You’ve seen it before, the character in the movie is waving to a friend, then swatting a fly away, and then scratching his nose, only to find that he has been bidding on a $10,000 painting at an auction. Although I have witnessed people inadvertently bidding at auctions, it rarely occurs and when it does, the auctioner has graciously started over, not taking the unintentional bidder to task.
I think scenes like this intimidate a lot of people, and make them think twice about attending and bidding at an auction. I love going to auctions and find it to be lots of fun, even when I don’t bring anything home. And to encourage those of you who haven’t tried it, here are my 10 tips for Auction Newbies.
|Basket and feedsacks at auction|
1. Find an Auction House.
They are not always easy to find, but you can try Auctionzip.com, or just try googling for acutions in your area. I tried my zip code and found several nearby. Don’t bother asking someone who sells antiques, since they usually guard their sources closely. We used to purchase antiques from a nearby antique store that carried beautiful antiques. (This store is no long is business, so I am sure she won’t mind my sharing her secret.) We asked her where she got her antiques and she looked into the distance, with a wistful look on her face and described fanciful, romantic trips to France to select and purchase her furniture. Then a few years later, a neighbor suggested I attend a local auction with her. Well guess who I saw there? That’s right, the antique store owner. I have been buying at auctions for about 10 years now, and have found some of my very best deals there.
|Basket full of burlap coffee bags|
2. Preview online.
Most auction houses show pictures of the items online and typically you can also preveiw in person. It is such a hassle to go preview in person, that I usually do the online preview. If I don’t see anything that appeals, I skip that auction. But when I see something wonderful coming up, I make a note on my calender with an email and text message reminder, so I don’t miss it.
|wire and wicker baskets|
3. Know the going price.
Bidding is fun, and it is easy to get caught up in the thrill of the moment. It is also easy to pay too much. If you are at an acution, then typically you are paying a wholesale price, but not always. Some items are so hot or in such demand that the price can be unusually inflated. Know what you can buy the item for in a store. If the bids go above that, stop bidding, unless price is no object to you (Caroline!)
|Medicinal bottles like the ones I used for vases here|
4. Know the buyers’ premium.
Most auction houses have a buyers’ premium. This is a commission, for lack of a better word, that you pay the auction house on top of the bid amount. The auction that I attend most has a buyer’s premium of 15%. So when bidding, if you are on a strict budget, be sure to mentally add that premium to your bid amount so that you will not be shocked when you go to pay.
5. Look over the item closely before bidding.
Since I preview online, when I arrive at the auction house, the first thing I do is to check the item over thoroughly before bidding. (Okay I don’t always do a great job of checking the items, but make sure there isn’t a major flaw before bidding.) Don’t be afraid to walk around the room during the auction. Better safe than sorry, since once you win the bid, it’s yours with no returns. If there is an obvious problem with the piece the auctioneer may point it out, but subtle problems are not often mentioned, since it is your responsiblity to check the item over carefully.
6. Don’t wave at your friend during the auction.
Yes this could be interpreted as a bid, although if you are not making eye contact with the auctioneer, she/he usually knows that you are not bidding. I was sitting with a person recently (who has asked not to be mentioned by name) who was rasing her arm to describe something, and may bid accidentally. I reminded her to keep her arms down, and happily the bidding continued without her. I do try not to wave at friends or use my hands to talk during an auction. The reason is obviously I don’t want to accidentally bid, but secondly I want to be courteous to the auctioneer. He/she is scanning the crowd for movement that would indicate a bid, and I don’t want to make him/her spend time trying to determine if I am bidding or scratching. Also, if I am doing lots of waving to friends, then she will begin to ignore me, and not notice when I actually want to bid (like the boy who cried wolf.) ‘Nuff said.
|Pine chest and antique silver domes|
7. Set a maxium bid.
Before I start bidding, I have a figure in my mind of what I think the item should go for and what I am willing to pay. If it goes beyond what I am willing to pay, I stop bidding. Now having said that, I err on the cautious side, and many an auction, I have wished I had bid just a little more to get the item. So, if it is just a very fabulous piece that you just MUST, MUST have, then maybe you might want to throw this rule out. I’m just sayin…
8. Know what will fit in your vehicle.
This is critical to know, because if the item you buy won’t fit, you will need to pay for delivery. Most auction houses do not deliver but they can usually reccomend a good delivery service. And if you have the item delivered, you will need to include the delivery fee in your budget.
|Lovejoy, Photo: IMDB|
9, Don’t be intimidated. You don’t have to be Lovejoy to get a good deal. Lovejoy was a television series about a divey (a person who instinctively can spot a valuable antique.) Most of the people attending the auctions are not experts. Many of them know about as much as you do, but I would say only a handfull are experts. They are buying what appeals to them or what they think they can sell in their shop. If there were something at the auction house worth millons, believe me, the auctioneer would have spied it and sent it to Christies well before the auction began. So you are probably not going to unearth a Picasso. And by the same token, you may find something that you think is an antique that is brand new, but distressed to look old. If you are unsure and want to know, ask someone who works at the auction house. They will usually be happy to give you their opinion. And if you want to know if it is really is old, one of the best places to look is inside drawers and on the back. If it looks pristineand uniform, it is NOT an antique.
10. Have fun.
I enjoy going to auctions and bringing a friend makes it even more fun. I know I will probably see some unique items, enjoy some intriguing people-watching, laugh with my friend, and maybe even come home with something wonderful at a great price. During the last auction I attended, there was a kerfuffle between two people in front of me arguing over who had ownership of a chair. And there is usually at least one dog wearing some odd clothing at the auction I attend. In the owner’s defense, it was the dog’s birthday. See why I like to go? That’s a whole blog post there. I love the thrill of the hunt and the excitement of bidding. If you are still stressed about the process then just go to observe and don’t bid. If you had fun, then next time, try bidding on something. What are your auction tips?
This was a great auction, and I will show you what I got in an upcoming post!!