The world of auctions has been around for quite some time, although an exact date of the first auction is not know, historians do estimate that this industry has been around for more than 2,500 years. Auctions have been around to sell livestock, slaves, jewelry to fine art, antiques and more. It's been a way for people through the centuries to have the opportunity to get items that are common to rare and at a far cheaper price than if they were to buy them from a retailer or individual party.
Historians believe that some of the earliest recorded auctions can be traced back to about 500 BC back in the days of ancient Greece. In Babylon, it was common to see women being auctioned off as brides to buyers. The reason for this is that during this time it was considered illegal to sell a daughter for marriage any other way than through auction.
The Greeks held the auction in a descending order, in other words they would start with the highest bid first and then work it down to the minimum amount that the seller was willing to accept for whatever they were selling. The ancient Romans were known to hold an auction to sell off a family estate, things they acquired in war as well as furniture.
In the time of the colonists in America in the 1600s they would generally use the auction process to sell their crops, their livestock and of course slaves. The fur traders also would find that a lot of times that they could sell their hides and pelts a lot easier if they took them to auction. The fur trade through auctions is given a lot of credit for establishing the fur trade with the early Americans and those in Europe during the 17th century.
In the earlier auctions there were far more obstacles to overcome during auctions. With today's auctions there are a lot of different technologies that are included to make life easier as an auctioneer, especially the microphone that has been a huge help from the earlier days. Before the onset of electrical technology many of the auctioneers were challenged with not being heard very well if not at all if they were in front of a large crowd of people. It also was difficult to advertise it across long distances like they are able to do today. So in order to entice those who had to come by horse or by wagons were often offered free food and other free things to get them to come and be bidders. They also had the weather to contend with because auctions were then generally held outdoors.
As auctions grew in popularity throughout the United States it was decided in the early 1900s that auction schools should be established and it was the Jones' National School of Auctioneering and Oratory that opened it's doors first. This school provided training for those who were looking to be able to auction off real estate and simple personal items. Even though they offered training during this time, they still firmly believed that being an auctioneer simply came as a natural talent and couldn't be taught. Today, that is not the case.
Auctions have changed immensely over the years and there is only one small reminder left from the past and that is the term “colonel” and this is from the days of the Civil War where it was colonels that were often the ones who led auctions, especially those auctions that contained prizes from the war. To this very day, this is the only term still in use and refers to the auctioneer. This is however, only goes for auctioneers in the U.S.