It’s a sound that draws you towards the auction arena almost as much as the powerful roar of a V12 engine. The continuous chant of the auctioneer takes you aback a bit if you’ve never heard it before, a repeating crescendo of seemingly unintelligible words leading to the climactic “SOLD!” as the gavel hits the podium.


Joseph Mast

Listen closely, though. What you are hearing is actually a carefully constructed and finely honed craft known as “bid calling.” In between the amount that is bid and the amount the auctioneer is asking for are “filler words” – perhaps something like “How many dollars?” or “Would you give?” According to Barrett-Jackson’s lead auctioneer, Joseph Mast, it usually takes about six months to a year for an auctioneer to develop a bid call, which is also known as a chant.

“Each auctioneer has their own signature style of bid call or chant,” says Mast. “There are no two auctioneers who sound the same. There are some who pick up traits from another, such as filler words or intonation. It’s not that we’re talking fast – it’s more like we’re more slurring words together and itsoundslike we’re talking fast. It’s an art. All auctioneers sound very different, much like every singer has a unique, individual style.”

Mast in fact loved singing, and did so throughout high school and college. One day, his dad suggested he take a crack at “this auctioneering thing,” pointing out that he’d probably be good at it. He took his dad’s advice, attending the Missouri Auction School and graduating in 2001. “The actual school is only about 10 days long,” says Mast. “You learn a lot of the laws and regulations, and work on the bid call and chant.” That is usually followed by a one-year apprenticeship with a licensed auctioneer. “The apprenticeship is where you really learn the ins and outs of the business,” says Mast. “You learn the nuances of how to conduct an auction, how to set one up, how to settle one out and how to perfect your bid call.”


Two bidder assistants relaying bids to Mast.

For Mast to venture into auctioneering was a departure from family tradition. He was the seventh generation growing up on a dairy farm in northeast Ohio, milking Holstein and Jersey cattle as a youth. Once he caught the auctioneering bug, however, his father sold the family dairy farm and followed suit, getting his broker’s license the same day Mast got his auctioneering license. Mast eventually hired his father to work for him full-time when he started his own auctioneering company.

Mast’s early auctions were mainly estate, cattle and real estate. “The first auction I ever did, I sold a bowling ball and a large plastic sandbox at an estate sale,” he remembers, laughing. Today, in addition to Barrett-Jackson collector car auctions, Mast mainly does real estate and all the major thoroughbred racehorse auctions across the country. In 2011 he became the youngest person ever to win the prestigious International Auctioneers Championship and sits on the board of directors of the National Auctioneers Association.

The YouTube video of his IAC win attracted the attention of a national ad agency, who contacted him to star in a popular – and hilarious – GEICO commercial. “It was fun,” Mast says. “The exposure I was able to get from that commercial parlayed into many other things, including my role as lead auctioneer with Barrett-Jackson.”

The 2016 Scottsdale Auction was in fact Mast’s ninth, although his first Scottsdale auction as lead auctioneer. “You develop good habits and nuances when you’re selling classic cars,” Mast points out. “I think that’s why I was chosen to be the new lead auctioneer. You can’t jump in and do it overnight. I’m honored that Barrett-Jackson had the confidence in me and believe in my leadership ability to take on this important role.”

The Key Players

It is helpful to know who does what in the auction arena to follow along with the action. For the Scottsdale auction, there is a team of between 50 and 55 people who rotate positions every half-hour or hour. These include bid spotters, auctioneers, tote board operators, clerks and ticket runners.


Mast with Andy White and Wade Cunningham on the auction block.

Up high on the main block is the auctioneer, flanked by a “color guy” to the auctioneer’s left and a “right guy” positioned … well, to the auctioneer’s right. The “color guy” reads the car descriptions, is well-versed in the car business and is usually a professional announcer in some capacity. “I’ve got one guy who is the voice of NASCAR radio,” says Mast, “and another who’s the voice of a college basketball team.”

The “right guy” is the auctioneer’s second set of eyes. He’s keeping track of time, which bid spotter is in or out, and also helps to correct any miscommunication. “We’re on live television, there are the regular Lots, timed Lots and charity Lots,” Mast points out. “We’ve got a whole schedule we have to keep up with. That second guy is very integral in keeping that schedule together.”

The members of the auctioneering team on the floor, in the skyboxes and on the main stage are known as bid spotters or “ringmen.” These are generally professional bid spotters, although unlike auctioneers, they are not required to be licensed. The bid spotters also have their own distinctive calls, designed so the auctioneer can hear them; those positioned far from the block have whistles for that purpose. The size of the auction arena requires that bid spotters relay the bids from the back of the room up to the block. “In other words,” says Mast, “the auctioneer could be acknowledging a bid from the front of the room, but that bid has been passed through two or three bid spotters.”

One of Mast’s bid spotters who attracts a lot of attention from Barrett-Jackson fans watching on television is Camille Booker, who is usually positioned on the main block. “Camille is also an auctioneer,” says Mast. “She and I have worked together for six or seven years now. Auctioneering was primarily a male profession for a long time, but in the past five to 10 years, many more women are getting into the business, which is welcomed.”

Mast knows that, for Barrett-Jackson, he not only needs to bring his A game, but the A team. “Barrett-Jackson is the biggest and the best; the greatest collector car auction out there,” he says, “so we bring some of the best auctioneers in the world. This is not a training ground.”

It all just goes to show that fatherdoesknow best: his son was cut out for auctioneering. “I absolutely love doing this,” Mast affirms. “It’s like being retired at 35 years old! If you love what you do, you never spend a day ‘working.’”

The 14th Annual Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach Auction celebrates exotic automobiles with itsSupercar Showcaseat the South Florida Fairgrounds April 8 thru 10, 2016.

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