How to Fearlessly Buy at Live Auctions for Fun and Profit

If you believe what you see in the movies, attending an auction is risky: scratch your face and you have purchased something expensive and unwanted. The reality couldn't be farther from the truth.

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How to Fearlessly Buy at Live Auctions for Fun and Profit
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Most larger cities and towns have auction houses that hold monthly estate auctions that are a great place to buy household goods, fun vintage items, affordable artwork, or items for resale.

Most larger cities and towns have auction houses that hold monthly estate auctions that are a great place to buy household goods, fun vintage items, affordable artwork, or items for resale.

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You can furnish your bachelor pad

You can furnish your bachelor pad

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Get a nice contemporary dining room set...

Get a nice contemporary dining room set...

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or one that's baronial

or one that's baronial

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An entire bedroom set ...

An entire bedroom set ...

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or just a bed frame

or just a bed frame

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And find acres of rugs

And find acres of rugs

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While we all read about high-profile auctions where artwork sells for millions of dollars, at most auctions you can pick up framed works of art for less money than the cost of framing.

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Here's an array of artworks available at a recent auction that I attended

Here's an array of artworks available at a recent auction that I attended

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How about some instant ancestors...

How about some instant ancestors...

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or Errol Flynn?

or Errol Flynn?

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Lots of unromantic, but useful, items can be found like tools...

Lots of unromantic, but useful, items can be found like tools...

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... and a kitchen's worth of small applicances

... and a kitchen's worth of small applicances

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If you love vintage, you can acquire a whole collection of barware...

If you love vintage, you can acquire a whole collection of barware...

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china teapots and serving pieces...

china teapots and serving pieces...

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a cute kitchen table...

a cute kitchen table...

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or clothing for your own use or for resale

or clothing for your own use or for resale

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"Shelf lots", "table lots", and "bag lots" like those seen in the previous two photos are great ways to acquire items in quantity.

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As a vintage jewelry dealer, I frequently buy "bag lots" of jewelry for resale.  When you buy items in large lots you are mostly competing with dealers, so pricing is usually "wholesale"

As a vintage jewelry dealer, I frequently buy "bag lots" of jewelry for resale. When you buy items in large lots you are mostly competing with dealers, so pricing is usually "wholesale"

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There are two ways of bidding at a live auction: in person (seen here is an auctioneer at a live auction)...

There are two ways of bidding at a live auction: in person (seen here is an auctioneer at a live auction)...

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or by Absentee Bid.  Just fill out the form and leave your highest bid.  You may even get items for less than your maximum if the bidding stops before your maximum is reached.

or by Absentee Bid. Just fill out the form and leave your highest bid. You may even get items for less than your maximum if the bidding stops before your maximum is reached.

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Leaving an Absentee Bid is a great way to buy at auction if you're worried about getting "auction fever" which is when people continue to bid after they have passed their maximum price.

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When you attend an auction you will be assigned a bidder number and given a paddle or card with your number

When you attend an auction you will be assigned a bidder number and given a paddle or card with your number

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READ THE AUCTION HOUSE'S RULES BEFORE YOU BID.  Be aware of how much time you have to pick up items that you win.

READ THE AUCTION HOUSE'S RULES BEFORE YOU BID. Be aware of how much time you have to pick up items that you win.

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BE AWARE OF THE BID INCREMENTS.  Bid increments are are the amounts by which each bid increases.  At certain thresholds the increment increases and bidding goes up faster.

BE AWARE OF THE BID INCREMENTS. Bid increments are are the amounts by which each bid increases. At certain thresholds the increment increases and bidding goes up faster.

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Sometimes several people raise their paddles at once. If the price exceeds your maximum by the time the auctioneer gets to you, just say NO and the auctioneer will go back to the previous bidder.

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AUCTION HOUSES ADD A BUYER'S PREMIUM TO THE BID PRICE.  This usually is 15-25%, depending on the auction house.  So you will be paying this EXTRA amount to whatever you bid.

AUCTION HOUSES ADD A BUYER'S PREMIUM TO THE BID PRICE. This usually is 15-25%, depending on the auction house. So you will be paying this EXTRA amount to whatever you bid.

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ONCE YOU'VE WON AN ITEM IN AN AUCTION YOU ARE OBLIGATED TO BUY IT (with a few exceptions discussed later)

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INSPECT YOUR ITEMS BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE AUCTION.  If they have been damaged during the preview or if an item in a lot is missing, the auction house will refund your money, but not once you've left.

INSPECT YOUR ITEMS BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE AUCTION. If they have been damaged during the preview or if an item in a lot is missing, the auction house will refund your money, but not once you've left.

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To give you an idea of the kinds of bargains available at auctions here are a couple of items I've bought for my own use:

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I bought these Czech crystal cocktail glasses from the 1920's for $60.  A dozen each of three sizes PLUS bowls, water glasses and serving bowls.

I bought these Czech crystal cocktail glasses from the 1920's for $60. A dozen each of three sizes PLUS bowls, water glasses and serving bowls.

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This oak kitchen table was $65.  Cheaper than Ikea, and a lot better made.

This oak kitchen table was $65. Cheaper than Ikea, and a lot better made.

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THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO IT.  HAPPY BIDDING!

THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO IT. HAPPY BIDDING!

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