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Auctions – Buying at Auction

I have always wanted to write a series of articles on the benefits and possible pitfalls of buying and selling at auction. Auctions can be an exciting learning experience whether you are an antique aficianado or just looking to furnish your home.

Let’s call this first installment “Buying at auction”. Here are a few pointers that may help:

  • Most auctions sell items “as is, where is”. Be sure to examine any item you are interested in BEFORE you buy. Once the hammer falls, it belongs to you. The only recourse you may have is if the item is grossly misrepresented. Don’t take that chance.
  • Auctioneers usually disclose at the start of the auction announcements concerning buyer’s premium, payment methods accepted, etc. These announcements override anything that my be in the printed information you have, so pay attention.
  • If you are considering a major purchase and do not feel qualified to authenticate the item, it would be advisable to hire an expert to check it out first.
  • If the item is going to need restoration and you are going to have to hire someone to do it, get an estimate from them first.
  • Set a limit on the amount you are willing to spend. It is too easy to get caught up in ‘auction fever’ and overpay. I see this at every auction I attend.
  • Attend a few auctions and just ‘watch’. You can learn more from observing the crowd than anyone can teach you. Watch and listen to old-timers, they have a better feel for what is going on at the particular auction you are attending.
  • And finally, most auction houses charge a buyers premium. This is a percent of the selling price added to the amount you won the item for. For example, if the auction house charges 10% buyers premium, and you winning bid was $100, your final cost would be $110 ($100 bid plus $10 buyer’s premium). Don’t forget that sales tax is usually added to this.

I am planning on adding a calendar to our website antiquesupply.com showing all local auctions. In the meantime, you can go to auctionzip.com , enter you ZIP and the distance you are willing to travel. You can see all the auctions in the area and they each have details, contact information and usually photos.

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One Comments to “Auctions – Buying at Auction”

  1. The article on ivories is quite good. As a G.G., I knew about the palm nut “ivory” but most of it seems to come from the Pacific Islands and vicinity. After 33 years, however, I’m still learning. Thanks for objectivity and a scientific approach.

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