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How to become an auctioneer

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How is the work of the auctioneer in Russia and in the West.

Says the only auctioneer in Russia who has a record of this profession in the workbook, Andrei Haase.

How to become an auctioneer in Russia

“I was the first auctioneer in Soviet times: I started 26 years ago when, on the recommendation of my friends, I was invited to conduct auctions in salons from the Ministry of Culture. My main specialty is not related to antiques, I am a drama theater and ballet dancer.

Nobody teaches the specialty “auctioneer” in Russia; all over the country 3-4 people are engaged in professional bidding, although many are taken. But few people succeed: there must be a special gift for this work. Before me, no one was engaged in professional auction trading in the country (only in tsarist Russia), and today in our country only “auctioneer” is written in my work book. Of course, I mean serious commercial auctions where the result is important, not the sight.

For example, Yakubovich, Wernick, Yarmolnik, Fomenko tried to conduct auctions, they are good presenters, but they entertain, not sell. And it needs to be shared.

I work at almost all major Russian auctions, until recently I have been bidding in Ukraine - in Kiev and Zaporizhia. For 25 years of my work, I managed to work both at confiscated auctions and at the oil auction, in general, "I put my hammer to everything."

What knowledge does the auctioneer need?

Organizers of auctions, as a rule, believe that the auctioneer should not understand the objects that he sells, and most importantly - this is the talent of the artist - to carefully look behind the hall, carefully consider, be artistic. But it seems to me that the auctioneer still needs to understand art, although there is no need for special education. You just need to know something, as there may be typos in catalogs and instead of “canvas” you can read “cardboard”, if you don’t understand, then don’t You’ll understand that this is a typography error.

The hall can also ask questions about things, you need to show that you understand this. Therefore, I begin preparations for the auction in 2-3 days, I arrive at the auction house, study the catalog, look at items.

How is the Russian auction

Each auction has its own specifics, but the general principles are the same. First, an auction schedule is drawn up. It is needed so that buyers and sellers can understand when some can sell, while others can buy. For example, in the auction house “Coins and Medals”, it is drawn up a year in advance.

Then an auction collection is assembled, items are described by experts, checked for authenticity, photographed, cataloged.

The printed catalog is published a month before the auction, and two months later it appears on the site. Once the catalog has become available online, participants can place bets, the so-called "absentee bids" (a bid is a bid). To do this, you need to go to the site and register, after which bidding starts between correspondence auctioneers before the start of the auction.

Now the first auction is on the Internet, and before went by mail. An envelope is always put in the catalog, and before, when a person received the catalog and could make first bids only by mail, he chose what he was interested in and, using the attached envelope, sent his bids to the auction house. Two weeks before the auction, an exhibition opens where you can see all the items and ask questions of interest to them.

When the auction starts, I announce the lot and the starting price. A person who wants to buy an item raises a card, and the next buyer takes the first step. “Step” we call the rate increase, usually by 10%. I think: "300, 400, 500 - 500 times, two, three," - slammed - sold, after that it’s too late to say anything - the thing has been sold. There are two weeks to buy things.

The auctioneer receives only a fixed payment, no interest on sales goes to him. Everyone, of course, receives a different fee, depending on the agreement of the auction organizers and the auctioneer.

My main task as an auctioneer is to organize tenders as efficiently as possible and sell a thing as expensive as possible. Bidding takes a long time, and people should not be bored. Therefore, I try to create a club atmosphere. Our people also love to talk. Therefore, I allow you to ask me a question, although in London, for example, they don’t give a word to the audience.

It is very important to closely monitor everyone. At the same time, 10-15 hands go up, with 80 to 100 people sitting tight in the hall, and everyone who raised their hand needs to be noticed and understood at what price each hand raised is traded. The most important thing in my profession is account and technique, and the rest is just lyrics.

Sometimes there are conflicts in the audience, this is understandable: people get nervous, it’s their earnings, dealers make the market and they come mainly, not collectors. Therefore, I de facto peace people. And some come with their favorite dogs, they sometimes bark, while others just quietly sit under the tables.

When and where is the auction held

90% of Russian auctions are held at the Marriott Hotel on Petrovka, some at the National Hotel and in Moscow City, in the North Tower.

