Auctions are very popular, and can be the quickest and most enjoyable way to raise funds – provided you do it right! Plan well in advance; don’t let it go until the last minute!
   First, select a dependable worker as your auction chairperson. This person will appoint a committee to solicit and collect merchandise and place advertising. Refreshments may be sold at the auction for additional profit.

   Publicity should appear a week or two before the auction. Submit the typed announcement to area newspapers (with a photo or two) and radio stations well ahead to meet their printing and broadcast schedules. At the end of the announcement, include a phone number of a contact person for additional information.

   Posters at prominent, populated locations are useful, and talk it up with your organization’s members and friends. Signs posted at prominent, nearby intersections are very useful if they say (YOUR ORGANIZATION) AUCTION along with date, time and location.

   What sells? In our area guns and knives, early American coins, small and attractive wood furniture, oil lamps, clocks, tools, attractive rocks and Indian artifacts, costume jewelry, statuary and porcelain figurals, colorful china and intricate glass, crocks, primitive farm implements, vintage toys, 50s-60s memorabilia, antique radios and phonographs, crank telephones.

   What doesn’t? Holiday decorations, low-value gift certificates, clothing and shoes, hobby-made items, bottles, power pole insulators, modern appliances, cheap and large furniture, musical instruments including pianos and organs, table lamps, paintings and photos, mirrors, silver and brass items, books and magazines, phonograph records, plain glass and china, cameras, luggage, stamp collections, modern plastics, sets of anything with missing or broken pieces, and quantities of the same thing.

   Is there a selling order?: It’s best to start bidding with less expensive items to get the bidders familiar with your auction routine, gradually building to higher-end items within 15-30 minutes, then finishing with lesser merchandise for those who stay for bargains as the crowd thins.

   Typical attendance pattern: Audience will start to shrink after one hour, be down to half after two hours, and be at one-fourth or less at three hours.

On auction day you will need:

  • An auction crew consisting of 1 cashier to check out buyers, 1 quick-thinking clerk to register sales, 1 auctioneer’s assistant (crew chief) to select and bring items to the auctioneer, and 2 ring workers to carry and show merchandise, and to spot bids.
  • Tables to display merchandise
  • 1 long table and chairs for the clerk and cashiers
  • Chairs for attendees
  • Change for cashier – 10 tens, 10 fives, 50 singles, one roll of quarters
  • 1 calculator for cashier’s check-out 
  • PA system (unless auctioneer supplies his own) near an electric outlet (or extension cord)
  • Large file cards and black felt marker to large-print bidders’ numbers vertically

Clean your merchandise: Wash dusty dishes, remove sticky labels and residue; dust furniture or wipe it down with mineral spirits, and touch up nicks with Old English—but never refinish or repaint antiques!

  • Box-lot low-dollar items or offer them in a silent auction. “Salt” your box lots with at least one “goodie” to encourage bidding.
  • Use tablecloths and shelf liners for a more classy display.
  • If you have accurate information regarding the history or value of items, put that information on a card with the item. It is reassuring to the bidders, and increases interest in items they might otherwise overlook.
  • When taking promotional/ad photos, get close enough to fill about 90% of the frame. Be sure the article is in focus, and that the camera is rigid to avoid shaking. Shoot furniture at a slight angle to show sides and to avoid camera-flash glare from mirrors and glossy surfaces.
  • Avoid reserves (minimum bids) and make them low; bidders need to feel that you want to sell it and that they are getting bargains. It is the auctioneer’s responsibility to get the most he can for your merchandise, and a reserve discourages bidding.
  • Sequentially number pages of a spiral-bound notebook or notepad by bidders’ number and names for the clerk to write a brief description of each item bought and for what amount