10 TIPS for How to Bid at an Auction

So yesterday, I promised you I would give you more pointers on how to walk away from an auction with fabulous deals! If you haven't read THESE TIPS for novice auction goers, you will want to start there. The tips below are for really  diving into the auction world and getting what you want!!  If you are curious to learn more about the scores I found and the prices I paid at my latest auction, CLICK HERE!

First things first, did you guess that this is a chamber pot? Yes, something that rich people used to poo and pee in is now worth around $100. 
 Weird, I know! Isn't it beautiful though? 
I love the detailing and the shape and styling of the basin is just CRYING out for some spring peonies in blush pink and peach, isn't it?

So how do you score a piece like this for less than a dollar?  
I'm going to share all the secrets!  
Get your notepad and cup of joe and listen up!!

#1   Look cute, but not expensive.  If you are a girl, you must use your cuteness to your advantage.  You don't have to flirt, you certainly shouldn't go sexy, but just go cute.  What you really do NOT want to do though is look expensive.  Don't wear good jewelry or bring a nice purse.  You will have prices jacked up immediately if you look rich!

#2  Bring Quarters.  Why quarters?  At an auction, items will often be sold in huge "lots".  At this particular auction they sold the large lots as "half-tables".  You pay a few bucks, you choose the left or right side of the table and you take it all.  When people buy these lots, they sometimes do not want everything on the table, they just want 1 or 2 things.  If there is something you love, it doesn't hurt to ask the buyer if you can bargain with them.

Remember that table I got for $3?  That is exactly how I got it, Polaroid camera and all.  I bid on the table and then the nice guy next to me outbid me.  I said a cheerful "shoot" and snapped my fingers when he won.  That was his cue to turn around and say, "Hey, I only bought it for the stein, do you want the rest for $3?"  ummm...YES! He picked out his Harley Davidson Stein, and the rest was mine.

...but why quarters?  What does that half table have to do with quarters??  The typical situation is that you want 1 or 2 items (not the rest of the table like me).  If you scope out the situation, you might be able to just touch the item you want, look a little disappointed, and the buyer will offer it to you for a quarter.  Very easy!

...which leads us to...
#3 Show Me the Money!  When dealing one on one with a seller, if you physically hold money out to purchase something, it is hard for them to turn it down.  Once they see the actual coin or bill, it is as if you are taking the money out of their pocket if you walk away with it.  It is also easier to say "sure" I'll take a dollar when the dollar is being held out.  It is harder to ask the buyer to dip in their pocket or wallet again for more money.

#4  Divert Attention.   Do you see a bunch of little things that you like?  Don't touch them.  Don't look at them.  Ignore them.  Ignore people looking at them.  You are using basic psychology here people.  If you show the items or people that might be interested in those items attention, they will want those items more.  It is human nature to go after what someone else wants.  So don't let them know you want it!

Conversely, you can influence buyers by noting attractive features (that lamp is so pretty!) or simply touching an item.  If that lamp has a beautiful rim on the top, just run your finger over the top.  The people around you will see that it has grabbed your attention, they will take a second look and they might fall in love with the workmanship or design of the piece.  While they are looking at the lamp you subtly pointed out, you can scoop in and buy that camera no one noticed in the back.  (That whole scenario...that happened...the guy bought the lamp when the table was going by piece and I got the rest of the table, including the camera I wanted for the same price).

#5 Pay Attention.  The best buys are when everybody stops paying attention for some reason and you can swoop in and grab a steal.  Oh my, did he just add that glassware to that box of art supplies?  Both of them?  Did nobody just notice that?  SCORE!

#6 Know Who is Who.  You have to know who owns the store, who is just running the auction, who the owner is, who can make a final call on the sale.  Most of this you can find out by just observing, but once in awhile, you can ask.  Just be polite and kind and ask with a smile.  The key is to find out ALL of this information BEFORE the bidding actually begins.  It is most fun to scope out the scene while sipping hot coffee and giggling about how fun auctions are with your husband.  No one will take you seriously which is another plus :)

#7 Know What is What.  If you know what you are looking for, you know what items are worth a lot of money, what your style is and how to determine quality, you are a step up from a lot of buyers.  Here is the thing though...unless you are an ebayer by trade, do NOT buy things just because you think you can make money.  Often times, you can resell items and make a huge profit, but you should buy items that YOU love.  If they don't resell later, you still have a piece you love.  SO know your stuff, peek on the bottom of those pieces to see what artist or designer made them, but only buy what you love...and make sure to pay pennies for it!

