I’ve heard people say they wouldn’t want to go to an auction because if they coughed or stretched or scratched their cheek, they would accidentally bid on something. Some gestures can get the attention of the workers on the floor looking for bidders, but they generally know when someone is truly bidding. Everyone has different ways of bidding. Some hold their auction card high in the sky for all to see. Others will call out. I tend to raise my hand just enough to be seen so as not to draw too much attention. If I’m not seen, I have been known to wave my hand a bit. I also have yelled out just prior to the “Sold!” declaration to make sure I got in on the action. The important thing to remember is that bidding is a definitive act and not generally a mistaken gesture.
When I go to an auction, I will try to get there a good hour before the auction starts. I will already have done much of my research using Auctionzip.com and using some of the resources mentioned in the blog “Knowledge is Power.” Many auction houses will take pictures of some of the items they plan to sell and show them on their Auctionzip page. So I will take my list of items with the price I am willing to pay and compare it to the actual items on site. I will be looking at three things: condition, condition and condition. I would say 99% of the time condition is a huge factor in the value of an item. Except for that extremely rare piece, condition rules. As I look for the items on my list, I always find items that were not listed on the auctionzip website. I will make notes on my paper about the items so I can research these when I take a seat. I also will look through box lots. These are always fun and can truly hold valuable items. It is a good idea to have a flashlight when looking through boxes, especially in darker auction houses. On a side note, I think some auction houses purposely make the rooms a bit dim just so you don’t see small flaws. A flashlight can really be an asset to help look items over for condition issues. Anyway, after I have looked the room over, I take my seat. I prefer sitting on the outside chair of the row of seats. This gives me the opportunity to easily get up during the auction to look at anything else that may catch my eye. At one of the main auction houses I attend, they place items around the sides of the room as well as the front. So sitting on the side lets me easily glance over at the tables along the wall and box lots under the table. I will always try to carry something with me, whether a bottle of water or a jacket, to place on my seat as soon as I enter the auction house. That way, I can be sure to sit on the outside of the row. I try to take my seat about 15 minutes before the auction starts so I can use my phone to research items I may have found.
Once the auction starts, it is “game on.” Sort of. I say that because there is a lot of waiting at an auction. I am not going to be bidding on everything that comes down the line. However, I still use this time wisely to take note of the prices items are selling for. There are a few strategies that I use when it actually comes time to bid. Let’s say an item comes up and I am willing to go as high as $100. The auctioneer will start bidding at say $200, then $100, then drops it to $20. People start bidding. I will generally bide my time to see how far people take it. If the bidding starts to slow down and it is still under my high limit, I will start bidding. I have to be careful though because the auctioneer has been looking at other bidders, so I want to make sure they see my bid. Once I am in the game, I will bid without looking too eager. If the item gets to, say, $80, I will stall for a while. This may give the other bidder a second to possibly question whether the item is worth more since I am not showing as much interest. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. If the bidding gets to $100, I am not necessarily out of the game. Many times, my limit is reached with one other person being the high bidder. However, nice round numbers like $100 are good limits for most people. I am not like most people. If I am willing to go an extra $10, the item may very well be mine. I started this example saying my high limit was $100 but I generally never set my limit on a nice big round number. If my limit is $100, and I have determined through my research that I can probably sell the item for $200, I’m not going to let $10 come in the way of a $90 profit.
Another trick of my trade is to jump the bid. Let’s use that same $100 item. Bidding starts at $20 and there is one other person bidding against me. So it goes back and forth at $20, then $25, $30, $35, $40. I may jump the bid to $60. That puts the other bidder off rhythm and may stop them in their tracks. To jump the bid, you have to call it out so the auctioneer can hear it. He is expecting the next increment as well. Again, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Finally, the best advice I can give is to stay to the end. You may be ready to pull your hair out by then, which is probably why I am nearly bald. But some amazing deals can be had at the end. Don’t be tempted to want to leave with a key item yet to be auctioned. I see many people ask for a particular item to be taken to the front to be auctioned because that person wants to leave. I understand the rationale behind that. However, the longer an auction goes, the more people will be leaving. That means less competition. Also, it is amazing how many times I have found an item worth a hundred dollars or more at the very end of an auction. The auction house generally knows the value of items, but sometimes you can find a piece that is passed off as basically worthless. I’ve bought my most profitable items at the end of the auction. The audio cable in the picture above was in a box lot with 9 other similar new cables. I bought the whole box lot for $14 and sold them separately for around $45 each. I just happened to be the only one at the auction to know the value of the cables.
So do some research, grab a flashlight, get your bidder number and head to an auction. They can be fun and even entertaining. Oh, and don’t be afraid to sneeze.