The most active months of auctions are October, November, April. In July, August and on winter holidays (from December to January) - the dead season, there are no people physically in the country at this time.

In the season I spend from 10 to 15 auctions per month, in other months from 6 to 10 auctions. Bidding takes place on weekends, all Saturdays and Sundays, but sometimes even on Tuesday and Thursday - it’s still a mystery to me why the organizers choose these days.

Tools and Slang

Auctioneers use special slang. For example, when a person hesitates, I can ask, “do you hit further?”, It means “wait for you or not?”

As for the main tool - the hammer - I have several of them: different auction houses have different hammers.

The service life of the hammer depends on the tree, now I have a hammer for 3 years, and the smallest tool life is 3-4 months.

The hammer can be bought at antique shops online. I usually buy at a German online store. In Russia, a hammer costs from 8,000 to 30,000 rubles, while in Germany you can buy a good one for 5 euros, and for 25 euros - a gorgeous thing.

Once I had a very interesting story with a hammer. I returned from an oil auction, where one oligarch sold his assets to other businessmen, and on the road the representatives of the one who bought the assets asked for my hammer, deciding to donate it to the oligarch - for them, apparently, it was important by means of which he became the winner of the auction. The most interesting thing is that they argued for a long time among themselves which one will give the hammer. They say that he is still kept by that oligarch in London.

How is the auction arranged in the West

Shares the experience Daria Zheludkova art dealer, the owner of his own antique company in Paris, in the past worked in Sotheby's and Christie's.

How to become an auctioneer in the West

I began to work with auctioneers after graduating from the closed school of the Louvre in Paris. This institution, like a closed club, is taught there by specialists from the main museum of France and there is a very serious document contest. There are two roads from the Louvre school: to become an expert in an auction house or an auctioneer. I, having finished school, got to Sotheby's, and then to Christie.

In general, becoming an auctioneer in France is quite difficult. This is the most prestigious and highest paid profession in the entire art market. To become an auctioneer, you need to have two higher educations: in the history of art and in law.

Legal education is necessary, since in the West you often deal with inheritance and division of property.

After the future auctioneer receives two of these educations, he must undergo two-year training directly in the profession, while simultaneously training in the auction house.

Auction houses themselves are divided into two types. The former sell things in court, if it is, for example, a divorce. The second is a classic auction.

Only after having completed full training and internship in two types of auctions, does a specialist have the right to hold a hammer.

Due to such difficulties, our profession here is considered very prestigious. In France, everyone turns to the auctioneer "meter", this is a very high social status. Having received this status, the auctioneer continues to work in the auction house as an expert, but already holds tenders. As a rule, they become a meter by the age of 30, if you study purposefully.

Auctioneers retire, like everyone in France, at age 60. Few people work in retirement in Europe; people of art are no exception. Although the auctioneer reserves his title, and he can be invited to exclusive bidding.

How European auctions work

Today in France there is the so-called Anglo-Saxon auction system, when the auction house itself organizes auctions at home, as well as auctions that are held by small auction houses specializing in one or several objects (for example, only painting, furniture or books) - they are called cabinets.

Cabinets appeared in France a very long time ago, today there are about 200 of them. They pick up a certain amount of items that their customers want to sell, then once or twice a year they organize tenders in a special place, it is called Drouot.

Drouot is a place to which, in the 19th century, the state granted a license to organize tenders. Because in France you can’t bid anywhere. And all these small offices come to Drouot, put their things there one or two days, sell them and then leave.

At auction offices, the auctioneer organizes the entire bidding process. In a large house - Sotheby's or Christie - he must be a specialist in one area. There he helps to prepare catalogs, evaluate things. In a small house, the auctioneer does everything himself - looking for customers, sellers, holds tenders.

How are tenders

The auctioneer is always preparing for the auction, it is a huge concentration. Someone can just blink an eye, and you have to understand whether he is trading or not, because it depends on whether you “raise” the auction or not.

One auctioneer said that he was preparing to bid as an exit to the stage. The theatrical side of the profession is also present, but the French auctioneers do not have a special acting education.

The auction always takes place on weekdays and never on weekends, as in Europe it is accepted that people need to relax at the end of the week. Usually trading starts at two in the afternoon and takes about four hours. There are especially important trades, they take place in the evenings.

