|Buying art and antiques at auction can be
intimidating if you are unfamiliar
procedures, but enjoyable and
you do. Here are tips for getting
- Get your feet wet by attending auctions as
a spectator. Sit in the back and observe.
Resist the urge to bid until you learn how
- Know the registration requirements for bidding.
Unless you have an account with the auctioneer,
you may have to establish creditworthiness
prior to the auction. Similary, understand
in advance the acceptable forms of payment
and when payment must be made.
- If you intend to bid, closely examine the
objects that interest you as far in advance
as possible. At the better auction houses,
items are exhibited for several days. Conduct
research commensurate with how much you expect
to bid. Do not bid significant sums of money
unless you know the object’s value. If you
expect to spend a lot, consult an independent
appraiser or other expert in advance.
- Know what guarantees, if any, that the auction
house gives to you, and what your recourse
is if the item later proves to be inauthentic
- Some auction houses charge a “buyer’s premium.”
This is a commission on top of the “hammer
price” (where bidding closes). If the hammer
price is $1,000 and the buyer’s premium is
20%, the winning bidder actually pays $1,200.
Also, your purchase may be subject to sales
tax. If so, tax probably will be imposed
on the combined total of hammer price and
- If the item that you want will require shipping,
compare the auctioneer’s shipping rates to
what you might pay by hiring your own shipper.
Do this in advance of the auction, so that
you can enter appropriate instructions if
you are the winning bidder. Also, do advance
research on shipping insurance rates.
- Be mindful of whether you can or must (if
you bid successfully) take the item with
you that day or pick it up on another day.
If the auctioneer will hold an item for you
beyond the stipulated pick-up date, be aware
that you may incur storage charges.
- Carefully budget the maximum that you will
spend long before the auction begins. To
budget, make hard decisions in advance about
what you really would like to have and what
you do not like as much. Set priorities and
determine a maximum amount that you will
bid on each item that interests you. If the
bidding goes beyond this, walk away from
the object. And set a maximum that you will
spend during the entire auction. Once you
hit this maximum, financial prudence suggests
that you do not bid on any other items.
- Some items have a “reserve” (minimum) price.
The bidding may start below this price, but
the sale is cancelled if it is not met. In
reputable auctions you will be advised if
there is a reserve price on an item, but
the amount normally is secret. Bargains are
more likely on items offered “without reserve.”