Sunday, September 25, 2011

Learning to Be an Auctioneer

Two weeks ago I hopped into my minivan and headed East. My nerves were all afire, dreading what was ahead of me. I was on my way to Auctioneering School at the World Wide College of Auctioneering, ready to give chanting a try.

Nevada was the longest part of the drive and very beautiful

I was attempting it because I'm opening an Auction House, Barn Owl Auctions,  in Northern California. My uncle John came along at my request. He's from outside London and has the most charming accent. What a great voice for an auctioneer! 

Working Mechanical Sign in Wyoming

The school is located in Mason City, Iowa, but we attended their Denver class. It was held at a very nice hotel near the airport. We checked in the night before and just crashed. Two days of driving had tired us out. We had made the decision to drive because John had never seen that part of the county. It was so beautiful-but as John pointed out: "there's too much scenery!" Which cracked me up.

The class at auction school consisted of 35 students, a myriad of people from around the country. All ages were present, from 17-72. My favorite group was all the cowboys. They arrived in jeans, giant belt buckles & cowboy hats, nice as pie and all great auction chanters. 

This young auctioneer is from Nebraska

Every day was started with fast tongue twister drills. The drills were supposed to loosen up our mouths and teach us to enunciate. Got started at 8am with dozens of different confounding chants, including 40 repeats of: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could if a woodchuck could chuck wood. Huh? Did I mention class wrapped up at 9:30 every evening? We were zombie chanters. Happy zombies, chanting away! 

Paul, our award winning instructor with John from Kansas

We started auction chanting on the second day. Imagine standing in front a group of relative strangers and trying to sound like the teacher. (Paul C Behr, who has won 3 International championships!) Pride had to be tucked safely away and courage embraced tightly. Slowly, practice after practice, day after day, we got better. Still nervous as a deer in front of a lion, but better.

This is Lisa & my Uncle John, enjoying some R&R after class
Besides learning how to be an Auctioneer, the other amazing part of the trip was the friendships we made. The whole class became a tight knit support group, cheering one another on and rooting for each others success. One woman I met, Lisa, is launching a Vintage Event company up in Seattle. Others are joining auction companies. Many are planning on becoming contract auctioneers. 

Class being taught by Ronnie Wood, one of the best livestock auctioneers ever

By the time Friday rolled around we were sounding like we knew a little bit about auctioneering. Friday night was a live auction held for the public where each of us was to auction off 3 items. Saturday was even more nerve wracking. In the afternoon we took the written exam, followed closely by the oral exam. We had to auction off an item to a silent room. No one was allowed to bid-we just had to make it up in our heads. It was so weird to be auctioning in a dead silent space with everyone staring at me! I forgot a bunch, but I got through it. Phew! 

Jacquelyn, a high school senior, auctioning off live!
Trey, owner of a Safari Park in Oklahoma

Sunday was Graduation. We all happily graduated and are now licensed auctioneers!! It was such an amazing experience: total immersion, tons of practice, great friendships made & new skills developed. What a perfect week of learning.

Here's my diploma! I definetly earned this!! 


  1. How fun! I loved reading about it, nerves and all. What an adventure. The only thing missing is a picture of you! :)

  2. Awesome! Congrats on your diploma and I hope I can make it down there in 2012 to attend an auction. :-)