Most auctioneers are paid on commission rather than with a salary, so their income can vary widely depending on what they are selling and how many people are bidding on it. The percentage of the selling price that an auctioneer keeps can vary widely between a low of 10 percent and a high of 30 percent.
On average, auctioneers earn between $40,000 and $50,000 per year. Because they are paid through commission, this number may vary widely depending on how many auctions an auctioneer does in a year and how high the bids are at the auction. More experienced and well-known auctioneers usually find it easier to find work and are able to charge higher commissions because of their expertise and experience. Auctioneers in particular fields may perform other duties in those fields. For example, a real estate agent may moonlight as an auctioneer, and an antiquarian book appraiser may also oversee book auctions.
Factors Affecting Income
Auctions vary from farm auctions where box lots sell for a dollar all the way to fine art auctions where paintings may sell for millions. Not surprisingly, the auctioneers who work in the latter auctions make more money than those who work in the former. If an auctioneer sells a painting for $1 million and receives a 10 percent commission, he will make $100,000 for that sale alone. Most auctioneers sell more mundane objects and make far less money. The number of auctions an auctioneer performs in a year, the quality of the merchandise in the auctions and the size of the bids that people make are the primary factors determining an auctioneer's income.
Auctions tend to draw larger crowds and more expensive merchandise in cities than in rural areas. Farm auctions are a frequent occurrence in agricultural areas, but rarely feature extremely expensive items. Auctioneers who work in urban centers typically make more money than their rural counterparts. This income difference is compromised somewhat by the higher operating expenses that exist in urban areas.
Some fields of auctioneering pay far better than others. At the top of the heap are fine art auctions such as those at Christie's and Sotheby's, which sell works by very famous artists. At the bottom are local estate auctions that feature everyday household goods that people often buy for very little money. In between these two extremes, everything from collectibles to rare books to real estate to livestock can be purchased at an auction. In general, the more valuable the items being sold, the more money the auctioneer can expect to make.