A good auction catalog matters as much to a successful auction as a good auctioneer does. When you put together a catalog, your prime objective is to provide basic information on auction items and to make the items as appealing to bidders as possible. Depending on the venue, the catalog can be cheap, or it can be an expensive, elegant product.
The catalog presents the items in the order in which they'll be sold by the auctioneer. It includes the lot number, the opening bid price -- if there is one -- and any disclaimers or conditions, such as the item being sold "as is." It may include the name of the owner or, for charity items, the donor. It includes photographs of the items and descriptions of their history or selling features. The "Fundsraiser" online magazine recommends making the descriptions for a live auction as engaging and effusive as possible.
Other Catalog Material
The catalog should present a timetable of when the auction starts, when it ends and when time is set aside for any speeches or meals that are part of the event. If food will be served, the catalog can show the menu. For a charity fundraiser, your catalog can remind bidders of why the charity matters and how their generous bids will help people or animals or the environment, whatever the case might be. If you sell advertising in the program, the ads will generate added revenue for the charity or auction house.
Putting It Together
Software makes assembling a catalog easier than ever. You can capture the basic facts about every item in the auction -- lot number, minimum bid, owner -- using a spreadsheet or a database, so you don't lose track of the information. As the format for each entry is the same -- photo, caption, lot number, description -- you can create a layout that repeats the same design, which saves time. Import digital photos into the catalog for illustrations.
If the auction is entirely online, you only need a digital catalog for bidders. For live auctions, you want copies your bidders can carry, flip through and drool over. The Reynolds & Buckley auction firm recommends a minimum of one catalog for every two bidders, plus 10 to 15 percent extra. If you have the money, one per person is better. You can mail catalogs in advance to arouse interest in registered bidders, but remind them to bring the catalogs when they come to the auction.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.