A lot of people are fearful of buying at auction or unsure of how to go about it but is is not hard really and can be a lot of fun! There are a few simple things you need to know to get started and then you can buy with confidence.
There are two different types off auctions ‘specialist’ and general. Often the ones you see in films and shows where it is all very hushed and clean with matching seats in between things in cases are specialist high end auctions these can be for anything from fine art to toys and are the place to buy if you are a specialist dealer or collector and the place most likely to get the best price for a quality specialist items.
The other kind of auction is the general auction which in many ways are much more interesting. Here you will have a mixture of items put in by members of the public or dealers and can also include house clearance and bankrupt stock, These types of auctions can seem like organized chaos to the newly introduced, with things piled high from mobility scooters to antique oil paintings. Often crowded and dusty places but they are nearly always highly efficient and know exactly what they have. All items will be catalogued and have a lot number, many lots will have more than one item, all lots will have a lot number attached which will correspond to the number in the auction catalogue.
To begin buying at auction all you need to do is register, you would normally do this on the day of the auction and involves filling in a simple form with your details and handing it in at the desk. In exchange for your details you will receive a bidding card with a number on which you should hold up for the auctioneer to see when the hammer falls and you have had the successful final bid. At the end of the auction you take your bidding card to the desk and they will tally up what you have brought plus costs and give you an invoice which needs to be paid before you can remove any of your items, Most auction houses have a strict deadline or paying and removing purchases which can be anything from a few hours to a few days, do check what the policy of the auction house is and don’t just assume it will be the same as the previous one you went to. Now you have the basics here are my 5 top tips:
1.Buy a catalogue. You may want to save a pound or two by skimping on the catalogue but I can’t understate it’s usefulness (unless you are only interested in one or two items at most). It may give you additional information on condition, age or items included in the lot that are immediately apparent, however do not rely on this use it as a starting point but be your own judge, everything at auction is sold as seen and buyer beware.
2.Take time to view well. Most auction houses give you a day or two to view before hand, make sure you allow adequate time to do so and avoid buying on speck as it may lead to costly mistakes. Look closely at condition, check all the parts are there and that it is what it appears to be, fakes, restoration pieces and pieces that have been cobbled together out of two different pieces can all turn up at auction. Look for items signs of wear that denote age, pick it up and feel it if t seems to light too heavy, to warm or two cold something may be wrong with it, look at fixings are they the same age and condition as the piece?
3.Set a maximum price. It is easy to get carried away at auctions so while you are viewing jot down what you would like to pay in the catalogue next to the piece and stick to it. Whatever you do do not get into a bidding war, you will end up the loser even if you win when you realise you are out of pocket. I sometimes add a plus the amount if it is something I really like to tell myself it is ok to go a little over if just a little more might win it as it is worth it but generally I stick to what I have written down. Word of warning though if you have a bidder in competition next to you keep you maximums out of sight, they may not be above a sneaky peak! Also don’t forget to check and factor in the auctioneers commission and vat before you decide your maximum as that can soon add up, these amounts vary from auction to auction and should be displayed on the wall and in the catalog. Keep a rough running total of what you have spent all together so you don’t have the embarrassment of spending more than you have with you!
4.Make sure the auctioneer can see you. Choose you spot carefully and sit or stand where you can easily be seen when a lot comes up you are interested in. Make a clear signal to the auctioneer by raising you or card or nodding and make eye contact with him or her if possible. Contrary to popular belief you bid if far more likely to be missed than one taken in error by scratching your nose or similar!
5.Keep an eye on your buys and move them as quickly as you can. Once you have paid make sure you have all the lots written down you have won and none you did not buy and hand it to the porter (most auctions have one) who will bring it to you (although not to your car sadly!). Do check the items in the lot are all there, if all is not as it should be raise it with the porter in the first instance. Sadly although most auction goers are honest items are known to go missing, most auction have something in place to guard against stealing but it is still not unknown. One final thing although it has lead to very comical experiences for me in the past – do make sure you have sufficient space in your vehicle to fit it all in especially if you live a way away from the auction house being on the motor way with a stuff antelope tided to the roof may be neither advisable or legal! I hope I have inspired you to check out you local auction house but be warned they are addictive!