Toronto - For antique and vintage dealers, auction sales can be a great way to build up stock. Whether you prefer the rush of the traditional live auction or buying online from home, there’s a sale to suit everyone.
Whatever the environment, auctions are exciting and fast moving, while for some, the idea of bidding at auctions can even be a tad intimidating. But the method, whether live or online, follows the same general principles, and once you get to know the basics, you’ll realize that it’s a straightforward and profitable way of buying and selling goods.
For those looking to get into the world of auction buying, here are some tips to make the auction experience a rewarding one.
Get to Know the Auctioneers
To start, get to know auctioneers in your area. Attend a few in person or log on during an online auction to see how things are done. Buying and selling processes can vary across auction houses, so it’s important to get to know how different companies work.
Know What You’re Buying
Once you’ve sourced a good auction and registered to bid, it’s a good idea to attend the preview or examine the online catalogue ahead of time. This will give you an opportunity to do a bit of research and assess the value of the items before bidding starts.
If you’re unable to attend a live auction, there may be an opportunity to leave an absentee bid. Online auctions offer an opportunity to place max bids ahead of time as well.
Set Your Limits
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the auction process. Setting a limit ahead of time, and sticking to it will guarantee you don’t spend more than you can afford.
Once the live bidding starts, things move quickly, so it’s important to follow along and listen carefully. The traditional process is for the auctioneer to call out the lot number and a brief description of the item and the opening bid amount. Once that amount is met, the price increments move up until the bidding stops and the item is sold to the highest bidder.
In online auctions, however, there is often a ‘soft close’ on lots. As an item is coming to a close and there is a last minute bid, a few more minutes will be added to the clock to allow for more bids.
Watch For Other Dealers
Research is great, but sometimes you might not be able to find the answer you're looking for even online. However, if you think you've found something of value, but are unsure as to what to bid, look around for other individuals who appear to be interested in similar items as yourself. If it's the same small group popping up their auction paddles whenever you do, chances are you've found the dealers. Contrary to popular belief, most antique dealers welcome interaction with other dealers, and will often work with them to help identify items and share knowledge. While encouraging other dealers to refrain from bidding on an item is not allowed, and may be seen as collusion, expressing your particular interest in an item is not.
Research Payment Terms
Get to know the payment terms. Is there a buyer’s premium (auction house’s fee)? Are there reserve prices placed on items (the minimum price the seller is willing to accept)? It’s important to factor in all of these costs including any additional costs for repairs, transportation, and even your time.
Pick-Up & Delivery
Make sure to check pick-up details for online auctions. Often items need to be picked up during a short window of time on a particular day. Some places may ship items, but this would be another cost to be factored into your overall budget. If you're planning on buying larger items, make sure they can fit into your vehicle. If not, consider renting a small trailer (if you have a hitch), or a moving van. But remember, you'll need to factor in these costs as a portion of your overall auction spend.
By simply adding these few simple tips to your outing, it's likely you'll have a more positive and profitable auction experience.
Martha Norton, AIA, PACC, is an honors Asheford graduate, decorative arts freelance writer, and a curator/dealer of fine antique and vintage pieces in Waterloo, Ontario, who can be found tending to her space at Mercury Antique and Vintage most days
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