Life’s biggest milestones seem to come in pairs for the Capetonian movable goods sale specialist Stef Olivier.
He was named the 2018 South African National Auction Champion. And, yes, it’s passion that drives his dedication in the industry, and love. He was introduced to auctioneering thanks to his wife’s family’s auction business.
“I fell in love with everything about the industry from the very first time my then future in-laws invited me to attend an auction,” says Olivier.
“I’d been acting and involved in music from a young age; I’m a natural performer and in auctions I’ve found a career that sparks my passion as much today as when I started. In fact, it’s been a growing love affair over nearly 15 years and I don’t see myself ever doing anything else.”
Olivier says given the caliber of competitors in this year’s championship, he’s both humbled and proud to have clinched the title.
The South African Institute of Auctioneers PR director Joff van Reenen says as an industry guild, education is a critical component of the institute’s work for auction houses, their staff, existing clients and consumers who might become future clients.
“Many individuals and businesses that don’t have auction experience will tell you they’re nervous of the process, but it’s invariably based on a dearth of knowledge rather than antipathy towards the method of sale.
Auctions are, in fact, globally regarded as the most transparent method of sale, because fixed and movable assets can be disposed of rapidly through auction at a price determined by the market on the day of sale.
“Having the market determine value automatically negates artificial price manipulation by a company or industry cartel, which the competition commission has shown to have happened on more than one occasion across industries,” says Van Reenen.
A wealth of information is available to consumers on SAIA’s website including simple explanations of auction terminology and tips for bidders and buyers.
“My best advice, always, is go to at least one or two sales before you leap and get a feel for the auction process,” Van Reenen adds. Olivier agrees. “So much energy and excitement is generated during a sale; no two are ever alike and they’re as much of a passion for my regular clients as they are for me,” he says.
Bidway specialises in moveable goods, which SAIA’s Auction Champion laughingly explains as anything from a pencil to a luxury deep sea fishing boat. If it can move, they can sell it.
Olivier loves this industry sector because it presents an ongoing challenge; a mental gear shift has to take place between every auction item because different goods require changes in auction technique and on any given sale day he canters his bidders through at least 400 of them.
Olivier’s personal record for one auction was 1 194 lots, which he started on at 10.30am and finally dropped the hammer on the last item shortly before 8pm that night.
“Even while getting through more than 100 lots an hour during that sale it was important to constantly read the mood of the crowd and the temperature of the room,” he says.