Five Tips for Selling at Live Auctions

Ah, the old-fashioned country auction! The idea of a country auction conjures up certain images for people. The image of a fast-talking auctioneer offering up an antique table or chair is a popular example.

People who are buying household goods or collectibles are looking to get their items at the lowest price possible. However, the people who are selling their items at auction are hoping for the highest price!

Unless a person is in the business of buying and selling antiques or other items, not a lot of thought goes into how goods are prepared for sale via the auction process. However, if you are one of the growing number of people using auction venues to sell your collectibles or other inventory, there are a few things to learn first about how to sell at auction before you bring a truckload of stuff over to the next event.

Tip 1: Make sure the things you want to sell are a good “fit” for the auction house you’ll be using.

Never bring a load to an auction house without actually having been to one of the previous auctions. It’s important to get a feel for the type of goods that the house sells. For example, at one very rural country auction it was common for the owners to sell live chickens, pots and pans, car parts, and farm equipment.

After close investigation, this would not be the right venue for selling your daughter’s “Hello Kitty” collection. On the other hand, the spare John Deere parts that you bought at last week’s yard sale might be just the right thing for the buying crowd at this auction.

Tip 2: Be sure you clearly understand the terms and policies of the auction house.

Visit with the auctioneer ahead of time. Call to find out what the best days and times are to visit. One of the worst possible times to drop in for an informational visit with an auctioneer is the day of the auction. Call ahead and ask. While you’re at it, find out what are the best days and times to drop your stuff off.

Once you have a little time with the auctioneer, you’ll be able to find out what type of commission he or she takes from consigners (which is you), and what type of paperwork might be needed. Some auction houses send out Form 1099 tax forms at the end of the year. An auctioneer may need to see your identification and have you fill out a W-9. Be prepared.

Find out what happens to your items if they don’t sell. For example, some auctioneers may have a minimum starting bid. If, for some reason, one of your items does not sell, it may be grouped with another one of your pieces. Know the auctioneer’s strategy beforehand so that you aren’t surprised on pay day.

Tip 3: Make sure the auctioneer knows what you’re selling.

It might be perfectly obvious to you that the signed print you are consigning is a rare and valuable piece of art. However, the auctioneer may not know this particular artist. Make a note of anything particularly special about your items, and leave the note with the piece. Be sure to tell the auctioneer about it as well. He or she might determine that this is something to highlight on the company website or in the newspaper listing.

Tip 4: Present your items neatly.

No one likes to have to dig through a box full of grimy and greasy car parts to see what treasures might be in there. Separate the parts and lay them out on a flat, or use more than one box to de-clutter the lot.

There is no need to buy fancy display boxes. It’s easy enough to go to the local convenience store or supermarket and ask if you can have the emptied boxes or flats that they are discarding.

While it’s good to present clean items, take care not to ruin the value of anything by over cleaning. For example, if you find some old cast iron cookware, clean the obvious dirt and grime, but don’t scrub it to its original finish. For many people, this ruins the value of the item. So, clean and tidy and organized is the key here.

Tip 5: Don’t complain to the auctioneer if your stuff doesn’t sell for as much as you’d like.

The phrase to remember here is, “You win some; you lose some.” That’s just the way it is. There are some days where an auction house is loaded with people who all seem to want what you’re selling. There will be other days where the crowd is sparse, and the bidding is simply not competitive.

Remember that it’s in the auctioneer’s best interest to sell your things for the highest possible hammer price. But sometimes, it’s just not going to be a stellar sale. The auctioneer is only human, and is also disappointed if a sale doesn’t go as well as planned.

If you notice that every time you bring a bunch of goods to sell that you’re not realizing as much as you think you honestly should, try another auction venue and compare apples to apples. That is, bring the same types of items to the new auctioneer and compare the results.

Unless the auctioneer is particularly disagreeable or inconsiderate to you or buyers, there is no reason to confront him or her about a sale. If you find you just don’t care for an auctioneer’s style or methods, find another one. Believe me, there are plenty of them out there!

The primary thing to remember as you learn how to sell at auction is that the business is unpredictable at best. You will have good days, some not-so-good days, some great days. The more you sell, the more experience you will gain, and the more enjoyable the business will be.

How to Find Great Live Auctions for Resale Items

Hi, my name is Walt. I’m an auctioneer with 25 years of experience in the auction business and licensed in the state of MA. I own Quick Auction Service, a company that specializes in building and running custom auctions, I’m also the webmaster of my own site and have been on eBay for 8 years. Besides eBay, the types of auctions I run most frequently are antiques and on-site estate auctions, although I’ve run everything from business overstock auctions to charity & special event auctions.

