Surviving Auctions

Auctions.  You've heard you can score good deals at them, but have never had the gumption to attend.  They can be intimidating - there's a lot of people, the bidding goes up really fast, and there's a loud auctioneer pointing at you, stammering out words you can hardly understand.

I do a lot of my buying at auctions.  The first auction I ever attended was a colossal disaster.  I had no idea what price point I was at, if I was the last bidder, and what exactly I was bidding on.  Looking back, it was a terrible first experience.  When I went to pay for my items, I had no idea what I had actually bought. 
My latest auction find - a $300 antique armoire.

If you're ever in such a situation, walk away.  Auctions don't have to be like that!  Here are some tips I've gathered from attending a few auctions in the past couple months.

1.  Preview the auction online.  Google words such as "Ontario Auctions" to find local auctions.  Most sites include photos of some of the items to be auctioned off.  This helps you prepare for price-points before you're even there.

2.  Bring your drivers' license and cash.  You'll need photo ID to register, and some auction houses forgo the 10% buyers premium if you pay out in cash.  Keep in mind that you'll also need to pay the 13% HST on top of your highest bid.

3.  Bring snacks and a friend.  Auctions can be incredibly boring and long.  There are usually snacks for sale, but save some money and bring your own.  You can sit at an auction for 5 hours.  A friend helps keeps things interesting, and also can act as a voice of reason.  "No Jen, you really don't need those over-sized carolers for your Christmas display..."

4.  Buy what you came for, and nothing else.  You can go home with a lot of junk you don't need if you're not careful!  Stick to the items you want, and spend your money on those.

This entire set - in immaculate condition -
sold for less that $300.
5.  Bring your iphone.  If there's something at the auction you think a friend may want, you can take a picture and text it to them.  Also, if there's an antique you're wondering about the value, you can look it up right there.

6.  Understand auction etiquette.  For your first bid, wave your number high and clear.  Subsequent bids can be done with a nod or a raise of a finger.  The auctioneer will come back to you.  Smile.  Chum around with the people there - make it fun for yourself and for others.  Pay attention. 

6.  Early in the auction, select a piece you want, and bid it to the end.  Even if you over pay for an item, it means you mean business, and may intimidate other buyers.  When I go to auctions, people are beginning to recognize me.  I won't bid on the small tables, chairs, jewelry, junk, etc.  They can have that.  But when it comes to hutches and dressers, I stand up, stare down whoever is bidding me up, and bid hard.  Hey, it works!

This set was auctioned off by individual
piece.  The bidding went up to $250 - and
I thought I had lost out - until the buyer
chose the bed and nothing else.  The bidding
started over, and I got the tallboy for $140.
7.  Select your price point before you start.  There's that gorgeous buffet.  I know I can sell it for $600.  After all my costs... the most I can spend on it is $250.  While the person I'm bidding against is squirming in his seat, questioning his judgement, hesitating, taking FOREVER!  the auctioneer points I me, and I promptly nod or shake my head.  No monkey business here.

8.  The best deals are done at the end.  The auctions usually start off with all the junk.  Come an hour late.  Stay until the end.  

9.  Get to know the auctioneers.  After an auction, load up your purchases, and chat with the auctioneers.  They want to get to know you - they want people like you to come to your auction to drive the bidding up.

It can get pretty stinky at auctions -
especially farm auctions.  Yikes!
10.  Don't be intimidated.  Auction houses are usually packed full of people.  But usually they are middle-aged to older, and they aren't there for furniture.  They're there because they have nothing else to do on a Monday night, or because they want that WWII helmet for their collection.  If you're not sure if the pair of coffee tables is being auctioned as a set or individually, when it comes to your bid, ask!  The auctioneer will stop and clarify for you.

Inspect pieces carefully - this
cute buffet looked in good
condition, but the top came
right off and was all rotted
underneath.  I don't think the
people realized that - it sold
for over $300.
You can get some good deals at auctions.  There was one time I got an entire 9 piece antique dinning set for $100.  Nobody bid against me.  I was shaking, I was so excited.  When the auctioneer said, "Sold!  What a steal!"  I stood up and exclaimed, "Oh my gosh!  Thank you for not bidding against me!"  and everyone applauded.  On the other hand, there have been auctions I have come to with van and trailer, and headed home with nothing.  There were simply too many antique dealers present, and it wasn't worth it for me.  

So whether you are shopping for furnishings for your first house, looking for collectables to sell on ebay, or want some good quality antiques for a good price (like me), auctions can definitely be the way to go.  There's always a good time to be had for all ages.  And hey!  use what leverage you can.  When Mark and I come with babies in bumbo's, people are like, "Aw, a young couple, starting out with cute babies.  Let them have it."  Half way through the auction I start getting comments like "You must have a really big house!"  They don't need to know.  Use whatever resources you have! 

Happy Auctioning! 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great advice!! I can't wait to try one out!!