Auction History

Auction History in Tennessee

The concept of buying and selling at auction has been around for thousands of years. It continues to be one of the most effective ways to establish real value for a commodity. In this country, dating back to colonial times, auctions were utilized and included the sale of real estate, crops, imports, furs, clapboard, livestock, tools, tobacco, along with sadly, slaves.

Civil War Era

It was during the Civil War that auctions became a common practice to dispense with the spoils of war and surplus. However, only officers of the Colonel rank could conduct them, spawning the use of the term “Colonel,” a term some still use to refer to auctioneers of today. In the state of Tennessee, once a person becomes a licensed auctioneer, the state legislature bestows upon them the honorary title of “Colonel.”

The 1950s

Auctioneering began to make great strides in Tennessee after World War II. The sale of goods and real estate was booming. There was a need to move real estate and personal property faster than the private market would allow. Thus, the modern-day auction business was born. Many auctioneers were regarded as businessmen, dressing in suits and ties and fostering relationships with banks, attorneys, accountants, the court system and government agencies. Still, many an estate might be auctioned off from the back of an old pick-up truck from a bid-caller dressed in overalls, with hundreds in attendance to watch the show!

Auctions of Today

Like all businesses, technology developed and found its way into the auction profession. The amplified voice allowed for larger crowds to realistically attend a public auction. Auctioneers began using computers, fax machines, cell phones and other technology to make their businesses run faster and more smoothly. Advertising went from the hand-painted wood sign to large, commercially made signs. And with the advent of the internet, it was simply a matter of time before the auction industry would undergo massive and permanent change, allowing buyers and sellers to find each other from nearly any place on the planet. An auctioneer can hold an auction in one location receiving bidders in person at that location. By simulcasting the auction, they can also register bidders online, from all over the world, allowing those participants to bid in real time, along with those in attendance. Some auction firms even utilize online auctions only, thus eliminating the need for the “bid-caller,” the persona most closely related to the word auction.

The Future of Auctions

Despite the momentous changes to the concept of what an auction is, auctions remain as popular today as ever. Entire television shows are built around the auction process. From rare cars to million-of-dollars artwork, the public continues to be fascinated with the auction process and the results it can bring. One of the most well-known websites in the history of the internet started as basically a place to auction off singular items of interest- Ebay. There is now an entire generation of young adults who are quite used to the concept of having to bid on something in order to own it. They understand that real value is most accurately determined when competition for an item yields a competitive result. And the auction method is the oldest way known to man to achieve that outcome.

Auctioneers today work to earn specialty designations such as Graduate Personal Property Appraiser (GPPA), Accredited Auctioneer Real Estate (AARE), Certified Auctioneers Institute (CAI), Certified Estate Specialist (CES) Benefit Auction Specialist (BAS) and many more. The National Auctioneers Association (NAA) provides many of these continuing education opportunities for auctioneers. And it is through the NAA and here in Tennessee, the Tennessee Auctioneer Association, that auctioneers are also bound by a code of ethics that protects consumers against fraud and unfair business practices. The next time you are thinking of selling something, contact an auctioneer and see if they can be of help. And, of course, the most fun you will ever have buying something can only happen one way-at an auction!