#8 Seize the Sale.  This is how I got that chamber pot above - it is basic psychology again.  We were nearing the end of the tailgate auction, and everyone had sold off their ENTIRE tables for around $10-15 total.  There was one guy left with two tables, but he had set reserves.  Basically he wanted a few dollars per item and did not want to sell all of his stock for one rate.  So the bidding starts, and a few items sell for $3-5 (mainly beer steins again...I really don't get it...).  Then, suddenly the bidding is over.  Nobody wants anything else.  I kind of wanted something, but I didn't speak up because I wanted something for less than $2-3.  If you walk away at this point, you don't get anything.  If you are brave and quick, you can score a deal.  here is what is working for me:

a. The seller is tired after a long day and does not want to haul things home.  He wants to sell!
b. The seller is slightly discouraged that more of his things did not sell in the auction.
c. I have a few bucks on hand, so I can literally show him the money.
d. I am nice, cuter than a trucker and am appreciative of the sale and LOVE the items for sale.  

So, I walk up within seconds after the auction has ended (#8 Seize the Sale), to the OWNER of the booth, NOT the auctioneer (#6 Know Who is Who), smiled and held out a dollar (#3 Show me the Money!) and asked if I could have "that white piece" AND that Toy Story Collection for a dollar.  Wait what?  What toy Story Thing?  yeah THIS Toy Story thing selling for.  I just bunched them together, showed the dollar bill and he said sure.

...which leads us to...

#9 Group Items.  If you want several things, make an offer for all of the things you want.  The more you buy, the more the sellers will haggle with you.

...and finally...

#10 ASK QUIETLY.  The seller wants to sell, but he doesn't want EVERYONE coming up and asking for super deals.  He wants to get as much money as he can.  So if I loudly ask if he will sell me two of his best items for $1, then everyone else will start bidding at $1.00.  If I keep my voice quiet, he can say Yes, but move on to the next buyer and hopefully they will ask if they can buy something for $2,$3,$5, or $10.  I am not making this up.  Literally while I was talking to the owner, several people went to talk to the auctioneer (OOPS on #6 Know Who is Who).  They asked about buying various items and he referred them back to the owner.  People bought more items, at various prices, but there were no more 2/$1 sales.  Someone did want to buy that Toy Story Collection for a few dollars too, but it had sold already.  Snap!

So what are your auctioning, yard sale and thrift store tricks?


Miss Kitty said…
Thank you SO much for sharing all those tips for buying at auctions. I've never gotten great deals at auctions (so I haven't been in years) but you have gotten my interest up. It sounds like there are lots of different types of auctions. I learned something new today!
I have never been to an auction, but now I want to! sounds fun! Thanks for sharing :)
Andrea said…
These are all fantastic tips! Would have never thought to bring quarters or to speak quietly. I'm such a loud mouth ;)
I happened upon your blog tonight and came across this post. I've been wanting to go to an auction but just never have. I'll be sure to use your tips if I can get myself to one!
The Bold Abode said…
You're a genius! Auctions are so awesome... yes, they so are!
Amy Renea said…
They are soooooooooooooo awesome and my invitation stands :)
Kelly said…
These tips are AWESOME. We love going to auctions and have definitely found some amazing deals, but I learned something reading this! Thanks for the tips!
Shannon Fox said…
Good gravy! I read every word. Love all your super tips. If I ever get to attend an auction I will remember all your super advice!

PS-I wanted to see the Toy Story goods. hehe
lucysinspired said…
I'm totally using some of these. I can't wait to scoop in and get a deal!! Great points!!
Jessica Kielman said…
I've never actually been to an auction, but would LOVE to go...I'm printing this out for myself and a friend :)
Amy Renea said…
YAY! You all should GO!! It is SO much fun! If you are ever in PA friends, I'll take you!

...and Shannon I just LOVE that you say "good gravy " :)