Auction Bidding: A How-To

Guide to auction bidding, whether it is online or Sotheby's, requires thought and a degree of self-control. Learn how to bid without paying more than your expected or can afford.

An auction is a sale of items to the highest bidder. This is the case whether the auction takes place in an auction house or via the internet. Here are a few pointers to help you through the auction process.

1. Register. At any auction, in order to participate in the bidding, you must be registered.

2. Review---check the items for sale. Auction houses usually preview items for sale a day in advance to allow prospective bidders to examine sale items before bidding. Internet auctions offer this "preview" by providing photograph(s) of the item for sale.



3. Caveat Emptor---LET THE BUYER BEWARE! Before you bid on an item, make sure it is something you want to own. Check it for condition---look at it carefully.

4. Set a budget for yourself! Know what you can afford to bid and stick to that amount. Auctions can get very exciting and it is very easy to get caught up in the moment.

5. Remember additional fees are involved in the sale. If you are bidding at an internet auction site, don't forget that the expected practice is that the buyer pays for postage and shipping of the item. When you consider how much you can spend on an item, don't forget this cost. At an auction house, there is usually an additional cost called a buyer's premium added to the price. Also, unlike most internet auctions, local takes may apply to the sale price of an item purchased at an auction house.

6. Before you bid on an item via the internet, check the auction site to see if there are comments available from people who have done business with that seller before. Nobody wants to deal with the disappointment of paying for an item and never getting it in the mail. Your recourse in cases like this is limited and auction sites offer limited assistance.

7. Remember not the believe the "hype" that a seller provides about an item. Just because it says it is an 18th century farmer's table doesn't mean it really is. Do your homework--be certain about the item you are bidding on.

8. Auctions can be great fun and it is not unusual to get a great deal on something you want at a price below what you would have paid at retail. The sale price at an auction is determined by what buyers are willing to pay. Every auction is different---every item up for sale has different activity. The price paid depends upon who is bidding on an item and how badly they want to own it. Some auctions will allow the seller to set a minimum price on an item so that on bids under that minimum amount the seller is not obligated to sell. If you can't make it to an auction, ask about leaving an absentee bid. Auction houses usually offer this service which allows a buyer to leave a bid----the highest amount you are willing to bid for an item. The auctioneer will bid on your behalf up to your maximum.

9. Auctions are usually advertised. Check your local papers for listings but remember that the ads will usually provide a very general list of what is up for sale. The only way to know what is there for sure is to visit. You can also get information about local auctions in specialty publications which are usually available at antique auctions or in antique stores.

Have fun--but remember to stick to your budget!

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