We learned that bidding in auctions is often much more subtle than a wave of the hand or a raised paddle. Bidders may wish to conceal their identity (and excitement) by using very subtle signs that only the auctioneer can see.
In the 1950s, many churches began holding community auctions as a fundraising activity. Local farmers, especially, would sell food and goods to the public and animals to other farmers.
A participant in one such auction from the 1950s noted:
It was hazardous to wave to your friend or scratch your ear at the auction.Your harmless gesture could be misinterpreted as a bid and lo and behold you just bought a steer.
Modern auctioneers have adopted rules to avoid such misunderstandings. For example, one real estate auction firm offers this guidance:
Donít worry---if you scratch your nose, just donít look at the auctioneer or his assistants. They should understand that you are not part of the bidding process!