Step 1: Get familiar with auction lingo.
Auction Lingo - Types of Auctions
- Estate auctions are where everything someone owned is auctioned off. Sometimes the heirs take stuff they want first and there isn't much left. Sometimes though the original owner collected glass and may have quite a bit. I found estate auctions have real surprises.
- A living estate auction is about the same except the person likely moved to a nursing home. A moving auction is what it sounds like.
- An antique auction normally includes consigned items, usually a high percentage will be from 1900 to 1980.
- Online. Think eBay.
Auction the Fine Print
- A bidder's premium is a percentage tacked onto the final price. Factor this into your bids. It can be as much as 20%.
- Bidder number. You get a card or paddle with a number when you register before bidding. Do not lose this! You use the number to place your bids and the auctioneer's clerk will record your number on his worksheets.
- As-Is. Just what it sounds like. Buyer beware, no returns, no refunds.
- Where-Is. You get the pleasure of packing and transporting your winnings.
- Consignor. The person who owned the items being auctioned. They are prohibited from bidding on their own items.
- Payment terms. Most auction houses take checks and cash, some take credit cards. Read the fine print to learn whether they will charge sales tax.
Types of Bids
- Absentee bids. Large auctions or more sophisticated auction houses have methods for people to bid in absentia, whether by proxy or a top amount communicated ahead.
- Reserve bid. This rarely happens with estate sales, more common with consignments or antiques. The consignor has a minimum and will not sell below that amount.
- Phantom bids. Sometimes the auctioneer will pluck a bid out of thin air. This is hard to spot in a crowd where people may use gestures instead of speaking.
- Bid increments. No one wants to go up by a penny or two. Usually the increment is related to the expected final price, so a $1000 item may have increments in the $25-50 range and a $50 item may go up by $5-10.
- Starting bid. The auctioneer will throw a number out, say $50, when that gets no interest (and it usually does not) then he'll drop his number until someone agrees.
Winners and Wannabes
- Winner is the person who bid the last amount. Sometimes several people are willing to pay the final amount, and the auctioneer will recognize one of them as the person who owns that bid amount.
- Back up bidder is the person who bid next to last. If there are multiples of the item, often the auctioneer will offer the back up bidder a chance to get an item for the same final bid price, but only after the winner.
Offering MethodsYou get to the auction and see rows and rows of tables full of stuff, tiny cordials all the way to big dresser sets! How will the auctioneer get through all that stuff in 6 hours?
- Choice Out. Let's say there is a table full of Pyrex kitchen ware. The auctioneer may say "choice out" and indicate which items on the table are in the "choice". Now the bidding is for ONE item in the group. The winner can buy as many as they want, but at the winning bid each. You need to be careful with this. If the auction is large and you are far back, it can be very difficult to know whether you are bidding on a choice out or a lot. Ask, don't guess. One time I paid $22 for a saucer because I thought it was a big group. Oops.
- Lot. Take that same table of Pyrex. The auctioneer may say that you are bidding on the entire table, the full lot. That happened with the Royal Lace auction. Auctioneers don't like to do this on big lots of valuable stuff because more people can bid on smaller groups and likely the grand total would be more.
- Combination. Auctioneer may pick out one or two items and offer them separately, then do a choice out, then offer whatever is left in a group as a lot. You'll see this with glass or china. They may offer the serving pieces separately, then do a choice out of the ones no one took, then offer the rest as a lot.
- One item. Auctioneer will offer big items or valuable ones separately.
- Box lot. These are fun! You are bidding on whatever is in a box. Obviously the stuff here is usually a mix of junk with some goodies. (Think about stuff in your cupboards. Some of it you'd stuff in a box and winner takes it all!) I have gotten some extraordinary glass in box lots. I have also gotten a lot of junk and have taken quite a bit to the local charity shop!