OUR GUIDE to BUYING at AUCTION
Monday, 30 November -0001

OUR GUIDE to BUYING at AUCTION

You’ve fallen in love with a beautiful object about to go under the hammer. Sam Taylor advises what to do next

Written by Sam Taylor
IS IT WORTH IT?
Although films and TV programmes tend to portray objects at auction as being sold for millions of pounds, the reality is that this can be an affordable way to acquire beautiful things. If you have fallen in love with a painting or a piece of furniture in a saleroom and are worried about its ‘worth’, then do some research. Even a small country auction house will have an expert in their field able to help and give you more information before the auction. Most are happy to talk to you about the object’s provenance (where it came from), its condition and the estimate.

WHAT IS AN ESTIMATE?
Perhaps the object of your desire is a Georgian dining table and chairs with a price on it of between £500 and £800. Or a charming coffee set with a price of £10 to £20. In both cases, these are estimate ranges that the auctioneer has suggested to the owner as a guide price. Within that range, usually the bottom will be a ‘reserve’ price (the minimum price the auctioneer is authorised to accept by the seller).

WHAT IS A FORMAL CONDITION REPORT?
Alongside the catalogue entry for the lot will be a brief description, with any notes about its condition. It might be chipped or cracked, for example.

HOW DO I BID?
Bidding seems to be a dark skill but frankly it is one that most of us can easily master. When you enter the auction house you will be asked to register to bid and given a ‘paddle’, which is a number on a card. As soon as the auction starts, things tend to move quite quickly so it’s helpful to have notated the lots you are interested in before the start. Not to do this can result in some random purchases that seem fun at the time but are not what you went there for. I bought six teapots last week for reasons I now cannot remember.

When you first start bidding, make your bid clear by fully raising your hand – stand even. As a beginner it helps to sit at the front. After your initial bid, the auctioneer will look towards you as the bidding progresses. At local auctions bids tend to go up in increments of £10. Try not to get carried away (see teapots, above); you might consider taking a sane friend along to hold your hand down.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I BID BY MISTAKE?
In a proper auction room, it’s impossible to bid by mistake by just scratching your nose. Generally, the auctioneer is looking for the ‘paddles’ with their numbers on.

TELEPHONE BIDS
If you can’t make the auction in person, you can book a bidding clerk to bid on your behalf and generally you will agree what you are prepared to go up to. But as they are bidding in the room with you on the end of the phone it’s always possible to change your mind and offer more.

BIDDING ONLINE
Many of us now bid online via eBay, but not many know that it is also possible to bid online at auctions up and down the country. You simply register and then watch and hear the bidding unfold on your computer screen. However, it takes a great deal of concentration and it is possible to miss out if you are not quick enough.

COMMISSION BIDS
Auction houses offer the option for you to leave a bid by filling out a form with your maximum bid alongside the lot number and your contact details. The auctioneer will then have this, and any others, when he starts the auction. They are often referred to as ‘bids on the book’. He will then bid on your behalf – it is possible that the item is sold for less, in which case you have a bargain, or sold for more, in which case you will miss out.

WHAT IF IT DOESN’T SELL?
You can approach the auction house and see if you can buy it after the sale – they will often sell for the seller’s reserve price.

WHAT IS A BUYER’S PREMIUM?
At one time, auction houses used to only charge those who were selling items. Now, anyone buying an item is also liable for a fee. This can be as much as 20 per cent on top of the price, so do take that into account.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE?
Only buy something you really love. If you are looking to invest in art and antiques, seek expert advice outside the auction room.

DO I HAVE TO TAKE IT AWAY IMMEDIATELY?
No, but there will usually be charges for storage after 24 to 48 hours.



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