I enjoy sharing my knowledge and stories of the auction business. My goal for article is to help folks get the absolute most out of their auction experience.

Whether your fresh out of the package or a seasoned dealer I think I can offer something in this article to help you with your auciton adventures.

There may be as many reasons to attend auctions as there are types of auctions to attend. Maybe you want to attend an auction to buy items for re-sale on eBay, or some other market. Maybe you want to furnish your home with wonderful antiques, or you want to furnish your home as inexpensively without sacrificing quality.Some folks are just looking for a fun night out. With a little perseverance all these things are possible.

There are antiques and estate auctions, auto auctions, overstock auctions, absolute and no reserve auctions, real estate auctions, specialty auctions where only one genre of items are sold, tailgate auctions, live auctions, online auctions, sealed bid auctions, silent auctions, charity and fund raising auctions and many more.

Can you really buy for pennies on the dollar at an auction? You bet! Many times I’ve seen folks buy and re-sell at the same auction on the same night for a good profit, although be advised, this should only be done after the auction is over.

There are a lot of ways to find an auction, but here are some tips on how to find and attend the best ones.

Visit the genre of shops in the area that apply to the type of auction you want to attend. IE: If your looking for a good antique auction to attend, stop in the local antiques shops and ask for what there are for good auctions in the area. Sounds obvious right? But listen to what they don’t say as well as what they do say. Oftentimes when a dealer speaks poorly about an auction he or she attends, it may be likely that they are trying to keep a good thing secret. Think for a moment, why would a dealer keep attending a lousy auction?

Newspaper ads: I personally like to find ads in the classified ad section rather than flashy display ads. Flashy ads are usually indicative of an auction that will be high priced, may have reserves, (a set price on an item), and usually an enormous crowd. While any auction can be profitable to attend, it is usually best to steer clear of the glitzy ones, at least for the beginner.

Here’s the minimum you want to find out before you go. If there is a phone number in the ad, call and ask for the terms of the sale. What forms of payment do they accept? Is it an absolute auction? An absolute auction is one that has no minimum or reserve bids on items. These are the best auctions to attend! Is there a buyers premium? A buyers premium is like a tax that everyone who makes purchases at that auction must pay above the winning bid price. Most auctions these days do charge a buyers premium, 10% is not unreasonable but I feel much more than that is greedy, and the auctioneer that charges over 10% is counting on most bidders not doing the extra math as the bids quicken in pace.

A fair auction will have ample time to inspect the merchandise, usually at least 2 or 3 hours. Find out when inspection starts and make sure to attend! Never attend an auction if you can’t make the inspection, not unless your prepared to gamble. Most auctioneers sell at a rate of about 100 items per hour, which is why they sell “as is”. They simply don’t have the time to give a detailed description of all the items. Since almost all items at auction are sold AS IS, there are sure to be some damaged, refinished, fake and incomplete items at any given auction. Beware of any auctions that offer very little or no inspection time.

Good auctions will usually have 150 to 400 lots. A lot may be one item or a group of items. The exception to this are specialty auctions, auto auctions, real estate auctions etc.

When you attend your first sale, take note of the 1/2 dozen or so dealers that buy the most often. See if you can find out about other area auctions they attend.

When you do find an excellent auction, attend it as often as possible. By frequenting good sales, you help increase the bottom line of that business. It’s difficult for many auctioneers to keep the quality of merchandise consistent, so good attendance certainly helps. And when an auctioneer gets to know you as a buyer, he/she will go out of the way to accommodate you, to keep you coming back.

Auction Listings Are Vital to the Success of Fundraising Auctions

Fundraising Auction Tip: You should always provide potential bidders with a printed Auction Listing of both your Live and Silent Auction items at any Fundraising Auction. A printed Auction Listing is vital for several reasons:

An Auction Listing informs bidders of the order of sale, and what is coming up next. If you keep your bidders guessing, they will simply not bid.

If bidders are not 100% certain of what they are bidding on, they will not bid. A printed Auction Listing should answer any and all questions about what is being sold in order to encourage bidders to bid as much as possible.

Bidders often need time to plan their bidding strategies, especially on multiple and/or larger value items. A printed Auction Listing helps them to do that.

Couples often need time to consult with each other about what they are willing to spend on something. A printed Auction Listing helps them to do that.

Potential bidders need to know the specifics, the benefits, and the restrictions on any item they are going to bid on, especially on travel and/or other higher value items. A printed Auction Listing should answer all of their questions, in writing.

