Are you a novice bidder? Don’t worry.
Mecum’s professional auctioneers and sales staff know the difference between someone making a bid and someone scratching their nose or waving at a buddy across the floor. And if there’s any doubt, they make sure a gesture is a bid.
Did you know?
Collector car auctions aren’t just for rich people: You don’t have to have a six-figure bank account to buy a car. Prices start at $10,000.
If you’ve ever sold a car, you know it’s no snap. Between detailing the vehicle, letting buyers inspect it from hood to trunk, negotiating the price and transferring the title, there’s a lot to it.
So imagine selling more than 300 cars in a single day.
That will be the challenge for Mecum Auctions staff when the company holds its first car auction in Las Vegas this month.
The auction will feature 1,000 vehicles, which will cross the block at an average rate of 30 per hour over the three days of the sale.
Moving that many cars that quickly requires a small army of staffers to carry out a logistical plan that involves a fleet of tractor-trailers, video and digital operations, and a business office capable of handling millions of dollars of transactions.
“It’s essentially a car show that meets a rock concert that meets a sporting event,” says Sam Murtaugh, Mecum’s marketing director.
Mecum, which travels coast to coast to hold up to 20 auctions a year, calls its operation a traveling circus. But it’s definitely not something that a bunch of clowns could pull off.
How it works: All the moving parts of an auction
Approximate average time a car spends on the block. Once bidding begins, it continues nonstop until the lot is done.
What to listen for while bidding
The most important thing to listen for is the number being called. “The highest number heard is the dollar amount being asked for, and that’s really all that matters,” Murtaugh said. “There are also screens in the room where the number displayed is the amount being asked for by the auctioneer. The screens are a great tool to make sure you are on the same page with the auction floor.”
• Up to 50 drivers move cars out of the display area, across the block and to the sold lot. Mecum makes arrangements with local car clubs, partly because they know their way around older vehicles without modern controls.
• Bidding increments are typically at the discretion of the auctioneer. Depending on the amount of the starting bid, the increments will generally start in larger amounts, from $5,000 to $10,000. As the bidding continues, the amounts will get smaller as fewer bidders are left — sometimes even down to $250 if there is a bidding war that goes to the very end.
• Cars that don’t sell on the block go back to the display area. Once a driver takes a car to the sold lot or back on display, he or she hops in the next available car and drives it to the line to the auction block.
• While auctioneers take bids from crowd members, Mecum staff members relay bids coming in by phone and online.
• After a sale, staff members process payment and title transfers, and the vehicle is driven to the sold lot, where buyers can pick it up or have it transported. Vehicles are sold as is.
• “Auctioneers speak more from their chest than they do from their throats, which helps prevent them from going hoarse too quickly,” Murtaugh said. “Eventually, time catches up, but they can last considerably longer than someone with an untrained voice.“
The size of the set-up
• To display 1,000 cars, Mecum needed 500,000 to 600,000 square feet of space.
Did you know?
As a fire-safety precaution, cars on display can have no more than one-quarter tank of fuel.
• There will be at least 250 people staffing the show. The setup crew arrives first, followed by the 50 people who’ll work in the auction office — registering buyers, admitting spectators, taking phone or online bids, processing sales, vetting vehicle titles to make sure they’re clear of liens, etc. Video production is handled by a crew of about 60.
• Twelve 53-foot semis carry the equipment needed for the production (stage setup, lighting grid, office equipment, registration tables, golf carts, everything needed for the sale).
• An additional semi contains a remote video production unit.
• Up to 12 more semis may be involved. Those are used for hauling cars, which Mecum offers as a service to sellers. The price ranges from $500 to about $2,500, depending on the distance cars are hauled.
• A team from 303 Products is on site to provide fee-based detailing services for sellers. Sellers also can detail cars themselves. It’s an unwritten rule that sellers present their vehicles in clean condition.
Looking to buy?
• Tickets: $20 in advance, $30 the day of the auction (free for children 12 and under)
• Bidder registration: $100 in advance and $200 on site. Buyers provide some personal information, including credit card numbers and copies of driver’s licenses, and sign agreements to pay up if they win bids.
• Auctioning begins at 1 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday
• All 1,000 cars will go on display beginning Thursday. They’re grouped in the order in which they’ll be sold and given lot numbers that reflect the sale schedule. Lot T1 is the first car that will be sold Thursday, Lot F50 is the 50th car that will be sold Friday, etc.
Marquee cars include a 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster. In 2015, one sold for $1.2 million at an auction in Arizona.
• The higher-priced cars will be sold in two six-hour periods (11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.) on Friday and Saturday, when the action will be streamed on Facebook Live.
• How early should a bidder aim to be there for a particular car? An hour before a car they’re interested in crosses the block.
• To check out a vehicle you’re interested in: Cars are generally displayed unlocked and with their hoods open. Buyers are free to look at the undercarriage, get under the hood and examine the interior, but should get permission before getting in the car.
Looking to sell?
Visit Mecum's website here
• Sellers’ check-in will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 14 and 15.
• Staff members check the Vehicle Identification Number of each car to make sure it matches registration records and hasn’t been reported stolen. All cars must be certified as sellable before being entered into the sale.