An auction room is one of the most exciting and interesting places you can find yourself in, but it can also be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time. But no need to worry; here is a complete guide from The Abbey Group on how to buy antique furniture at an auction.
Preparation makes a lot of difference during auctions, so your first order of business should be to view the auction before even thinking about making a bid. It is best to visit before auction day comes. This will cost you time and money, but it can save you from making a huge mistake on the day of the auction itself.
Plan Your Budget to Avoid Overbidding
When looking at items, be patient and examine them carefully, writing down notes on any piece you are considering. Ideally, you should plan a route around the auction items as there may be hundreds of them. Aimlessly wandering around the room will cause you to waste precious time and you might even skip some valuable items.
Purchase a catalogue and mark off any item you plan to bid on. A coding system works really well for this: Items you are seriously interested in could be marked with a tick; items that are “could be’s” could be marked with a question mark; and those you are not interested in could be crossed out. While you’re at it, you might also want to write the maximum price you’re willing to spend for each item. This allows you to plan your budget accordingly and avoid overbidding.
Inspect Sold as Seen Items
Auction items are sold “as seen” so it is imperative that you take a careful look at each item before bidding. It helps to bring a magnifying glass so you can see scratches, tears or cracks. When bidding on a box of items, look through everything inside to make sure that there are no broken pieces hidden at the bottom.
Also, don’t miss out on pieces that may be stashed beneath tables. Many bidders tend to forget checking these items so you might get a really nice bargain.
The following are a few rules to follow when examining antique furniture at an auction:
The back of the furniture must be thoroughly inspected as well as the underside for damage, woodworm, recent upholstery and other repairs.
Drawers must be checked for dovetail joints.
Always search for the maker’s nameplate. This is often found on the underside of antique furniture.
China and glass must be inspected for chips and cracks. When these items emit a “clunk” noise when tapping them, there is a high chance they have a hairline crack.
Check Reserve Prices
Some items may not be shown at a preview of a sale. Usually, these items are so small that they are easy to walk away with. It is good practice to ask the auctioneer whether you can view them. There are also items that have a reserve price. This means the seller will withdraw the item if the bid does not reach a certain amount. Ask the auctioneer if the items you are interested have reserve prices so you can determine whether they fit your budget.
During the bidding itself, the auction room will be full of adrenaline and excitement. It is important that you remain calm as you bid. Take a look around to see who your competitors are. Many auctioneers practice “bidding off the wall” or “bidding off the chandelier.” They pretend to accept bids in an attempt to drive the bidding upwards. Take note of this practice and make sure you stick with your budget. Don’t let the atmosphere in the auction room get the better of you and cause you to overbid.
The final piece of advice is to enjoy your first auction experience. A few more visits to auctions will inevitably make you more knowledgeable about what items to bid for and what price tag you should place on them.