Silent Night and Live From New York

Wisdom. Hmmmm. I’m doing the meditative thing today. I’m lighting a candle, burning some incense and closing my eyes. Hmmmmm. I’m cross legged and tapping my fingers together. Hmmmm.  I’m meditating on the best way to explain silent and live auction items. Hmmm it’s about using the wisdom to know which items sell better in these two very different venues. Hmmm.

Wisdom knows when to be quiet and when to shout out. It’s the quintessential ability deep in the dark amber of the mind to know when to speak and when to remain silent. Wisdom is about timing. Wisdom is trying to predict if others will feel the way you do about your choices, and then acting on those thoughts. Today’s lesson boys and girls are based on one time when I was stupid. Only once. Wisdom is learning from others and not making the same mistakes. Okay – I’ve got to stand up I don’t do this yoga thing well.

Where do you put items? When does an item go into the silent auction vs. the live auction? When should an item be silent and when should you shout it out? Should you have a silent auction or can you do without one? Ah grasshopper try and take this pebble from my hand, oh you missed, try again, oh you missed. There are very different reasons for the silent and live auction. I’ve screwed up both so you don’t have to.

I was doing a live auction for Shoreline Chamber of Commerce. This is one of those organizations that just click together. They like each other and the party just didn’t stop from the time they arrived. During the live auction everything was going beautifully. One of the items was an NFL football signed by Warren Moon. It was one of the main pieces in the auction, a collector’s piece.

I’ve got two bidders shootin bids back and forth and the competitive adrenaline was just surging! It’s one of those perfect times where you just love to be an auctioneer. I don’t know anything about collector’s items. I sell a lot of collectors stuff and I’m about as stupid as they come. That all changed after this auction.  I’m much smarter now duh duh duh – me go home now.

I’m between these two guys bidding up the football and in a moment of what I’d like to call ignorant bravado, with the entire floor watching this financial boxing match, I rip the football from the package and throw it at the undecided bidder thinking he would bid one more time if he could touch the football. Lesson #1 dear reader – If you don’t know what the hell it is you’re selling, don’t tamper with it unless you’ve asked. As it turns out, and probably many of you are gasping, the price of this collector’s football is dependent upon it being in the original package unhampered!

Both guys look at me like, “There must be a punch line here. He’s got the real one backstage and this was Pat’s joke.” I know immediately I’ve $#!@$* up by the guests reaction. There’s a stunned look on the face of one of the board members. It’s a look similar to if you were dating a guy and he tells you in a moment of passion that his name used to be Sarah but his surgeon told him you would never guess.

The auction chair has grabbed a box of Kleenex and is starting to tear up, the chamber president has just bent over and hurled his dinner while his wife is patting him on the back saying, “But he’s done really well otherwise don’t you think?” Both guys are grinning waiting for me to explain my way out of this and I’m thinking, “Damn this is going to be a great story fifty years from now when I tell my grandchildren how grandpa USED to be a famous auctioneer.”

“Right there Billy you see that scar, that’s where the auction chair hit your grandpa so hard damn near knocked the chant right out of me. Pass me the depends sonny don’t judge me.”

I grab the package, put the football back in, grab tape off the table next to me and tape the whole thing up. I look at the audience and say “I’m the reason abortion is still legal in this country and had I taken the proper dosage this morning none of this would have occurred, senator could you repeat the question again please, I didn’t inhale and you listen to me, (pointing a finger), I never touched that woman not once.”

They laughed, they clapped, and I kid you not, they bought the football. I’m certain I sold it for less than I’m guessing we could have got for it. I offered to make up the difference but they were really gracious about it. Today, Ta Da! I’m not stupid no more…I don’t touch nothing!

That football was a live item! It’s hot, it’s sought after, and it’s rare. Live items are pieces that are higher in value and will probably generate more competitive bidding just because it’s a status symbol to own. Experience packages are live items. Trips away, dinners at a person’s house, home made jam at your door, things that are hands one for the buyer. Hand made furniture pieces are live items.  Art pieces are tough sells in a live auction. Art is subjective and dependent on the audience. I’ve seen really nice art pieces flop in the live auction. They’re more of a silent item.

