Home > Auctions, Software > Cataloging: A Love/Hate Relationship

Cataloging: A Love/Hate Relationship

Nikon CameraLove/Hate
One of the challenges that auctioneer’s face is the necessary task that is cataloging. Cataloging can be slow, tedious, and time-consuming. Cataloging, however, is necessary for opening the auction floor to bidders that can’t physically attend the auction. Cataloging permits internet absentee bidding, internet live broadcasting, and internet-only (timed) auctions. It’s fair to say that auctioneers have a love/hate relationship with the cataloging process. There is no doubt though, that opening the auction floor to more bidders brings higher bids to the consignors and higher commissions to the auctioneer.

Slow is a No-Go
There are many different processes for building auction catalogs and taking lot photos. Different types of auctions (on-site estate auctions, gallery auctions, fine-art auctions, heavy equipment auctions, car auctions, etc.) will have different processes that work best for them. When and where lots get described and entered into the computer is subject to the workflow specific to your business. There is not a universal correct answer for the best way to catalog. All auctioneers, however, can agree that building a catalog with images can be a time-consuming affair and any improvement to this process goes a long ways towards saving labor and money. In this article I would like to discuss some common cataloging processes and the opportunities available for improving on them.

Typical Cataloging
The typical process for building an auction catalog involves 4 steps.

  • Step 1: Attach the lot label to the item.
  • Step 2: Enter and describe the lot on the computer.
  • Step 3: Take pictures of the lot(s).
  • (We typically do 20+ lots of Step1, 2, and 3 before proceeding with step 4)
  • Step 4: Attach the camera’s memory card to the computer and assign the pictures to the correct lots.

The biggest issue with this process is that attaching images after describing lots is inefficient. What if there was a way to attach the images in real-time? Keep reading.

Wireless Image Capture with an Eye-Fi Card
An Eye-Fi card is a special SD memory card with built-in WiFi that can be used with nearly any digital camera that accepts regular SD cards. Using an Eye-Fi card we can take pictures with our regular camera, however, instead of the image just sitting on the memory card, the images are wirelessly transmitted to your computer in real-time. The image then automatically gets attached to the lot that you are working on in Auction Flex. Removing an entire step (step 4) in the cataloging process is a big improvement and a huge time-saver. Read more about the Eye-Fi card here.

What if the process of describing and imaging lots in front of a computer isn’t a process that works for your company? Keep reading.

In Auction Flex version 7.10 (released January 2011) we introduced a brand new capability called catalog by image. What we did was reverse the typical process of building a catalog. Instead of entering lot descriptions and then taking pictures, we actually take pictures and use them to describe the lots with. Here are the steps:

  • Step 1: Attach the preprinted lot label to the item.
  • Step 2: Take your first picture of the lot with the lot label visible. Now take more pictures of the lot from different angles ensuring you include pictures of specific details you want included in the description of the lot. If you want to include dimensions in your description simply include a ruler or tape measure in your photo.
  • (repeat steps 1 and 2 for as many lots as you like)
  • Step 3: Attach the camera’s memory card to the computer and open Auction Flex’s new Catalog by Image form. You then actually use the pictures to describe the lots. When there are multiple images of the same lot the Catalog by Image form intelligently allows you to add to the description of the previously entered lot.

This new catalog by image process is very efficient and can result in a huge reduction in the time it takes to build a catalog.  Click here to want to watch a video of the Catalog by Image process.

We recognize that there is no universal process that works best for every auction. Our goal is to give you the tools you need to work effectively and efficiently with whatever process works best for you. My personal preference for cataloging, however, is undoubtedly the new Catalog by Image feature. This is the way I would catalog whenever possible because it is uniquely efficient and encourages the user to take multiple images of each lot.

As always, if you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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  1. March 4th, 2011 at 13:19 | #1

    Hi Brandon:

    We’ll try the ‘Catalog by Image’ process with our next container (coming in Monday) —

    I’ll let you know how it works out ..


  2. Brandon
    March 4th, 2011 at 15:17 | #2

    @Lou Fausak
    Excellent! Please provide feedback once you have used it.

  3. Logan
    March 14th, 2011 at 22:53 | #3

    The only way cataloging will not be a complete nightmare every week is the day when someone develops a comprehensive, easy to use mobile app. Keyboard, scanning device (aka 5mp or better camera) and display. Everything you need to catalog and entire auction. And with the advent of the tablet, this could make cataloging quite easy.

  4. March 16th, 2011 at 22:16 | #4

    I like the Catalog by Image process but does it still leave the problem of taking the pictures in the order of the sale, and therefore the catalog order or does AuctionFlex allow a process to build the catalog with images and descriptions as time allows and then, after setting up the gallery floor in the order of the sale, move the lots in the catalog around into the selling order I really want.

    I do auctions twice a month but only a cataloged auction 2 or 3 times a year (because it IS a big pain in the neck). My biggest problem is I collect items for maybe two or three months for an important cataloged auction, but I only have a few days to set up the auction gallery and don’t really know the order of the sale until about 4 days before the auction. Being able to assign the order of the catalog after setting up the floor would be great.

  5. Brandon
    March 17th, 2011 at 09:55 | #5

    Yes, Auction Flex allows you to set a sale order that is different than the lot# order. Sale Order was added in Auction Flex version 7.00. To turn on sale order go to Miscellaneous->Maintain Settings & Options->Auction tab and check Use Sale Order.

  6. Brandon
    March 17th, 2011 at 09:58 | #6

    I disagree completely. The beauty in our cataloging by image process is efficiency and versatility. Taking lots of pictures with a tablet would be awkward. A digital camera is better suited to this task. Describing lots on an on-screen keyboard would be slow. A real physical keyboard is better suited to this task. And lastly, have you ever tried to use a computer/tablet outside in the sunlight? The screen is practically impossible to read.

  7. Dee
    January 23rd, 2012 at 19:47 | #7

    About time for a new blog post.

  8. Brandon
    January 24th, 2012 at 09:49 | #8

    @Dee I know, I know. I’ve been slacking!

  9. January 26th, 2012 at 12:22 | #9

    We do over 380 online auctions a year, and every single one of them we catalog for online only sale. Some of them (like this one: http://rasmus.com/auction_detail.php?id=174639) have over 1,000 lots. I think that the wireless image capture could be a very efficient addition to our process. I do not think that we could base the description off of the pictures though because our buyers often depend on the complete accuracy of the description since many do not preview the items at all. I think the best way to get the most accurate description is still to have a person actually looking at the item describe it.

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