After bidders see that they have lost an item to another bidder, a printed Auction Listing makes it easier for them to re-strategize on what else they can bid on.
Printed Auction Listings generally come in 3 forms:

Printed in the Event Program or Auction Catalog.

Printed on loose sheets of paper and hand-inserted into the Event Program or Auction Catalog.

Printed on loose sheets of paper and hand-delivered to all attendees, or left on each dinner table in the room.
Auction Listings cost practically nothing to produce and they can make the difference between the success and failure of a Live and Silent Auction. You should never conduct a Fundraising Auction without one.

A Case Study

Let me share a real-life experience with you. Once I was hired to conduct a Fundraising Auction for a nationally renowned organization. The event was held in a major hotel, in one of the country’s largest cities, with several hundred “black tie” participants attending. It was an extremely professional event, with the music, singing, lighting, speeches, and awards all perfectly timed and choreographed. Everything was done to perfection… exception the Fundraising Auction.

Although I had signed an agreement to serve as their Auctioneer nearly one year in advance of the event, no one bothered to contact me for any advice or help. Approximately one week prior to the Auction date, I contacted the group to see if they had replaced me with another Auctioneer. But they said that I was still their man.

Upon arriving at the event I asked for a copy of the Auction Listing. I was told that there were none. I’m not sure whether they felt that the Auction Listing wasn’t necessary, or whether someone forgot to have them printed. This was never made clear. When I asked what I was to use at the podium, I was told to copy the list of Live Auction items from a committee member’s computer. It took me about 30 minutes to copy three pages of hand-written notes in order to prepare for my role as their Auctioneer.

I knew that they had created a PowerPoint program showing the various Live Auction items. When I asked whether the PowerPoint slide order corresponded to the order of sale I had copied from the committee member’s computer, I was met with a blank stare. The committee member left to check the slide order, and returned to let me know that the slide order did not correspond my notes, and he provided me with the correct slide order… hand-written on a paper napkin. This forced me to re-arrange my three pages of hand-written notes before taking the podium.

There was a Live Auction Table with descriptions of the Live Auction items that were to be sold, but the table was not clearly marked, and it received significantly less attention than the Silent Auction Tables, which were clearly identified. Since the Live Auction Table was located adjacent to the “Raffle Table”, it appeared that most people thought it was part of the raffle and therefore paid very little attention to it.

According to the event program (which did not include an Auction Listing), I knew approximately when I was to begin the Live Auction. At the designated time the Master of Ceremonies announced the start of the Live Auction to the several hundred people in attendance, and introduced me as Auctioneer. As I approached the podium I realized that photographs of award winners were still being taken… directly in front of the podium where I was to stand… which required me to stand aside for several minutes until the photographers were done. Can we say “awkward moment”?

As the photographers cleared, I approached the podium and began my Live Auction introduction. Approximately one minute into my introduction, the “Raffle Committee” approached the podium and stopped my Live Auction Introduction in order to pull the 8 or 9 Raffle Winners. These drawings lasted about 5 minutes. Upon it’s conclusion I was allowed to resume the start of the Live Auction.

When standing at the podium two intense and extremely bright spotlights were pointed directly at the podium. The lights were so bright that I literally could not see the center 1/3 of the room. I could see the tables on the right, and on the left, but was totally blinded when looking straight ahead. It took perhaps five minutes before the spotlights were turned off.

While at the podium and describing Lot #1, I had to ask someone to start the Lot #1 PowerPoint Slide… because apparently no one was assigned that job.

So with only the Auctioneer’s verbal description, and a PowerPoint slide, it appeared that few people in the room had any idea about what we were selling… or when we were selling it… until it was announced by the Auctioneer. As a result, bidding was extremely light and the final results fell several thousands of dollars short of where they should have been
The learning experience is this:

The Live Auction is where you place your better items, and where the real money should be made at any Fundraising Auction. Let bidders know as far in advance as possible what you will be selling, and the order of sale, so they can get excited about the Auction, and plan their bidding strategy accordingly.

Auction Listings are absolutely vital to the success of both Live & Silent Auctions. In my opinion, revenues at this Auction fell thousands of dollars short of where they should have been, because no Auction Listing was provided to the guests.

If bidders are not perfectly clear on what is being sold, including both the item’s specifics, benefits, and restrictions, they will not bid.

When you have a committee of volunteers, especially volunteers having full time jobs and/or very busy schedules, the services of a professional Fundraising Auctioneer can help to keep the committee on track.

And once you retain the services of a professional Fundraising Auctioneer… use the services that you are paying for.