When reality is anything but real, the televised auction

Reality TV is a source of both entertainment and irritation.  In my role as a collector car appraiser I often have people tell me things they think they know about values based on what they see on TV. Let’s get one thing out in the open, most reality TV shows are not completely real and certainly not transparent enough to be taken at face value.

I can advise that you are better off assuming that what you see on reality TV, particularly car related TV, is forced, manipulated, scripted or just plain baloney. 

People love to tell me how they saw something sell for big bucks on one of the televised auctions. If they sell the car at auction it must be correct, they insist.  The short answer is not really. 

When Barrett-Jackson or Mecum televises their sales they know exactly when the cameras are going to role and what cars are going to cross at those times. If they have a big car or something special they want to make sure looks good for the cameras you can bet they are negotiating with their well-vetted customers before the sale ever starts. Deals often include offers of discounted commissions to buyers if they bid on certain lots or special arrangements to sell or buy another car. Extra pressure is often applied to sellers to accept bids so the viewer can hear the car being sold. 

This is not to say the buyer’s aren’t real and the sales aren’t real. They are mostly real. The incentives get manipulated to bolster the potential outcome and most importantly to enhance the theater of the sale. I’m not saying this is every televised transaction. But it does happen with some regularity. 

Buyer’s are also susceptible to the influences of the video camera. Some buyers love to get on the screen and they can accomplish this by going to inspect the car and or by bidding when the cameras are rolling.  In the collector car world, where some players have more money than they know what to do with, they can buy a car just to get attention for themselves if their egos are that in need. 

Worse yet, it is no accident that the major auction companies open the bar at the same time as the gates open to the spectators. Get your wealthy clientele liquored up by the time the cameras role and throw them some commission incentives and let the money and egos create some auction excitement for the cameras.  This formula has been working for as long as the auctions have been televised. 

It’s simple,  don’t believe everything you see on the TV auctions.