Whether you are doing a fundraising auction or are entering into the world of auctions doing your own, you need to know how to keep track of the items during an auction. In the auction business we call this scribing and clerking. Typically, the jobs are done by two individuals.
Scribing is the process of writing down the items as they cross the auction block. The scribe is essentially a secretary taking notes. The job requires someone that can tune in to the auctioneer’s voice and understand everything he says. It is important that they do not get distracted easily and can focus on numbers and descriptions. The scribe should ideally sit near the auctioneer or stand nearby with a clipboard. It is important that the scribe be able to communicate with the auctioneer. For instance, if they do not hear the buyer’s number or the exact price an item has sold for they should be able to call out and stop the auctioneer before he starts selling the next item. The scribe should also have good handwriting, especially numbers.
At our auctions we use a three-part carbonless form to keep track of the items. The forms are separated into tickets, approximately 24 per page. Each item that comes up for auction is written down on one ticket, ie “oak vanity” – in the description field. If there are Lot numbers (for example for consignors) then a number is filled into the “lot” field on the ticket. Then the scribe listens carefully for the auctioneer to say “sold” and s/he writes down the price the item is sold for and the buyer’s number. The next item to be sold is entered on a new ticket. Once the entire form is filled in, all tickets are full, the page is given to another worker. If the scribe is sitting at a desk, the sheet is given to the worker sitting next to them. If the auction is on-site or in a large facility, usually another worker will have to run the sheet over to the main desk and the worker sitting there.
We call that worker the clerk. The clerk then separates the top layer of tickets (remember, they are perforated) and places them into envelopes that are labeled with buyer’s numbers. Alternately, you can use a large slotted box, with each slot given a number that corresponds to a buyer number.
When a buyer is ready to check out, they present the clerk with their bid card and the clerk pulls out all the tickets from that number slot or envelope. The prices are added up, a buyer’s premium is added along with sales tax, and then all totals are written on a separate invoice. Our invoices are also three-part carbonless so we tear off the top copy of the invoice, staple the tickets to the invoice and give it to the customer.
When the auction is done we have the bottom forms of the tickets that list all the items sold, to whom and the prices, as well as invoices to see how each buyer has paid.
While many auctions use computers and there are some great software programs that can help, there are many times when a computer at an auction is not practical. On-site estate auctions, charity auctions and unusual locations are some examples.
The auction forms we use can be purchased from the National Auction Supply House. You may also be able to find them from other companies.