Ten Killer Tips for Attending a Sheriff’s Auction

So you want to attend a Sheriff’s auction so you can stock your vintage store.  I’m talking about a personal property auction not a real estate auctions held on the courthouse steps. Sound intriguing? Not only does it sound interesting but  I have it on good authority that items go for cheap—dirt-cheap.  Pickers of vintage goods need to buy low and sell high. I’m going.

I often bring my mom along with me for some quality mom and daughter time. She is as enthusiastic about searching for treasures as I am. We make a good team when we aren’t shouting at each other about directions and my propensity for ‘curb hopping.’ Without further jabbering, I’ll let you in on the secrets to a sheriff’s auction.

The deputy sheriff conducts bids.

The deputy sheriff conducts bids.

***Get there early. It may or may not be crowded but regardless there are very few chairs. Auction attendees mostly mill about or prop against a wall. You will also need to get a bid number. I did notice people arriving late but they were still able to get a bid number.

 *        ***Wear comfortable clothing. Especially shoes. You will have an opportunity to dig through items.

 *      ***Stand or sit next to people who know what they are doing. We formed an immediate camaraderie with our little contingent of auction attendees. Five total strangers rooting for  each other, the ‘regulars’ whisper tips to mom and I, such as: “stop bidding, the person you are bidding against will not quit.” Or “Bid on the table, it’s very good.” Our helpful neighbors are not store owners but what I’d call, ‘auction zealots.’ They love a good auction but not dealers from out-of-town. Luckily, I have a home in Blaine County or I’d be kicked to the curb.

*     *** A regular (usually a dealer) will always start the bid. It’s not a rule but it worked that way at this auction. Anyway, don’t worry about starting the bid

*** Bids start between $1.00 and $10.00!!!! I’m not kidding, however I’m sure its different at all auctions depending on the inventory and the county.

 *        ***The auction will most likely go all day long. Not joking, but don’t worry, you can cash out at one-hour break intervals. Cashing out is quick because the auction clerk records a finished bid  as soon as it’s made. I checked out at the end of the day in five minutes.

is   *** This is not a professional setting like an auction house; there isn’t an official auctioneer. The sheriff assistant will hold up an item like a hatchet and ask, “how much for this hatchet?” That’s it. As a side note, my mother became so excited about the low prices that she bid on — well she bid on the hatchet. I hissed at her. “Mom, stop this instant, what do you need a hatchet for?” I’m still mulling over her response. “I need a hatchet for the back of my motorcycle.” No my mother is not crazy and she USED to own a variety of motorcycles but she is long past rides in the backcountry and camping in the woods. Apparently, it’s a very fond memory because she wants another hatchet for her long gone motorcycle. It’s fortunate that no motorcycles are up for auction. My mom simply succumbed to a sort of ‘auction frenzy.’ It can happen.

 *      *** Be prepared to pay with cash or check. No credit card. There is no auction fee.

 *      *** Personal property auctions happen because someone has not paid their debt. The property is seized and auctioned by the sheriff. The debt is made whole to the person owed the money within days. This is the system in Blaine County, and I would imagine elsewhere. The auction stops when the total cash amounts to debt owed, in this case, $14,350. Done.

*** And finally, I asked three people in charge about the remainder of goods not auctioned. I have no answer as of yet.

Have you been to a sheriff’s auction? I’d love an answer to tip number ten. Auctions are loads of fun with all sorts of interesting attendees. I purchased ALL of the pictures below for $40.00. The frames alone are worth the price I paid. My mom did not purchase the hatchet, however she did purchase two boxes filled with HEAVY ASS books that I hauled to the car and a very large box of picture frames. She gave me all of the ‘ugly’ ones.

A lot of paintings that I bought at the auction. Ten dolla!

A lot of paintings that I bought at the auction. Ten dolla!


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