocal license with Kentucky so I am able to conduct auctions in that state as well. However, each state’s auction laws do vary somewhat so auctioneers have to be aware of the law for each state in which they hold a license.
One thing I have found that surprises many people is that if an auctioneer conducts an auction for someone and does not give the proceeds of the auction to the seller within a 24 hour period the auctioneer is required to keep that money in an escrow account. No personal funds or business funds are allowed in that account. This is just one of the many laws regulating the auction business.
In addition to laws governing auctioneers we also operate under a Code of Ethics that challenges us to conduct business with integrity and honesty. While the Code of Ethics covers a wide variety of issues it can be summarized by saying that we should practice the Golden Rule in all of the relationships that exist between an auctioneer and others.
Many auctioneers hold other licenses in addition to their auctioneer license. Some are licensed real estate brokers. Indiana allows auctioneers to advertise and sell real estate at auction, but we are not allowed to do anything else to transfer the title of the real estate to the new buyer without being a licensed real estate broker. Some auctioneers have a Federal Firearms License to make it easier to sell firearms. These additional licenses require more time and expense to learn the applicable laws and obtain the licenses.
In addition to the legal requirements there are some practical requirements to be a successful auctioneer. He or she must be able to relate well to a variety of people. Auctioneers must be good managers of their time. It’s important for auctioneers to understand the worth of the items they are selling. I have two shelves of books in my library to help me identify items and to give me some idea of their value. It helps to have a good sense of humor because things will go wrong at an auction. It takes a lot of work to properly prepare an auction, and most auctioneers I know are hard-working people. Auctioneers must be persons of integrity if they want to enjoy long-term success. People want to do business with people they can trust. Finally, an auctioneer will be a mixture of part salesman, part showman, and part psychologist.
Yeah…to be a successful auctioneer requires a lot more than the ability to talk fast.