Set Sale (huh?)

2 07 2010

I used to be an auctioneer. Seems odd, looking back, that I was able to deal with all the noise and confusion, but then I was probably thinking I was in control. Little did I know …

Now I hate going to auction sales. Well, that’s not really true, I hate the crowds, why can’t they spread out a little? I do love the challenge and the hunt, though. The hunt is looking through the items on offer to determine what has value and what doesn’t, the challenge is in controlling the sale, even though I’m not the auctioneer anymore.

Controlling the sale?

Not easy – but not impossible. The trick is intimidation. You can’t intimidate the auctioneer, but he’s not in control anyway. You need to intimidate the other bidders if you’re going to control the sale.

Here are some pointers:

  1. Know what you’re buying. – You need to get to the sale on time (a challenge for me) and take advantage of the preview. If you’re going to appear unflappable, you need to know in advance what you’re bidding on.
  2. Set your price. – Know exactly how much you plan on spending on any one item and stick to it. (more on that in point 5.)
  3. Be aware of what’s going on. – Not knowing what’s on the block means possibly missing the item you’re waiting on. That can change your mood and throw you off your game.
  4. Bid when you’re out. – When the auctioneer takes a bid against you and the price is still within you’re range, bid immediately. It intimidates anyone bidding against you to see you not hesitate, gives the impression that you intend to be successful.
  5. Don’t bid once your price is reached. – If you stop bidding and then change your mind and bid again, you don’t appear to be in control. You may get the item, but lose the appearance of being an auction ninja.
  6. Don’t gloat or get visibly excited when an item is knocked down to you. – Remain calm and accept the item as if it was a forgone conclusion that you would get it.

At one time we would find some item near the start of an auction that wouldn’t sell for much and then simply bid until the auctioneer knocked it down to us. This gave the house the impression that we got what we wanted. We don’t do that anymore, we are known at the auction house we frequent. We do try to make sure that the first couple of items we are interested in get knocked down to us, it’s a matter of principle.


For those who are new to auctions, here is a quick glossary of terms you might run across:

  • bid, bidding: to agree to pay the current asking price should no other bids be forthcoming
  • bidder: someone indicating a willingness to pay the currently asked price
  • back bidder: the second last bidder at the conclusion of an item sale
  • sale: this is an ambiguous term referring to both the event and to an individual item knock down
  • out, you’re out: to be out-bid, requires a further bid from you if you intend to purchase
  • in, you’re in: you are currently the high bidder, should no other bids be forthcoming you will be the purchaser
  • knock down, knocked down: the terms used by auction houses to indicate the conclusion of bidding on an item. An auctioneer should always say the word “sold”, announce the price and identify the buyer in a clear voice
  • on choice: this refers to multiple similar items being sold. The bidding is for one of them and at the conclusion of the bidding the successful bidder chooses one or more of the items. If any items are left over the back bidder gets to choose next.

If you’re off to an auction on my say so, be careful, I’m not funding you. I’m just saying, could be fun, eh?




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