Two months before the auction, a catalog is issued. Here, too, there are rules: large houses like Sotheby's and Christie have a certain price barrier - they never take things worth less than five thousand euros for bidding. The catalog is sent to customers in three weeks, in three to four days an exhibition opens, where all the items that will be auctioned are presented, all customers and visitors can see them for free.

How to participate in the auction

At major auctions, you can bargain in four ways: come personally to the room, leave a guarantee for the purchase - call and say, “here I am ready to bargain for such a lot up to a maximum of 6-7 thousand euros.” This means you give your ceiling, and if the thing goes cheaper, then you will get it cheaper, if it’s more expensive, then you won’t get it.

The third way is to bargain on the phone and on the Internet, sitting in front of your computer. This slows down the auction. And there are also problems: in my memory, a person wanted to buy a lot, pressed a button, but the signal did not reach. Maybe he didn’t click that way, maybe, really, the problem is in the network. You will never find out, but the person has not received the thing, and in this case he always makes complaints to the auction house. It is very difficult to figure out who is right and who is wrong. Therefore, the most true, it seems to me, is to bargain in the hall or, in extreme cases, by phone.

Auctioneer is always helped by several people. These are a variety of secretaries, appraisers and specialists, keeping records of tenders. During the bidding process, they make a plan of the hall, where they mark the most active participants. So they say: “a man with a beard gave so much”, “a lady in a red hat raised to so much”. After the auction, the entire auction house team gathers, and they try to find out who was who. It is not customary to ask a name directly from a client. But basically, all participants are registered in the auction database, and this allows us to understand who was ready to raise the bid.

This is what this is for. Maybe the client didn’t buy the lot, but he is a potential buyer for a certain kind of thing, and then, if such things will be held at the next auction, they will certainly be invited.

The most expensive thing in my memory is a picture that went for 1.44 million euros with an estimate of 300-500 thousand. She, by the way, has an interesting story.

The Ritz Hotel has a room in which Coco Chanel has always stayed, and the room has been decorated in her style. Several years ago, repair work began at the Ritz, and hotel workers called in experts to evaluate things in the rooms. Since the Ritz is an old hotel, there are many paintings that have been hanging in rooms for 150 years, and no one even thought about their cost. And then, when they started the repair and began to overestimate everything and think what to transfer or sell, it turned out that the picture that hung in Coco Schonel’s room was painted by Charles Lebrun, the painter Louis XIV! This is an amazing find, hanging for many years in plain sight, made a splash, her photo was even on the cover of the catalog.

Many of the auctioneers order a hammer to order, and many may well choose, for example, a rosewood handle and a bone base. Hammers, of course, break. It happened that right during the auction the pen broke off, but nothing, then you take it in your hand and continue, in principle, you can still knock.

Collusion at auction

Previously, auction trading was a closed world, where only merchants, gallery owners, dealers came. For private clients, tenders were opened only in the 80s of the XX century. And as the flow of people has become larger, it has become very difficult for gallery owners to buy things at a bargain price.

They are trying to fight it. For example, gallery owners and dealers organize their circle of antique dealers. They say something like this: "We all want this thing, let only one trade for it, then others will not raise the price." As a result, one of the antique dealers fights against the entire audience and people who are not in business. This is called “circle” in English, and “re-view” in Russian.

The selected person buys inexpensively 5-6 things that are of interest to all antique dealers, and then they sit down in a nearby cafe and begin a re-examination with a glass of wine. In other words, they arrange their petty trades in a narrow circle.

There are certain tricks on the part of the auctioneer. For example, when a large hall, you can theatrically raise the auction. The auctioneer pretends to see someone trying to bargain at the end of the hall. “Yes, Madame, please, 500 euros for you,” he says, although in reality there is no Madame at the end of the hall. So the auctioneer is simply trying to start active bidding. This is called "remove the auction from the wall."

If the auctioneer tries to create this artificial activity a little bit at the very beginning and then the auction goes on, then this, in principle, cannot be called a hoax. This is still a little one-man show. This is not scary and does not harm anyone. But if he continues to pretend that someone is bargaining in the hall, trying to increase the bid of a real buyer, then this is already a hoax. In Sotheby's and Christie's, this is never done, they very much monitor their reputation, whereas in small auctions you can come across these and need to be very careful.