Fidalgo School did what I thought was one of the coolest live items. One of the really talented husbands of the auction chair built a chicken coup with detailed little doors and warming lights. They painted it beautifully with bright colors and then right next to it was a little incubator with four little baby chicks ready to go. The item was original, it was well planned, and got lots of ooohs and ahhhs from the guests during the preliminary viewing. That’s a live item!

Silent auction items are meant to raise a little money but only as a warm up really. They are the goat cheese walnut vinaigrette before the lamb shanks and mint jelly. Silent items are foreplay and lingerie before you turn down the lights, turn back the sheets, and turn on the, ah, thinking of my Christian clients here, Bible study.

Silent Items


  • Displayed well and they’ll sell. Baskets of market goods well wrapped and colorfully displayed.


  • Grocery cards, Restaurant certificates on roaming bid boards during the silent


  • Tutoring – Four – two hour sessions plus exam preps for the school year


  • Sick hours – Your kid is sick – three ladies on call to come to your house and watch the kids, make soup and take care of the house.  You are limited to two calls
  • Prepare your tax return
  • Smaller Golf items
  • Dance lessons for a couple
  • Voice lessons
  • Gun lessons
  • Geek computer time from someone good
  • Class projects.  Pictures of the kids!!
  • Pick your kids up at school and get them home package
  • Reading your children bedtime stories
  • Swim lessons
  • Lunch ladies for your kid
  • Declutter club
  • Put your photos into a decorated scrapbook
  • Horseback riding for a day
  • Neuter your dog
  • Doggy Day Care while you’re gone
  • Dog health check ups
  • Barn raising party to build a shed in your back yard









  • Martini Rounds
  • Babysitting services and date night
  • Med exams/services – check up, free visit, surgery, vasectomy, plastic surgeries
  • House cleaning once a week for a year
  • Clean and organize your garage, your yard, house…
  • Car repair and oil change at your house while you eat
  • One desert a month for a year
  • Plant your yard
  • Knit a custom sweater – your choice of color and style
  • Pictures of your kids at every school function
  • Braces for your kid
  • We will plan your next birthday party


  • Cake makers for the special occasion
  • Packages to Seattle or Vancouver.  Two nights’ hotel stay, dinner and plays or shows for the next
  • Manicure/pedicure packages with a night in a spa
  • for the ladies
  • Trap shooting
  • Five guys and one truck will help you move
  • Piano lesson package for your kid.
  • Four vegetarian cooking classes and a full meal
  • Gym memberships – hasn’t done well in the past
  • A party at a bidder’s house.  Dress as waiters, play music and clean up after.
  • Candy making classes once a month
  • Estate sale at your home.  We will do at your garage what we do at the school
  • Christmas present wrapping and tree package
  • Floral arrangement once a month
  • Dinner once a month
  • Date night once a month
  • Time shares to Hawaii – donated air miles, airplane tickets
  • Picnic tables
  • Plane rides
  • Cruise packages
  • Hunting trip
  • Snow mobile trip
  • Ski trip
  • Skydiving package
  • Vancouver, Leavenworth getaways
  • Hot air balloon ride
  • Paint your house, rooms
  • Lawn Maintenance
  • Home made ice cream and cake
  • Build a surround sound system in your house
  • Complete makeover day with gift card to Nordstrom’s and one hour wardrobe consult
  • Complete wedding package with Pastor and use of the church
  • Paint ball war
  • Fresh bread basket one a month
  • Milk from a  dairy for a year and you meet the cow











Every auction should have a silent component. Silent auctions get the guests used to looking at stuff, gets them talking about items, and it gives me some time to connect with them. Our guests are easing into the buying mood with smaller low risk items. Every good auction should have a silent table.

Again auctions are about people. Make a list of your supporters and what they do. Ask them to contribute in their fields. A plumber can donate plumbing time, Musicians can play for an evening at someone’s house, and hit man can contract out one free kill to the highest bidder.  Even a group of kids can become a really creative package for your live or silent auction. I don’t think it’s legal to sell children but there are ways to get around the laws. I’ve seen so many things that I never thought would sell, sell!

Wisdom is thinking about how others will feel about your choices. Now it’s time to make those choices. Excited to see you at our next gig!

And here’s a great lesson in mercy. Shoreline booked me to come back, although for some strange reason they asked me to wear the Hannibal Lector straight jacket and goalie mask the next time I’m auctioneering.

Love you guys.



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