Auctions Made Easy #1: Scary Territory


There are persistent myths about the dangers of auctions for the unwary patron.

Such as:

  • “Auctions are only for seriously rich people”
  • “if you scratch your nose at the wrong moment you’ll be obligated to buy some antique you will never be able to afford without going into hock.”

Myths, along with Urban Legends and Old Wives Tales do not stand up to close scrutiny. Auctions are well worth the effort to investigate. They are terrific events for finding interesting and unique anything at bargain prices because essentially, you select the price you want to pay. While it’s true that the excitement, quick pace and the need to make split second decisions can be intimidating if you are an auction virgin, if you make an effort to know and understand the process will make it easy for you to make savvy bids.

Be on the look-out. In the same way little streams flow into rivers, the inventory that winds up on any given auction block arrives from many and varied sources such as estates, private companies, homeowners looking for quick cash, and so forth. Auctions can be held at a variety of different sites as well. Estate auctions could be held the originating estate property, while others could be held not only at auction houses but hotels, community centers or even online. Check for notices in newspapers and ask around at antique or used furniture stores.

Do your homework. There is a certain degree of similarity between the process of founding your own art collection and going to purchase at auction houses. They both require homework beforehand to ensure a successful, rewarding and satisfying purchase.

As with other areas of life, you want to know whom you are potentially going to do business with. What are the credentials of the seller/auction house? Are they reputable? Those who work in bank trust departments deal with estates and will know who to recommend, or not. Evaluating sellers with on-line auctions is more difficult. Read the comments from previous customers to get a sense of track record.

What’s your fancy? Focus in on an area of interest and learn all you can. In the process you will develop “expert eyes” to recognize a real find and a great deal. Talk to dealers and auction houses. Become familiar with the way appearance and condition affect value. Request auction catalogs whenever and wherever possible because they include fairly detailed specifications.

Once you have located an auction that will be selling your object of desire, find out everything you can about the item. Search 1st Dibs, E-Bay and Craig’s List to compare prices and research the price history of similar objects.

Another benefit of knowing the price points: If the bidding begins to climb crazy silly high, you’ll know it’s fueled by something other than the facts and common sense.


Next Time: Auctions Made Easy #2: Look Before You Leap

Related Posts

(Auctions Made Easy Three Part Series)

Auctions Made Easy #2: Look Before You Leap

Auctions Made Easy #3: To Bid Or Not To Bid


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The original version of this article was published on It’s represented here as a foundation for further topic discussion and updates.