How to Become a Fine Arts Auctioneer
Getting Started as a Fine Arts Auctioneer
Auctioneers give patrons the environment to bid against one another in the spirit of friendly and ethical competition. The auctioneer is the best-known person in the auction process – he or she facilitates a method of selling that has a 2000-year history. Today’s auction industry is flourishing as an alternative to the retail store environment – and the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) records that there is more than a quarter-trillion dollars worth of goods and assets sold every year via auction. That’s 250,000,000,000 or 250 billion dollars annually!
More than just chanting at a rapid pace, auctioneering requires keen business sense and management, confidence, considerable people skills, and a deep knowledge of the pricing of items that are on the auction block. A network of personal and professional contacts is always an asset. A career as an auctioneer, especially one with a specialty niche like auctioneering for Fine Arts, is a career that requires knowledge from several disparate fields – Fine Arts, business, appraisal, management, marketing and communication, and culminates in a ‘specialty role’ for the auction house.
Take a look at this infographic for a breakdown of the role of auctioneer.
Auctioneering with an interest for fine arts is a career that greatly benefits from a background or degree in Art History, although in this line of work, it is not a prerequisite. Post-secondary institutions at the university, college, and general interest levels all offer courses and degrees on an array of applicable subject matter. Degree or not, students are encouraged to develop a passion for the objects that they may see on the auction block.
For auctioneering, there are several accredited courses offered throughout the country that offer a range of seminars and courses to train new auctioneers and to help experienced ones hone their skills. A formal education is a bonus, but mentorship with an experienced auctioneer is a valuable asset, and in some states, a formal mentorship arrangement is required. As with many other fields, volunteering is a valid way to gain valuable career experience. Auctioneers can enter their chosen career on a part-time basis; greater experience leads to more lucrative opportunities.
A study conducted by the National Auctioneers’ Association (NAA) reveals that 35% of professional auctioneers have a college degree and some, but not all, have formal auctioneer training from a specialty career college like those listed below.
WHAT IF I DO WANT A DEGREE TO BECOME A FINE ARTS AUCTIONEER?
Although no formal degree options are available in the US, you can still obtain certification from a local technical college. We’ve listed some popular options below for auctioneer accreditation:
- World Wide College of Auctioneering
The World Wide College of Auctioneering, located in Mason City, Iowa was founded by one of the country’s most successful auctioneers, Col. Joe Reisch. Offering 10-day courses in auctioneering in both English and Spanish, this college has produced over 40,000 auctioneers. Course offerings are scheduled once every few months, and periodically in other locations to meet demand.
- Continental Auctioneers School
Located in Mankato, Minnesota, the Continental Auctioneers School offers one-week comprehensive courses for would-be auctioneers. The course curriculum covers such topics as bid calling, auctioneer commission rates, recordkeeping and appraisals. Continental Auctioneers School has a large practical component as well; students participate as auctioneers during their training week at local facilities.
- Mendenhall School of Auctioneering
Founded in 1962, the Mendenhall School of Auctioneering has been offering auctioneer training to students in North Carolina and throughout the US. Over the nine-day course, students learn and perfect the art of bid calling during real auction scenarios. Coached by seasoned auctioneers, the program offers training in bookkeeping, marketing, legal aspects and current technology trends – all with a focus on building your auctioneer reputation and business.
- International Auction School
Located in Greenfield, Massachusetts, the International Auction School is part of the famed Douglas Auctioneers holdings. With nationally acclaimed auctioneers as instructors, the emphasis is on helping each student determine their own personal style of auctioneering. In addition to bid calling, the curriculum includes sales skills and psychology, value and appraisal skills, as well as technological advances in the field. Students participate in all aspects of the auction process while on course.
- Western College of Auctioneering
Located in Billings, Montana, the Western College of Auctioneering offers applicants key training for all manners of auctioneering, including commercial and heavy equipment, auto and livestock, charity, real estate, and gallery auctions. The course philosophy centers on a personal connection between auctioneer and student in order to train students according to their personality. The school has been educating future auctioneers since 1948.
GETTING MY FOOT IN THE DOOR
Would-be auctioneers can take a number of paths in order to get started in the industry. Regardless of whether you pursue a formal education, the best way at to get your foot in the door is to spend time around live auctions – either as a volunteer or in a paid capacity – in order to get a feel for how they function.
Become involved with other events that build your public speaking skills. Learn as much as you can about your areas of interest. While the exchange of high dollar bids is a serious business, the overall interaction is based on the interaction of people and that can invite happiness. After all, you are helping people get something beautiful, useful, or interesting that they want, and that is a powerful feeling.