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Auction chant (also known as "bid calling", "the auction cry", "the cattle rattle", or simply "auctioneering") is a rhythmic repetition of numbers and "filler words" spoken by auctioneers in the process of conducting an auction. The chant consists of at least the current price and the asking price to outbid. Auctioneers typically develop their own style, and competitions are held to judge them. Outside of auctions, the chant has been the subject of music and used in commercials and film.
The auction chant is a repetition of two numbers at a time which indicate the monetary amount involved with the sale of an item. The first number is the amount of money which is currently being offered by a bidder for a given item. The second number is what the next bid needs to be in order to become the "high bidder" or simply "the current man on". In between the numbers are "filler words" which are what the auctioneer says to tie the chant together making it smooth and rhythmic. Filler words serve as a thinking point for both the auctioneer and the bidders. Filler words can serve to make a statement, ask questions, or can simply serve as a means of adding rhythm to the chant (which all filler words should do regardless). Typical filler words, which are taught at schools of auctioneering, are "dollar bid", "now", and "will ya' give me?". The typically taught chant for beginning auctioneers follows the pattern: "One dollar bid, now two, now two, will ya' give me two? Two dollar bid, now three, now three, will ya' give me three?", and continues in this fashion until the crowd stops bidding and the item is sold to the high bidder (auto auctions have "reserves" or "minimum price" placed on all autos, so if the high bidder doesn't meet the reserve, they may be asked to raise their own bid in order to successfully purchase the vehicle in question). Often prior to "closing the bidding" & selling an item, auctioneers will announce: "Going once, going twice, sold!" or "Going, going, gone!", followed by announcing the winning bid. Often auctioneers will stand at a lectern with a gavel, which they use to bang the lectern to end bidding on an item prior to announcing the winning bid. Slurring filler words to make multi-part filler word phrases is a key element, giving the illusion that the auctioneer is talking fast, and thus creating more excitement and bidding anxiety among the bidding crowd.
Once an auctioneer becomes experienced in the auction profession, they usually develop their own style with regards to unique filler words, unique rhythm, and variable speed of delivering the chant. Many chants are accompanied by the unique yelling of a ringman, who is an assistant to the auctioneer in the "auction ring". Ringmen are professionals who are often auctioneers themselves. They assist in spotting bids and communicating essential information back to the auctioneer. Typically automobile auctioneers at dealer only auctions, and livestock auctioneers are known for their high speed chants.
Auctioneers also can participate in "competitions" which crown regional and world champion auctioneers based on their chants, which is common in the auto and livestock auction industry, but not limited to them. Ringmen can also compete in competitions. The National Auctioneers Association as well as state specific Auctioneer Associations hold annual Auctioneer "bid calling competitions". These organizations also hold Ringmen competitions.
In popular culture
Auction chants have even found their way into the music and the entertainment arena, such as the 1956 hit song "The Auctioneer" by Leroy Van Dyke, which was about a relative of Van Dyke who was an auctioneer, and the 1995 hit single "Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)" by John Michael Montgomery. Commercials for Lucky Strike cigarettes featured tobacco auctioneers, and their phrase "Sold American!" made its way into the 1940 film His Girl Friday.