The second type of scam is called "play the baron", this method has been known since the distant times when the auctioneer agreed with his friend, who came and dressed like a baron to play a rich buyer. The baron came and began to raise prices, and the auctioneer tried so that in the end he did not buy a thing, but only inflated its price. If the baron was nevertheless forced to buy a lot, then the thing actually remained unsold, naturally the baron did not pay anything for his accomplice. Now I can’t say that this often happens, but at small auctions it can sometimes happen.

How much does the auctioneer get

Oddly enough, many people at auctions do not want everyone to know that they are being traded. As a rule, these are antique dealers or private clients. They often agree on certain signs. "If, for example, I hold the phone by my ear, it means that I am bargaining, if I lower it, then I stop." And the auctioneer, offers, for example, “550, do you want?” If I still hold the phone by my ear, then I want to - this is the language of signs that are initially discussed with the auctioneers and are known only to both of us.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with that, but bidding is a rather stressful moment and for each lot there can be several such “languages” at once, and an incident may turn out. For example, a person really rang the phone, and he really took it. Just one such famous embarrassment occurred (albeit a long time ago) in Christie's in London. Some woman, an aristocrat, agreed that if she kept the book open, it means that she is trading, if she closes it, it means that she stops.

Но из-за того, что было много торгующихся, вышла путаница и в итоге ей не присудили лот, хотя она активно держала свою книжку открытой. Когда молоток упал, она вскочила и закричала: «С какой кстати! Я же держала книжку открытой!» Все в зале посмотрели на неё и аукционист сказал: «Мадам, если вы действительно хотели торговаться, нужно было торговаться как все». It is not even clear who is right, who is to blame, but after this incident in London there were cartoons with the meaning "if Madame stands on her head, then she is being traded."

Profession Features

Auction - public sale of goods with individual and even unique properties, according to pre-established rules.
For example, at international specialized auctions, they sell and buy consignments of goods such as fur, tea, tobacco, flowers,
tropical woods, horses, fish, used cars, etc.

Unique items sold at auctions include works of art, historical rarities, collectibles, and antiques.

In essence, an auction is a competition between buyers.
The starting price for the goods (lot) is established, which is gradually increasing.
The day and time of the bidding are set in advance, as well as the “auction step” is stipulated (minimum premium for price changes). Each customer is assigned a membership number.

There are vowels and tacit ways to change prices during a bid.
With the vowel method the auctioneer announces the lot number, calls the initial price and asks: “Who is more?” The buyer, ready to pay more, calls the new price, which is higher than the previous one (taking into account the minimum premium). The auctioneer calls the number of the buyer, under whom he is registered at the auction, the new price of the lot and again asks the question: “Who is more?” If, after repeating the question three times, no one offers the new price, the auctioneer hits with a hammer. This means that the product is sold to the buyer who has offered the highest price.
With a secret method Buyers give the auctioneer a sign (for example, by raising the plate with his number) to agree to raise the price. The price premium is standard and specified in the bidding rules. Each time the auctioneer announces a new price without naming the buyer.
The auctioneer ensures that all bidders observe the rules and at the same time controls the process of raising the price, supporting the competition between the bidders.
The auction rate is very high and requires maximum attention and quick reaction from buyers and the auctioneer. On average, it takes less than 50 seconds to sell one lot.

An auction can be considered successful if, as a result, a large difference is obtained between the starting price of the lot and the one received during the bidding process. Obviously, the auctioneer can influence this difference in one direction or another.

Some auctions are not held with a price increase, but vice versa: first, the highest price for the goods sold is announced, and then bids are reduced to the one to which the first buyer agrees and the goods are sold.

The auctioneer's work begins even before the auction. He participates in the preparation of the auction: communicates with the auctioneers (persons transferring goods for sale under the contract), gets acquainted with the lots, participates in the bidding.
When the bidding is completed, the auctioneer participates in the execution of the transaction for each lot sold.

Auctioneer Training

For a successful career, the auctioneer requires higher education. However, there are no specialized educational institutions for auctioneers.
Therefore, people from related fields usually come into the profession.
Most often, a career begins with the position of assistant auctioneer.
The auctioneer learns constantly, expanding his knowledge of the market, attending special trainings and workshops.

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