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Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Patrick Connolly

Going once... going twice... sold! A lesson in collector car auctioneering at Mecum Kissimmee

KISSIMMEE, Florida — Some people might be considered good at “fast talk,” the kind of coy influencing that it takes to strike a business deal or make a sale.

Auctioneers are trained in a more literal kind of fast talking with mouths and tongues moving more quickly than the average person’s, filling the air with what sounds like gibberish in between numbers representing bids.

At Mecum Kissimmee, the world’s largest collector car auction, lead auctioneer Jimmy Landis practices his art and keeps his mouth moving in the name of selling classic vehicles, of which there are 4,200 at this year’s event. At the same time, he’s entertaining the audience gathered in person at Osceola Heritage Park and those watching from afar on TV.

“No matter how large the room is, my goal is to communicate with each and every individual that’s there,” Landis said. “If I look out and there’s talking going on, that’s when I’ll stop and try to tell some kind of a joke or something to bring everybody back.”

Landis, who’s been working in the business since 1984, comes from a family of auctioneers; in fact, his father Omar held the first consignment collector car auction in 1969.

Jimmy’s daughter, Laura Landis, works at Mecum events as a bidder assistant, scanning the auction floor for raised hands and those who might be interested in buying whatever is on the block. She also works in Central Florida as an auctioneer and flies to Pennsylvania regularly to assist with the family business, Garden Spot Auto Auction.

“I think it takes persistence and moxie. You’re talking to a lot of people and you have to get them to feel comfortable enough to take home what they want,” she said. “In the arena, we’re the arm extension of the auctioneer. If you want to bid, we want to relay that in.”

While the Landises took a break from selling cars, they helped me learn the ways of the auctioneer. Jimmy recalled a sheet of tongue twisters he was handed early on in auctioneer school.

“Betty Botter bought some butter, but she said, ‘This butter’s bitter. If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter,’” he said, reciting the short story from memory. “So she bought a bit of better butter, put it in her bitter batter, made her bitter batter better. So it is better that Better Botter bought a bit of better butter.”

While that was easy enough to repeat back slowly, any speed made my tongue feel like it was tripping over itself.

In auction school, after tackling the tongue twisters and making the mouth move, the next step is to practice counting.

“It sounds so simple, but you have so much you’re thinking about that the numbers can’t be the thing that trips you up,” Jimmy said. “Then you start throwing in different increments — 10, 20, 30, 40 — then it’s 25, 50, 75, 100 and so on. That’s how you progress.”

Each auctioneer has their own way of filling the space in between numbers but Jimmy has a certain phrase he repeats back when calling out for the next high bid.

“Really, what I say, is ‘$300,000, do you want to give $350,000?’” he said. “‘Do you want to give $450?’ is what I say. There are a lot of auctioneers who do all kinds of other things in there, whatever helps them keep their rhythm.”

As with any auction, it’s important to make sure all the potential bidders have a chance to raise their hands. At the same time, there are more cars than ever that need to be sold at Mecum Kissimmee 2023 and time is of the essence when getting cars across the block.

“We try to average 40 cars an hour,” Jimmy said. “With each individual automobile, item of road art or whatever we’re selling, we throw it out there and our job is to get all of what you’re willing to pay. We want to make sure that you don’t leave here thinking, ‘Wow, I should have bid one more time.’”

During his 24th season with Mecum Auctions, Jimmy is reflecting on the relationships he’s built through this business and connecting with people over the shared passion of classic cars.

“I’ve done this since 1984 and I’ve gotten to meet people from around the country and around the world who come to our auctions,” Jimmy said. “I have lifelong friends that I’ve met at collector car auctions through this hobby and I love it.”

If you go

Mecum Kissimmee 2023 goes on through Jan. 15 at 1875 Silver Spur Lane in Kissimmee. Gates open daily at 8 a.m.; auctions start at 10 a.m. Jan. 4-11 and at 9 a.m. Jan. 12-15. Jan. 9 will feature road art and not vehicles up for auction. General admission tickets cost $30. Children ages 12 and younger enter for free. Registering to bid costs $200 for standard credentials or $500 for gold perks, including preferred seating, Gold Lounge access and a $200 food and beverage gift card. For more information, visit

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