Chapter 597 Tips on Attending and Bidding at Auctions, from a Reader

After my recent posts on antiquarian book auctions (here, here, here, and here), a reader of my blog wrote to share her own experience at auctions. She has attended many auctions — some for books, some for other items — and had several pieces of advice for me. I asked her if I could post what she wrote to me on my blog and she said yes, so here it is:

“There are several kinds of auctions and ways company operate. Lots of hidden things can add to the prices you pay.

1. Always check commission figures — some are flat 10%, some are as high as 25%, some have a sliding scale.

2. Shipping: can you take it from sale, must it be shipped, can you choose shipper – packager or do they
(lots of hidden expense here I was once socked $27.00 for a packaging a 3 page pamphlet.)

3. How do the treat reserve\Bidding-
Do you pay for the privilege of bidding? Some auctions charge approximately $100, which will be refunded at the end of the sale — if you want to stand in line for hours or you can get it back by mail. This is sometimes called a seat charge but it is all the same.

Do they start an item at reserve, or do they start an item at, say, $200 and, if no one bids, drop to $100 and so on until they get a bid, then take it back up. Generally if they start at reserve and bid is not met (usually in Europe) they immediate pass the item out – I attended a sale like this last month in Amsterdam. I am more used to the starting and lowering until the bid is gotten and then going from there.

Placed bids: Do they start with the highest placed bid or do they start below that? Here, the problem comes in if you leave a bid and they start at that bid. You will almost never get anything because there is usually someone on the floor who ups it whatever amount, so it’s a total waste of time. This is important if you can’t be at the sale. Phone bids – do you have good working relations with the auction company and faith in the phone person? Of course, here is where KNOWING what you’re buying really comes in.

Dutch Auctions items can start at a set price, $500 say, and go down so much per hour or day or week until its sold.

Bidding — You are usually assigned a number or paddle, or, at horse sales, if they know you, nothing. You know what they say — want to become a millionaire in the horse biz? Start with 5 million. [Editor’s note: I have had people say the same thing to me about the antiquarian book business.] Always take a pad with you to jot down anything that occurs to you and your lot numbers with what they were knocked down to you at because mistakes can and do happen. Also present your resale license before you bid and get ready to check out — that way its much faster. Different sales have different bid increments. At some auctions its $5.00, and at others it’s $25 — you need to know that as well.

And last but not least: Don’t fall in love with an item or get carried away — spoken as the owner at one time of over 80 horses (now down to just 14 oldies but goodies) and 30,000+ books.”

Thanks to my reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, for sharing what she’s learned from attending many auctions. I always learn from the experience of others. In fact, if any of you readers out there have more to add about auctions, I’d be happy to hear from you. You can send me an email at chris AT bookhuntersholiday DOT com.

See you in the stacks!

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