Types Of People Who Attend Auctions


Many people in the business think that it’s superior to have a top level knowledge of antiques and collectibles to be successful in the auction business. I certainly advocate obtaining as good an education of antiques as possible, but what you can learn from your fellow dealers far surpasses anything you can learn about the merchandise. Study people first, be patient, respectful and ask questions, just don’t believe everything your told 😉

Here are some observations on the types of people that attend auctions and their habits, as I see them.

The know-it-all:

The know it all really just wants to be loved, they want to demonstrate their knowledge of antiques and history to impress everyone in the room and usually do make a big impression. You can learn a lot from the know-it-all if you ask questions and listen carefully.

They will often give away valuable information just to hear themselves talk.

The know-nothing:

The know nothing is very hard to get any information from because they are afraid that anything they offer will be used in competition against them on the bidding floor. Often the know-nothing knows more than the know-it-all or the auctioneer about items. You can learn a lot from a know nothing, but only by watching them.

The loudmouth:

Don’t confuse the loudmouth with the know-it-all. The loudmouth usually has an agenda. Most of the time the loudmouth’s agenda is to speak negatively about an item during inspection in hopes of lessening the competition for that item. They’ll bellow about how that Civil War cap could be a replica and then bid on it from a dark corner of the room. This tactic rarely works and if it does, only on newbies.

The shuffler:

The shuffler will take an item from one box or tray and nonchalantly place that item in another box. While this does happen genuinely by accident on rare occasions, most often this is a sneaky attempt to place something in the wrong box in order to get it cheap.

It usually never works as the auctioneer and his/her crew are very familiar with the auction contents and will pull that item out of the wrong lot when it crosses the block.

Powerbidder, type A:

This type of bidder will bid often at the beginning of the auction and very rapidly, usually on certain types of items. This establishes them as a player for those items and their hope is that the competition will get discouraged and not even bother to bid on future items that this bidder shows interest in. So they bid hard and fast on a few items and then get the rest of what they want with very little competition.

This is a ruthless but fair tactic and one that some of the best auctioneers have a hard time combating.

When a good powerbidder senses that some of the competition is onto him, he will bid at a machine gun pace on an item, and drop out of the bidding abruptly, demonstrating that it’s dangerous for a competitor to ‘jack’ the bid on him.

Powerbidder, type B:

All of the philosophy as the type A bidder applies but the bidding method is different. Instead of bidding rapidly, this type of bidder will just hold his paddle up to indicate he is continually in the bid war, and then snap it down fast to stick someone who is trying to ‘jack’ him.


Poolers are one of the worst enemies any auctioneer can have. Poolers, are a group of dealers that have decided not to bid against each other during the auction to keep the price of high end items down low, then they go to a private location after, or even in the parking lot and have their own auction among the pool and split the excess among themselves.

This is an illegal practice and falls under the category of collusion, but it’s a difficult crime to prove in a court of law.

Old time auctioneers such as yours truly, can smell a pool, and have a ton of tricks and methods to break them up legitimately, none of which I’ll disclose here 😉

If a newbie auctioneer has great antiques at his first sale, an organized pool can cost him/her a lot of money if it’s not dealt with in a quick and lethal manner.

Of course these are not all the types of auction goers you’ll find at auctions and I’ll be doing another post in the future with more on this subject.

Thanks for reading, and attend an auction this week!


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