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Auctions 101

We grew up around auctions, flea markets, antique stores and garage/yard sales. I’ve learned from some of the best. They can also be a great place to get vintage and antique items. However, they can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never been to one before. So for all you that are wanting to try something new, I thought it would be helpful to give you an insider's look at Auction's that will help you get the items you want for the best price.

First Things First

There are two main types of auctions: an Auction House and an On-site Auction.

At an Auction House, people bring their items in to be sold. It’s a business that might have regular auctions on a set night of the week or maybe only once a month.

At an On-site Auction, you are usually going to a home, farm or business that is liquidating their entire contents. Typically, these type of Auctions are outdoors.

Auction Dictionary

To give you the best view of an Auction, let's go over some basic Auction Terminology.

Auctioneer - This is the person is who is starting the bidding process, identifies the item(s) being sold and announces the winning bid.

Auction Bidding Number - When you arrive at an Auction, you will be required to have an Auction Bidding Number. At the “office” or “cashier” you will give them your name and typically your Driver’s License information. They will give you a Number. This is how you will Bid.

Premiums - When you get your Bidding Number, make sure to ask if there are any Premiums. That means, once a Bid Price has been accepted for an item, you will pay that amount plus Sales Tax plus a % Premium. This is sometimes how an Auctioneer makes their money. I was recently at an Auction House that had a Premium of 5% . The Premium could be higher or lower, depending on the Auction.

Bidding - Bidding begins after the items for sale have been described by the Auctioneer or his team. The Auctioneer will usually start with a high number to see if anyone will take a Bid. If no one Bids right away, he might drop the Bid Price in half. If there are still no takers, he will go lower, again. His job is to get the most money per item. You can Bid by raising your number or your hand. It goes quickly so pay attention. Once the Auctioneer acknowledges your bid, someone else might bid more. It then can become a Tennis Match back and forth. Some people might joke that you should never nod your head or talk with your hands at an Auction or you just might buy something. Believe it or not, that’s true. I’ve seen it happen many times. Pay attention to what you’re doing or it could cost you!

“X” Times the Money - If there are multiples of one type of item and the Auctioneer may not want to start the Bidding process on each item, he might say “X” Times the Money. That means you are actually only bidding on one item. Let me give you an example. Let’s say there is a big lot of Glass Pitchers. The Auctioneer says “X” Times the Money. When the Bidding starts, you are only Bidding on one Pitcher. When he stops and a price has been determined, the winning Bidder can take just one of the Pitchers of their choosing or they could take more Pitchers. If they take more than one, they are paying for X times the Bid. So if the winning Bid is $10 for a Pitcher and they take 3 Pitchers, they’ll pay $30. Once the winning Bidder has indicated their plans, the Auctioneer might ask if anyone else wants the items at the set Bid price. If not, they’ll start over because someone is hoping to pay less than $10 per Pitcher.

Lot or One Money - The Auctioneer might call out "Lot" or "One Money" for a box full of items or a group of items. That means things are grouped together and you are paying one price for the entire Lot.

Checking Out - When you get a winning Bid, the Auctioneers team might bring you the item or if it’s big, they might set it off to the side. You must take your purchases the same day as the Auction. There is usually somewhere on your Bid Number where you can write out your purchased items to keep track of them. When you’re ready to Check Out, go to the Office or Cashier. They will have your purchases by your Bid Number. If something is missed and you didn’t end of paying for an item, they have your information and will contact you. You can typically pay with Cash or Credit Card.

Rings - If it’s a large Auction, they might have 2 or more Auctioneers going at the same time in separate locations within the Auction. These are called Rings. You’ll need to know ahead of time where the items are that you are wanting to bid on. If they are in separate Rings, you might need to take a friend and divide and conquer.

How to Get Started?

Auctions can be a lot of fun, but you also need to know some tips that the locals won’t tell you.

#1 - Know what you’re bidding on

Get to the Auction earlier. Read all the Auction fliers. Know what items you are interested in Bidding on. If it’s furniture, make sure you inspect it so you know the condition ahead of time. There are no “do overs” or “returns” at an Auction. If you get the winning Bid, it’s yours and you need to follow through with the purchase. If not, the Office has your contact information. They’ll reach out to you for payment. Worse case scenario, they won’t let you participate in their Auctions again.

Also be knowledgeable about your genre of items you’re bidding on. The Auctioneer sees a lot of items and knows quite a bit, but they can miss things. They might say something is an authentic antique, but if you know your stuff, you’ll be able to avoid a costly mistake. The responsibility is always on the Buyer.

#2 - Keep control of your emotions

Auctions are kind of like Poker. You don’t want to show your hand. Don’t let people know you’re too interested in something. For some people it’s a rush and a game. Auctions move fast, so you’ll need to keep your cool. I recently had a man stand directly behind me to bid on the same item. If I wasn’t paying attention, I could have thought it was just my bid. This man was using strategy so he could win the bid.

#3 - Some people will run up your Bid

I know. It doesn’t sound nice does it? But it’s the truth. Some people will purposely run up your Bid to make you overspend. Some people come with a strategy to make you spend all your money so you will be less likely to bid on the item they want. Which leads me to my next tip.

#4 - Set your price

Before you even start Bidding on an item, make a mental note of how high you’re willing to go and then Stick With It! Emotions run high at Auctions, especially when things are going so fast. If you will be diligent in sticking with your bottom dollar, you won’t overspend. If you don’t get the winning Bid, then it wasn’t meant to be. Trust me, you’ll regret not sticking with a set buying price. Tip: You could also bring a friend that could keep you accountable to your budget.

#5 - Auction Etiquette

There’s something to be said about Auction Etiquette. There are definitely some unwritten guidelines you’ll want to follow.

•Don’t talk loudly. It’s for your benefit and for everyone else. The Auctioneer goes fast so you don’t need the distraction of a loud conversation. This also goes for Phones. Excuse your self to the back of the room or outside the Ring to use your phone.

•Pay attention to the Bidding process. If you make a mistake and accidentally bid, it can slow down the whole process. It’s aggravating to the Auctioneer. Believe me, you want him/her to be on your side. You also don’t want to inconvenience other Buyers.

•Watch your hand movements. I’ve seen many people bid on things they had no intention of buying because they waved their hand or were talking with their hands to their neighbor.

•Keep your area tidy. If you’re buying a lot of things, pick them up or store them to the side. Many times at an Auction, people are standing very close together. Out of courtesy, you’ll want to make room for others.

•Know all the rules and expectations before the Auction starts. Ask about Premiums, forms of Payment, etc…

•Add your name to mailing lists or ask about upcoming Auctions. Some have Facebook pages and will post pictures and Auctions regularly.

•Come prepared with bags, hand sanitizer or wipes. If you’re at a country farm auction, items may not be very clean (i.e. Farm Fresh). For smaller items, it’s good to have your own big bag (like an IKEA bag) for carrying items.

Where can I find an Auction?

There are some quick easy ways to find an Auction near you.

•Do an internet search for Auction Houses in your area

•Search for “Auction” or “Auctions” on Craigslist By entering your Zip Code on this website, you’ll find auctions within a certain radius.

Final Thoughts

Is it possible to get great deals at Auctions? Yes! Prices typically tend to be at the retail level, but that’s not to say, given the right conditions, that you couldn’t pay much less than retail. You’ll never know unless you try.

Auctions can be a lot of fun. In many small communities, it’s a way for people to connect and socialize. For you, it can be a means to find that one item you’ve been wanting. The people that frequent Auctions are a tight community. They know each other well. As someone new to Auctions, it helps to know what to expect so you can adjust well to any situation.

Happy Picking!


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