Auction Tips for the Meek & Mild

I’ve now attended auctions held by many auction houses that specialize in vintage goods. Does this make me an expert? No of course not, but I am learning the in’s and out’s of the auction world and let me tell you there are a few tricks if you want to actually purchase something.

First auction I attended held in a hotel in Tukwila, WA. Specialized in Native American items.

First auction I attended held in a hotel in Tukwila, WA. Specialized in Native American items.

1. Thoroughly review the email the auction house sends you or the auction house website. The email I received ( had good pics, though not a lot of information. From this email, I determined whether I would attend the auction. BTW—both auctions started at 6:00 PM. This is also an opportunity for you to do some research about the items that interest you. Or alternately you can submit an absentee bid or bid by phone. I noticed at both sales there was someone on the computer stationed next to the auctioneer who monitored the online bids.

2. Go to the preview a day early and not on the same day. Why? If you go on the same day, its simply a very long day. Most people want to get the preview done and auction all in one day but the day before is less crowded, and you can ask questions and pick up your auction catalogue with all items referenced.

3. Be prepared to sit or mill around for a LONG TIME. Both auctions I attended had great auctioneers but it still took at least 1 hour per 130 items give or take 30 minutes. When/if you do sit down, sit on the side preferably on a ledge or table where you can oversee the crowd. You don’t want to be in the front row where you may feel inclined to constantly crank your neck to see what idiot is bidding against you!!

4. Register your resale number with the auction house BEFORE you make a purchase. Woops. I didn’t do this and caused a bit of a fuss but they were nice about it.

5. Make sure you can write a check BEFORE you make a purchase. Double woops. But again they let me write a check because I lived nearby and wrote a small check. BTW—both auction houses also took credit cards. And don’t forget the standard 10 to 15% auction house fee added on to your total.

6. Some auctions have a “silent” section as well as the live auction. The silent auction tables have a lot of sleeper items. I found a particularly fetching piece of Rookwood Pottery and thought I had won the item since I wrote my number on the bid paper AGAIN at one minute before closing. Alas someone was lurking and came in after me. So write your number on the auction item paper one last time when the auction workers start the countdown. 10 9 8 . . .

7. Do you really want that Rookwood Pottery? Be the hovercraft who circles the table. Wear dark glasses and a hat if you are embarrassed but it has to be done. Remember I told you that I lost my pottery because I was too nice and most def a novice. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Or in my case, Ms. Politely Go Lightly.

8. Bring a friend. If for nothing else than to gossip about other attendees. I’ve never seen so many toupees in my life. Not good toupees either. There were some very interesting characters at this particular auction house and BTW, they all seemed to know each other as well as the auctioneer.

9. Check out who is sitting in the front row. Clearly the grey-haired-glasses guy in the front row knew a lot about the value of antiques. I didn’t really like the same sort of stuff that he did but he def had a ceiling in mind for each piece he bid on. He didn’t get carried away in frenzy bidding.  Red toupee sat next to him and chattered in his ear non-stop and grey-haired-glasses guy never so much as turned his way. In fact when a bid didn’t go his way he looked at the auctioneer with a raised eyebrow as if saying, “you really think its worth that much?”

10. Stay to the bitter end. Now this is important. I know it gets tiring but take a nap or something before you go because there are deals to be had during the last hour. The auctioneer was literally pleading with the remaining people to buy something, in fact I think he may have given a few things away. Gorgeous oriental rugs were going for $50.00!! It was insane.

I took note of a few items and what they sold for:Antique estate settee and armchair set—$80.00

Antique Peter Pan Peanut Butter Tin—$45.000

Vintage Child’s Toolbox Set—$20.00

WWII Memorablia was very popular. 3 WWII Candy Bar Ration Kits—$300.00
WWII 2nd Airbourne Fixed Bale Army Helmet with Liner—$250.00

You can also learn the ropes by monitoring on your computer at: It’s free.

If nothing else you can learn what is trending for vintage at these auctions! And remember. No friends on auction bidding days. (Except the friend you bring 🙂

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