Tips For Buying At Live Auctions

Live Auctions are a good place to find merchandise to sell on eBay, especially the smaller town auctions where items don’t go for high prices like they do in the city. When I ran an antiques store in upstate New York, I frequently saw the big time NYC dealers at the small auctions looking for bargains to mark up in their stores in the city.

But, an inexperienced buyer can be spotted a mile away at these events. Here are some tips for successful buying at live auctions:

  1. Arrive early and carefully examine anything you plan to bid on – auction sales are final. Wear old clothes and dress warm in the winter as many auction houses are cold and drafty. Some are even outside in tents.
  2. Carry a flashlight, a magnet (for checking brass), a small battery operated black light (for spotting cracks and repairs), and a notebook. Also bring your sales tax number, and plenty of business cards.
  3. If an auction is scheduled and the weather is really bad – always go! Bad weather can keep up to 50% of prospective bidders away from an auction. Less competition means lower prices.
  4. Carry Cash! Some auction houses don’t even accept traveler’s checks. (I carry large amounts of cash in one of those passport wallets that you wear under your clothing).
  5. Be prepared to haul your goods away on the spot. Many auctions won’t store goods until you return or they will charge you storage.
  6. Sit towards the back of the room. You can see all the bidders without turning around. I like to know who is bidding against me.
  7. Never make the first bid, unless no one is bidding and the auctioneer cuts the opening bid down to a ridiculous price. I like to enter the bidding about half way through.
  8. Make your first bid by raising your hand. Make subsequent bids by looking at the auctioneer and nodding your head. If an item goes past your bid limit make the “cutting throat” sign with your hand. This tells him you are finished bidding.
  9. If the item is being bid in large units such as $20 per bid and is close to reaching it maximum, make the “half-bid” sign (a chopping motion with your hand to your arm), this will add $10 to your bid instead of the $20 the auctioneer was asking for. The bids now move in $10 increments.
  10. Never bid when more than three or four people are bidding at the same time. Adding to the bidding can start a frenzy that drives the price up. Wait until the action slows down.
  11. Whenever an item sells for a really high price, the very next item usually goes very cheap. I don’t know the psychology of this but I have personally witnessed it many times.
  12. These auctions can move incredibly fast. Pay attention and remember what your bid was. If the people sitting around you are chatting and noisy, get up and move. It is important to hear and to concentrate when you are bidding.
  13. Most of all don’t let your ego or your pride drive your bidding. Remember your pre-set limit.

See Also

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