It seems that auctions have touched almost every century, every industry and every nationality. Auctions date back so far in history, that no one really knows for sure how they started or who started them.
Records handed down from ancient Greek scribes document auctions occurring as far back as 500 B.C. At that time, women were auctioned off as wives. And, in fact, it was considered illegal to allow a daughter to be “sold” outside the auction method.
A “descending” method was used for these auctions, starting with a high price and going lower until the first person to bid was the purchaser, as long as the minimum price set by the seller was met. The buyer could get a return of money if he and his new spouse did not get along well, but unlike a horse, maidens could not be “tried” before auction.
Women with special beauty were subject to the most vigorous bidding and the prices paid were high. Owners of the less attractive women had to add dowries or other monetary offers in order to make the sale.
In Rome, Italy, around the time of Christ, auctions were popular for family estates and to sell war plunder. Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius sold family furniture at auctions, for months, to satisfy debts.
Roman soldiers sold war plunder at auction. The licensed auctioneer, called “Magister Auctionarium,” drove a spear into the ground to start the auction. Today we use an auction gavel.
Over the years auctioneering has progressed and changed, and today it remains more popular than ever. Most everything thinkable has been sold by the auction method of marketing: antiques, household items, automobiles, land, livestock, homes, designer dresses, business equipment, and more. And thanks to professional organizations like the National Auctioneers Association, auctioneers are privy to countless educational opportunities that help them to keep up on the latest technology and learn new business traits. They network with other auctioneers to exchange ideas and to find ways to continue to meet the growing needs of the American public.
Auctioneers today are working to earn specialty designations such as Graduate Personal Property Appraiser (GPPA) , Accredited Auctioneer Real Estate (AARE), Certified Auctioneers Institute (CAI) and Certified Estate Specialist (CES). NAA auctioneers are also bound by a code of ethics that protects consumers against fraud and unfair business practices.
Auctions have been around since the beginning of time because they are a highly efficient and effective business tool – and they meet the needs of the public. But, they also are fun, entertaining and theatrical. Most people who attend an auction keep wanting to go back again and again. If you have never been to an auction, join in and become part of history.
(Information supplied by the National Auctioneers Association)