Wednesday, April 29, 2009

2377 Auction Tutorial repeat

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The following is a post from about a year and a half ago that I liked, so I'm repeating it. With "the current economic climate" a lot of really nice stuff is turning up in auctions, and there are fewer people attending and buying. So if you need or want stuff, auctions can be a good place to find some great deals.


Repeat from Monday, August 20, 2007
1446 Auction Tutorial

I've learned a few things about live auctions.

Never, ever, bid on anything you have not actually held in your hands and examined. This is rule #1 and the most important. Auctions always have a preview. Go to it. If there's a preview a day or more before the auction, go early, and then do your research. Who is that artist? How much does that chair usually sell for? Then ALSO go late to the preview immediately before the auction and reexamine the things you plan to bid on. Between the first time you looked at that music box and the time it goes up for bid, many other people have touched it, and someone may have broken it. Parts may now be missing.

Once you have decided on your items, make a note of what you consider a reasonable price, and promise yourself you won't go more than one or two bid levels over that. I mark items with one, two, or three stars. One star = absolute limit. Two stars = I'll go over one or two bids. Three stars = I WANT IT AND I WILL HAVE IT AND NO ONE WILL STAND IN MY WAY, DAMMIT! (I'm allowed one of those every few years.)

During the actual auction, do not be temped to bid on something that seems wonderful, and the bids seem low, if it's not something you had already decided to bid on. Because you had not decided to bid on it before, you didn't examine it carefully, and the temptingly low bids are probably because of a major flaw.

Never jump at the auctioneer's first call. He'll ask first for, say, $100. This is an indication of what he considers an acceptable bid, but if there are no bidders, he'll drop. He'll ask for $85, then $70, and he'll keep dropping until someone bites. The lower you let him drop, the lower you might get it for. In most cases, once he has the first bite, it will rapidly go up to what he really wants, and in the process he discovers who in the audience are the interested parties. Which leads to the next pointer.

Once the bidding starts, don't wait to get in. The temptation is to wait until the bidding slows, the theory being that the fewer bidders, the less rise (which is not true, it won't go any higher than it would with or without you), and maybe you want to see how high it will go before you decide to get in. However, understand that the auctioneer is looking out over a large herd of people, and watching for sometimes subtle signs. During the first round or so he spots the interested bidders, and "works" them against each other. If it gets hot and heavy, and you decide to jump in late, you can stand on your chair and wave a red flag, and he might not see you. He might call it sold before he glances to the left and sees you. Display your interest early, and understand that once you shake your head no when he looks at you for the next rise, you are out of it and probably won't be able to get back in.

During bidding, maintain eye contact with the auctioneer. He will indicate when he expects to hear from you with eye contact. If he glances your way and you're looking down or away, he will interpret that as "No", and you may find yourself out of the bidding.

Be very careful of multiple identical item lots. Know exactly what your bid means. The catalog might show and state "a pair of garden stools", and the helpers bring out a matched pair. Don't assume your bid will be for the pair. Listen carefully for the words "times the money" or "per item", or the like. It may be said only once, and if said, it means that your bid will be multiplied by the number of items. So if you win the bid at $50, you must pay $100, and you must buy both stools. Claiming that you didn't understand that your bid was going to be doubled, that you thought you were bidding $50 for the pair, will get you nowhere.

You can make some types of side deals with other bidders. I'm not talking about collusion to keep the bids low. That will get you thrown out and barred forever, if not sued. However, if you bid on and win two garden stools for $50 times 2 in fair bidding, and you really want only one, if you happened to notice who it was who made the next-to-last bid at $45, it's acceptable to offer them the other stool for that lower bid, $45 or lower. (If you want to make a profit, do it off the auction hall property.)

Don't jump too soon on bidder's choice items. Sometimes there will be a tray of items, like, say, a tray of 20 similar silver candlesticks. The winner of the first round of bidding gets one or more of his choice at that price each, let's say $50 each. If there are still items on the tray, they will be offered to anyone else who wants choice for the same $50 price.

Now, this is my opinion, and it comes from a LOT of experience. If there was one particular candlestick you want, and you're willing to pay $50 for it, then win that first bid, or take the first offer. Otherwise, don't move too fast, because now the remaining candlesticks will be reauctioned! And the second round is unlikely to go to $50. It might go to $40. The third round will be even lower. The last five candlesticks might go for $5. The only danger here is that if you hold out too long, on the second or third round the winner might elect to take them all.

A live auction is "as is" and "buyer beware". It's not like eBay, where if the seller's description leaves out something important, like "Hey, man, it doesn't work!", you can get your money back. The live auction house makes no representations and gives no guarantees, and descriptions in the catalogs are assumed to be puffery. So if you bid on and win that "brand new in the box" weed whacker, and when you get it home it isn't new and it doesn't work, well, tough. You have no recourse (especially if you had the opportunity to examine it). All you have a right to expect is "something" in the box. You must understand the implications of "as is" when you decide how high you're willing to bid.

Remember that the auctioneer is faster than you are. Be careful of that first very low bid for junk. They bring out a sad little something, maybe an ugly afghan. The auctioneer drops his asking bid way down. $5. Nobody wants it. He begs. He says, hey, for $5 you could put it in the doghouse - and six hands shoot up. Bam! You've been suckered! Auctioneers are quick. Bam bam bam his hand shoots around the room as he says "$5 $10 $15 $20 $25" and as he's pointing at you, "$30", and surprise, you just bought an ugly afghan you don't want for $30! The auctioneer can nail you faster than you can react to get your hand down.

Hint - if you have a right-handed auctioneer, the front on his left is a bad place to sit if you're susceptible to begging. He'll usually start from his "prime" side and swing around, making left front the last and highest "pity" bid. Guess where I always sit....

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