The job of an auctioneer
Auctioneering is an exciting and varied career to go into, but it does require some special skills and the right kind of personality. Auctioneers are relied upon to provide clients with accurate and expert information regarding the lots they are auctioning off, especially when it comes to antiques and other specialised items like precious stones, jewellery, and visual art. One of South Africa’s most authoritative auctioneers in the business of selling antiques and art is Stephan Welz, who is respected for his vast knowledge on Cape silver, amongst many other aspects of the art world (not only in South Africa, but abroad too).
What does the auctioneer do?
The auctioneer is not only involved in the auctioning process, but before the auction commences, he is required to meet the seller to learn more about the item being auctioned off. If the item is a well-known piece of art, there won’t be a need for much introduction and scrutiny, but for smaller, less popular pieces being auctioned off, the auctioneer needs to act like an expert salesperson to encourage people to bid. The auctioneer also presents the auctioned pieces to the winning bidders and is involved in the bid collection process. Some auctioneers also do the managing of payment terms and cataloguing auction items.
How does one become an auctioneer?
While there is no specially defined course of study for an auctioneer (like a BA Auctioneering), there is a specific set of skills required by every auctioneer. They need to be exceptionally good public speakers and it would be preferable for them to have a background in art, art history, or history in general so that they can use their knowledge of world history to contextualise the objects they are auctioning off. Different types of auctions will require different sets of expertise, especially because bidders trust that the auctioneer is a specialist in his field. The best training for this is experience and also an insatiable curiosity for industry knowledge. There are industry schools that provide auctioneer training in a four-week programme.
The best course of action to become an expert is to work with a variety of auction houses and for budding auctioneers to find their passion for a specific item or specialisation in items from a specific period or industry.
Work opportunities for auctioneers
Auctioneers can work for an auction house or be employed as freelancers, especially if they’ve built a name for themselves and have a good reputation for enthralling auctions with high profits. Auctioneers who have established themselves as experts in a particular field will be in high demand.