The Beginning Bidder’s Guide to Live Auctions

Nothing quite beats the drama and magic of a live auction. According to the experts at Bang the Gavel Auction Services, one of the most important elements of a successful live auction is the aura of excitement. If you are new to live auctions, you might feel a little unsure about how it all works. Follow these tips and you’ll be a live auction bidding pro in no time.

It’s no secret that auctions are entertaining. Live auction scenes frequently appear in films, including the Alfred Hitchcock classic “North by Northwest” and the 1997 comedy “Mouse Hunt.” To the novice, however, bidding may seem a little scary at first. How can you combat the butterflies? Go to a few auctions as a spectator. Watch how bidders make their bids. Get comfortable with the setup. Listen to the auctioneer. Notice details. How did the winning bidders come out on top? Familiarize yourself with different types of auctions. You’ll learn a few things and be entertained as well.

If you’re ready to get your feet wet, arrive early. Register, grab your bid paddle and do some research. Inspect items up for bid beforehand. Look for evidence of damage. Read the catalog description and determine which items you are interested in. Circle your items of interest and decide on a maximum bid. You don’t want to get caught up in the excitement later on and overpay for something that’s not worth the price.

Before bidding on anything, confirm the accepted methods of payment. Some auctions only take cash, others checks and cash and others accept credit cards. Find out before the action starts.

The catalog you receive or purchase is full of useful information. Most live auctions accept bids in predetermined increments. For example, if $10 bidding increments were required, to outbid a $10 bid, you would have to bid $20. Most catalogs list increment requirements so you know ahead of time.

If possible, find a seat near the auctioneer. Take a deep breath and get ready. The action’s about to start.

One technique used by pros is to place what’s called “bottom feeder” bid. Before the auctioneer finishes the item description of a piece you want, wave your paddle and bid half of the lowest estimated value. Low initial bidding draws the attention of the auctioneer who will look back to you as more bids come in. Another winning pro strategy, particularly for big-ticket items, is to wait until bidding slows down and place your bid.

One last bit of advice: There are unscrupulous auction services out there. Some hire actors to pose as bidders to make competition appear fiercer than it really is. The professionals at Bang the Gavel recommend checking the auction house out beforehand to make sure they’ve been around for a while. Auctions are a great way to find antiques, furniture, jewelry, books, maps, cars and anything else you can imagine. They are also fun as long as you decide what to pay ahead of time and keep your cool.


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