You might not think you’re the kind of person who goes to auctions. Maybe you worry you’re not an expert on antiques and you won’t be allowed in if you don’t know a barometer from a bureau. But, actually, none of that matters. An auction is a great experience which is open to everyone – whether you’re buying, selling or simply an onlooker.
Just viewing an auction is a fun activity in itself. You get to wander round a room packed with things for sale, never knowing what you might find next. You can touch the objects, rummage about a bit and hope that you’ll spot the gem no one else has noticed. Auctions are usually open for viewing a few days before a sale, so find a local one and check it out.
Don’t expect the experience to be anything like buying things from a normal shop. Things don’t have prices, they have estimates – the whole thing is unpredictable. You can buy a catalogue, or often browse online, and select things you like the look of. Think about how much you’d like to pay for something and don’t forget to include the auction fees in your calculations. This is usually between 15-20% on top of the price something sells for – which can make a big difference between a bargain and an expensive mistake.
Once auction day arrives the exciting bit begins. I would recommend everyone goes to an auction at least once. It’s a fascinating way to spend a few hours – not just watching things sell, but soaking up the atmosphere and doing a tiny bit of people watching too. There’s usually somewhere to buy a coffee and you can dip in and out of the sale room as you please. It’s all a bit dusty and eccentric, but just go with it and soak up the atmosphere.
You’ll need to register and collect your number if you want to bid, but other than that there aren’t really any rules. Except maybe not flapping your arms above your head. And probably leaving small children at home.
The anticipation of waiting for your item to come up, and the nervous excitement once it does, is really unique. I get my husband to do the actual bidding as I get too over excited, but we always agree beforehand on the most we’re willing to bid for an item. It’s tempting to keep on bidding to get something, but you’ve got to remember those extra fees and how much you really want it.
If I like something, then other people usually like it too. Generally, if I go to an auction liking ten items, the chances are that I only end up wining one of them. I often can’t afford the things I like, but if you’re lucky then the potential for a bargain is huge.
We’ve always done really well at the more rustic end of the market. Things that need a bit of imagination – like a pine dresser for £25 which we painted blue, a table with a scratched top, or some badly framed paintings which we brought back to life. And vintage furniture is always going to be fantastic value and better quality than modern flat-pack stuff.
If you’re not able to go to an auction in person, then many auctions offer you the chance to bid online. We often do this – although it does cost you slightly more in fees. It’s not as exciting though, and I’d always recommend trying the experience for real at least once.
So why not find your local auction house and give it a go?