Understanding “Auction Chant”

auction chant

Maybe your only experience of hearing the melodic chant of an auctioneer is spending a Saturday afternoon around the TV, watching PBS.

Or maybe you were brought up around the authentic experience of actually going to auctions every Saturday with your family. Either way, the chant you experience at an auction house has many names.

Bid calling, the cattle rattle, or the auction cry, are just a few of the most common names for the auctioneer’s chant. If you have no idea what the auctioneer is saying in that fast-paced rhythmic manner, you are not alone. However, many auction veterans do understand, and the chant and its various parts, mean a lot to those who are bidding.

Here is an elementary breakdown of what the auctioneer is chanting for his/her bidders:

The main element of the chant is a repetition of two numbers. These two numbers represent the monetary amount involved in the sale of a particular item. The first number chanted is the amount that a bidder is currently offering for the item, while the second number chanted is what the next person needs to bid, to beat the current bidder.

You must be saying to yourself, “but it sounds like the auctioneer is saying so much more!” Well, in a way, they are saying a lot more. In between the chants of the two numbers, there are, what is called, “filler words”. Filler words are used to string together the two “bid” numbers, and are also used to make the chant rhythmic. The filler words used by auctioneers are taught at auctioneering schools. A few of those filler words include, “will ya give me now?”, “will ya give me two?” “will ya give me three?” and so on.

This chant, with its numbers and filler words, will continue until the item up for auction is sold. Once the current high bidder appears to be the winner, meaning that the bidding has stopped and no one has tried to beat that bidder, the auctioneer will chant, “Going once, going twice, sold!” or “Going, going,…gone!” meaning that the bidding is officially over for that item.