March 12, 2015
This week, I attended four auctions – two bull sales, one farm dispersal and our regular cattle auction. Auctions are always more exciting when you’re in the seats either looking to buy or sell, but there’s still something about just the atmosphere surrounding an auction that is special.
It’s capitalism in one of its purest forms. It’s competition, and buying and selling is both an art and a science. It’s a social event that’s filled with familiar faces, and usually plenty of good food. But there’s also an air of electricity that’s a combination of uncertainty and anticipation that accompanies an auction.
Everyone has their own strategy at an auction. Intending no offense, I’ll describe a few styles – tongue in cheek, of course – this way:
The bull: Some folks bid early and aggressively with the goal of intimidating other any potential buyers.
Sandbagger: The inverse is those who like to wait to the end; they try to sneak in at the tail end of the bidding with the goal of disheartening those who have been bidding all along.
Peacock: The peacocks want everyone to know they’re in the hunt by bidding rather flamboyantly.
Stealth player: Some like to always position themselves in the top row corner where they can watch all the action, but shield their active participation in the bidding from almost everyone but the bid taker.
Budget-driven: Other folks arrive with a hardline budget and they won’t waiver even by one bid.
Go with the flow: And lastly, there are those who allow the auction to determine their price levels.
With all that said, an auction is price discovery at its most visceral level. At one level, there are no friends at an auction, but on another level it’s a truly friendly competition.
The auction experience isn’t unique to agriculture; after all, there are car auctions, art auctions, real estate auctions, you name it. eBay’s whole business model is built on a scaled-down version of the auction concept. But auctions are, and always will be, part of the heart and soul of agriculture.
No other industry is so comfortable with its practitioners putting their life’s work up to the public to decide its worth year after year. Perhaps more importantly, no other industry is willing to truly value that life’s work. Whether the market is soaring or crashing, we accept and value that judgment that only an auction can bring.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and the Penton Agriculture Group.
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