View from the Rostrum
The world of auctions is a world away from the place that I entered over thirty years ago. Back then auction rooms were mostly frequented by the antiques trade and were mysterious places to the majority of the general public. Fast forward to 2017 and it appears that we all have a ringside seat at the auction courtesy of daytime television. The magic of television would suggest that it is but a small step from the sofa to bidding in the auction room and the process looks easy. There are, however, some things to remember.
First of all most auction rooms now have the facility to ‘bid live’ via the internet so if you wish to stay on the sofa, you can do! Don’t forget that although you can probably see and hear the auctioneer from your laptop, there is often a short time lag and your bid finger has to be well primed! Bidding by internet often also involves an extra charge from the platform provider, usually 3% which is added to the winning bid. The majority of auctioneers also have a buyer’s premium in the region of 15%-20% so a £100 bid can have 18%-20% added on + VAT! Before entering into any ‘internet live’ bidding where you have not examined the lot, be aware of the terms and conditions of business. Auctioneers will assume that you ‘have satisfied yourself’ as to the condition of the lot before entering the bidding so whether you examine the lot in person or ask the auctioneer for a condition report, make sure you know what you are getting before you bid.
If the internet is not for you and you register for a bidding number and bid in the auction room itself, what can you expect? The auction room will still have a buyer’s premium (although no internet surcharge of course!) and will still have expected you to have satisfied yourself as to the condition of a lot before purchase. It is important to remember that many things in auction rooms are not new and the rules on returns are different from a retail environment. Since you have made the effort to attend the auction, there will often be time to view your anticipated ‘treasure’ before you bid.
Once the auction is underway, bidding can often be fast and furious. Make sure you find a comfortable seat in the room where the auctioneer can see you. Often ‘old hands’ will choose a back row seat or stand at the back so that they can see who else is bidding and where the auctioneer is taking the bids from in the room. Wherever you sit, be aware of other bidders and do not be afraid to look around and see who else is bidding on your chosen lot. If there are multiple bidders, the auctioneer will only take bids off two until one drops out and then will go on to the next bidder.
When you begin to bid, make your first bid very obvious either by waving your bidding number or raising your hand. Contrary to popular belief, the auctioneer will not take a bid from you if you scratch your nose or sneeze! But if you wave your paddle and then subsequently choose to bid by raising your eyebrows, then he will take bids from you.
Auctions can be exciting places and ‘first time’ bidders can get carried away. Before you bid, and whatever the auctioneer’s estimate, make sure that you have a good idea of where you want to stop and do not get carried away by the action. If you are determined to own the particular lot at any price, then make sure that you do not make this obvious to the other bidders by being over enthusiastic. A poker face’ at this point is a good idea. Reveal nothing and people will not know where you will stop. Always remember that only you know where you will stop and to that extent neither the auctioneer nor the other bidders can control the result.
Finally, if you win your lot, quick payment and collection will be much appreciated by both auctioneer and his vendor. After all, a successful purchase needs a new home! Whether you bid on the internet or in the auction room itself, enjoy the occasion and have fun. Auctions are exciting places and once you have got ‘the bug’ you will be back, I guarantee it!