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Attending the Local Auctions

If you have ever wondered where your favorite art gallery or antique shop gets their inventory you may be surprised to know it is often from local auctions in addition to the widely known  high end houses.A few antique shops really do go overseas and ship containers of antiques to the U.S. However most of them let the auction houses do it. Some local auction houses combine their buying power with  houses in other cities to bring in unique pieces fresh to market. In addition, they often do estate sales, consignments, and furniture store buy outs.

So how can you reap rewards from local auctions? Many are dealer exclusive but more and more are opening their doors to non dealers because quite frankly, the bidder who doesn't know the value of an item will often over bid. So here are a few tips to get you through your first local auction. 
Go early- sign up at the sign in table to get your bidding number. Then inspect the merchandise and write down the lot number if you think you MIGHT bid on it. Inspect it thoroughly. Auction purchases are As Is and not returnable. If it is an item that you don't know the value of, use your phone and search for a similar item online. Don't use eBay if you can help it as their prices are skewed, go to one of the 'what is it worth sites' like Worthington.
Once you have an idea of value, write down next to the lot number how much you are willing to pay.
Remember you are wanting to pay wholesale prices, not retail, and you must take into account the auction houses buyers premium which ranges from 5% to 25 % and taxes if you don't have a Tax I.D. Ask if they give a discount for paying cash as many do.
I like to buy jewelry at auction and don't hesitate to ask to see it up close. Bring a jewelers loop or magnifying glass to look for flaws on smalls and furniture both.
 Any valuable smalls will be inside a case so you will want to ask to inspect them. Porcelain,English transferware and American pottery like Roseville show up at every auction as does antique silver.

 Be wary of art.
Most art is from the Chinese school and worth nothing. But treasures on canvas can be found. A local auction goer here bought an American folk art painting that contained one of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence inside the frame. Proof that you never know what you will find.

Auctions are often dusty. We are not at Christies or Sothebys, so wear appropriate clothing. And the bench seats and folding chairs are always hard. If they don't serve food, (and most do) bring a thermos of coffee and snacks with you.
I prefer to sit in the back of the room once the auction commences so that I can see my bidding competition but if it is your first time I recommend that you sit up front where you can hear well. It is not true that scratching your nose will get you a bid, lol.
Once you have made your purchase, relax, they will set it aside until you are ready to leave.  When you do leave, you will need to go back to the sign in table and pay for it, get your receipt and a worker will carry it out for you. Don't forget to tip him..and don't forget to enjoy yourself even if you get out bid because that happens to every auction goer. I took all these photos at auctions. As you can see, there are beautiful items to be found locally. Auctions are not only fun, but a great place to learn about antiques and meet other antiques lovers. You can find local auctions at Zip Auction online and often on craigslist. So grab your bestie and have a memorable day at the auction!

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