The Rituals of an Auctioneer

The day of a major auction is often a nerve-wracking and exciting one, for all involved. Here Leonard Joel Managing Director, John Albrecht shares his auction day rituals.

On the morning of a major auction, I ensure I take an hour for exercise and more often than not that will mean a fast walk with my walking partner and beloved family dog, Buddy. This helps me to focus and I find, always gives me extra energy throughout the day.
During the day, I will monitor ‘auction interest’ closely, reading through all absentee and telephone bids. I also check in with the relevant head of department to ensure all reserves are accurately set and any notations regarding, for example, condition reports, are properly recorded and easy to read when I am in the middle of the auction.
About an hour before the auction, I meet with the head of department or auction manager for a final time so that I am aware of any change in interest on specific lots, and so that we both know what to expect once the auction commences.
My next ritual relates to sustenance; I always have a banana with yoghurt and honey as I find it settles my stomach and sustains me, particularly for a long auction. It also saved Michael Chang in the French Open (a banana that is), and his decision to choose a banana has always stuck with me!
Once on the rostrum, I set my wristwatch in front of me and take a moment to connect with any of the audience members I know, and then, welcome the entire audience to the room and introduce the auction. Pace is incredibly important to the success of an auction, and I will sell between 60-80 Lots per hour. This ensures the auction has momentum, but also that I capture every bid. It can be a complex juggling act; ensuring all bids – in the room, on the phones, online and absentee bids – are successfully recorded, and at exactly the right moment.
When a Lot attracts intense bidding across all four bidding modes, this is the time an Auctioneer can add value; successfully weaving and further encouraging bids, before the gavel falls. It is always our aim, of course, to achieve the best possible price for our vendors.
There is no doubt that the experience of stepping up on to the rostrum – the theatre, the pace, the pressure, the direction and the control that it commands – is a heady one but I won’t deny it, I’m addicted!

John Albrecht
Managing Director & Head of Private Collections