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5 bizarre historic auction facts that you won’t believe

By Andrew Bell

Here at Ray White Surfers Paradise we consider ourselves leading specialists when it comes to selling property at auction. The recent results of the Event, Australia's real estate occasion of the year, prove this.

Over 2,000 people attended, 333 bidders registered and 54 properties were sold on the day – plus the total sales volume exceeded $40million. In celebration of The Event, we've unearthed five fascinating and bizarre facts about auctions – believe them or not.

1. The entire Roman Empire was once put up for Auction 

The most advanced civilisation in the world was once put up for sale to the highest bidder during the year of 193 AD. The praetorian guards of the time murdered the emperor, Pertinax. Upon realising that they had gained control of the empire, they decided to profit from their deed putting the entire empire up for sale.

A bidding war ensued, and Didius Julianus was declared the winner at a lofty price roughly equivalent to $1 billion American dollars. The brief nature of Julianus's term as emperor suggests that he defaulted on his bid and was quickly dethroned.

2. Auctions were recorded as early as 500 BC

The first auction occurred at least 2517 years ago according to the renowned Greek Historian Herodotus. These early auctions were reported to have taken place in Babylon, which was the largest city in the world during its hey day.

The Babylon city and empire dissolved eventually, and its place is now occupied by modern day Iran.

3. Auctions were once timed by a candle pinned to a wall

In olden day England, auctions were often undertaken in rather bizarre and interesting fashion. A single candle was pinned to the wall in a dark room and the auctioneer and bidders gathered.

To commence the auction the auctioneer would light the candle and bidders would rush to get their bids in. The auction would close when the candle melted around the pin and fell to the ground, at which point the last bidder would be declared the winner.

This gives a literal explanation to the term 'flaming out' at auction, which refers to bidders who bid to high or are to enthusiastic early in the selling process.

4. An Australian man once tried to sell New Zealand

Friendly Trans-Tasman rivalry showed it's colours in 2006 when a cheeky Australian listed the entire country of New Zealand for sale. His starting bid was listed as $1cent and bidding only reached $1300 – a steal for such a beautiful country if you ask us.

Unfortunately the auction was identified as a violation of eBay's terms and conditions soon after going viral, and was quickly removed.

5. The gavel used to be a spear

Auctioneers and gavels came later, but at the beginning of the long history of auctions, the proceedings were a little more dramatic. The auctioneer was referred to as the 'Magister Auctionarium', and instead of using a gavel to commence the auction he would use a spear.

The action of hurling this spear into the earth would commence bidding. The drama and intensity of this tradition is commendable, but work health and safety would have a field day if we ever tried to bring it back.

As you can see it's taken a number of experiments, mistakes and bizarre oddities to get to where we are today with auctions. Here at Ray White, we hope to continue the storied tradition of auctions and look to the future, hopefully with some of the theatre and drama of yesteryear.

If you're thinking about selling your Surfers Paradise real estate get in touch with your local Ray White office today. We'll use the best modern sales and auction techniques to help get you the highest price possible for your property.

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