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June 7, 2011

You Bought It! – Tips for purchasing at antique auctions

By Andrea

We’ve all been to garage sales, estate sales and thrift stores in the hunt for the perfect mid-century pieces for our homes. Another great source of mid-century pieces can be antique auctions. Just like antique stores and shows, not everything at these auctions is a true antique, there are many great vintage pieces to be found at auction as well.

auction1 My purchases from the antique auction that I attended this past Sunday

Having recently gotten into the world of buying at live auctions, I found my first experience to be very overwhelming! So, I thought I would share some tips based off of my auction experiences that hopefully you will find useful should you decide to start attending and buying from auctions!

  1. Check out what’s for sale beforehand – I find out about auctions in my area through the local paper and kijiji. Quite often the auctioneers have websites with photos of what’s going to be up for auction. Take a look before you go – you might discover that there’s nothing that you’re interested in at that particular auction, so no point in attending!
  2. Research your prices – Ultimately, things sell at auction for whatever amount people in the crowd want to pay. You can get a good deal, however you could also end up overpaying. A little research online beforehand, or via smartphone (if you’ve got one) while at auction can help you keep from overpaying for something.
  3. Get there a little early – this way you can take time to take a closer look at items that you were planning on bidding on. If you’re planning on bidding on furniture, you may want to bring a tape measure to ensure the piece is the right size – and that you can get it home!
  4. Set a limit – and stick to it! Live auctions move super super fast, and it is so easy to get caught up in a bidding war! Decide what you feel a piece is worth ahead of time, and stick to it while bidding.
  5. Verify payment methods beforehand – some auctions do take credit and debit, however some are cash and cheque or cash only. This varies greatly, so unless if you normally carry cash, it’s something you’ll want to check out beforehand.
  6. And my most important tip of all – pay attention! Like I said above, live auctions move super, super fast. You’ve got to be ready to bid as soon as they start the bidding for your item, or it could be gone before you know it. I was blown away by how super fast a live auction moves.


That’s it! Does anyone else attend live auctions, and if so, do you have any tips you want to share?

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6 Responses to You Bought It! – Tips for purchasing at antique auctions

  1. Eartha Kitsch Reply

    June 7, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Ooh! I love auctions! Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s fun to see what people get excited about and what they’ll pay. I especially like to go to the country auctions where you never know if you’ll be bidding on a patio set or a couple of chickens. And it’s true – you CAN get caught up in the frenzy. My Mom and I once bought an entire bedroom set when well, we both already HAD bedroom sets! 🙂

  2. Sara in AZ Reply

    June 7, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I wish they had good auctions here in Az like they had when I lived in Chicago. The auctions here just aren’t the same, so I have not been to one in years now. Looks like you found some super nice items Andrea — really sweet tables too! 🙂

  3. Andrea Reply

    June 7, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Eartha – I actually drive an hour each way to get to the auctions that I have been to! Considering I already live away from the big city, these are pretty far out in the country, heh. However, there hasn’t been any chickens to bid on … yet! That is too funny about you and your mom, and I can TOTALLY see how that would happen! It’s a good thing we left our truck at home, or I can only imagine the stuff we’d come home with.

    Sara – thanks! I am totally in love with those tables. They are in our bedroom as our bedroom set was lacking nightstands, but I am already itching to find another one to go in our living room.

  4. RetroRuth Reply

    June 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    The best point you had was to make sure you stick to your limit!!! Tom and I have overpaid many times for items that we got too excited about at auctions. In fact, we started doing it so often that we had to stop going to them! 🙂

  5. Eartha Kitsch Reply

    June 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    p.s. I’m dying to see a full shot of that cabinet with the red detailing, Andrea!

  6. Andrea Reply

    June 7, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Ruth – this is why I bring cash, otherwise I would be WAY too tempted to bid like crazy!

    Eartha – That’s my china cabinet 🙂 I will work a full shot of it into my next post, just for you!

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