Five Key Things to Remember When Bidding at Auction

ShoppingTips & Advice

  • Author Frank Kaminski
  • Published February 5, 2007
  • Word count 412

Whether you are looking for a bargain or are willing to pay top dollar for a major collector’s item, navigating the sometimes confusing world of auction houses can be a daunting task. The following tips are a few things you need to know before bidding at auction:

  1. Understand that the auctioneer is looking to sell a particular object as efficiently as possible.

This means that you should be prepared to act equally efficiently. Many modern auction houses typically execute absentee bids, phone bids, and Internet bids, along with bids from members of the audience, when selling fine art and antiques. Bidders for a fine piece of Grueby or Rookwood pottery, for example, can use any of these methods when competing for a particular item. Decisive bidding by auction participants is the best way to ensure success in purchasing an item.

  1. Know the buyer’s premium that will be applied to the final cost of an item.

The buyer’s premium, which can range from 10% to over 20% depending on the auction house, is calculated based on the final hammer price of an item. It is always a good idea to keep this in mind when determining your bidding limit.

  1. Learn as much as possible about the object you are interested in before the auction.

Many auction houses are willing, for example, to provide brief condition reports on paintings and works on paper offered at their auctions. Should you wish to have further information on a particular work of art, you can always call for a more detailed description. It is a good idea to make these requests at least a week before a sale to insure a response to your request.

  1. Check before the auction into possible shipping arrangements, particularly for larger items.

Some auction houses offer favorable terms for the delivery of large objects, such as furniture, in situations where a buyer is unable to do so. Knowing the cost of shipping before an auction starts is also an effective way to decide how high to bid on an item.

  1. Understand payment terms before an auction begins.

While many antique auctions do not accept credit card payments, some do provide this convenience. It is useful to check with a firm’s business office before a sale if you have any questions regarding the use of credit cards, limits that may apply, and which cards may be used.

Following these five simple tips will help make any auction experience a pleasant one.

Frank Kaminski is the owner and president of Kaminski Auctions in Beverly, Massachusetts, a prominent Massachusetts auction house that has specialized in fine art, furniture and antique sales for the past twenty years. For more information, visit

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