Buying at Auction during lockdown…

Hammer up…hammer down….Buying at Auction in 2020……. An Auctioneers tips…

Perhaps beyond school boy Latin or an auctioneers stock Latin of ‘caveat emptor’, the origins of the word auction come from the Latin  ‘auctum’ broadly translated as ‘I increase’. Through history this is usually what happens to a price in an auction…it goes up. Bid with a hand, a wink, a nod, a wave, written down, or on a telephone and now as technology advances and times change, through the technology of the internet. 

Auctions date back in history many thousands of years to the Roman and Greek empires, however the modern auction as perhaps it is known today started to gain some favour in the 18th Century with Christies being founded by James Christie in the 1760’s. The development of auctions since then has seen advances in technology that have been game changers, photography perhaps one area that comes to mind, but it is unlikely there has been a more influencial change than the dawn of the internet. 

There are 2  developments in the world of auctions in the last 50 years that have at times created significant commentary, the dawn of the buyers commission in 1975, and in the early 2000’s the dawn of auction online marketing and bidding. However both appear to be here to stay and in these challenging times the world of the internet and online bidding are key to running an auction at minimum risk to all.     

Back in the 17th Century the concept of the ‘candle auction’ was popular. It was a simple formula where the last bid shouted out before the candle went out was the winner. To help ensure you do not get your fingers burnt in the modern world of auctions, here are some tips to help from the rostrum:   

  1. Once you have identified a lot you may be interested in read the description carefully and study the photograph, if you require any further information contact the auction house for a more detailed description often referred to as a ‘Condition Report’, or ask a  specific question.  
  2. If the photographs available online are not enough or the angle you require is not pictured, ask the auctioneers to send you further images. 
  3. Condition reports and extra photographs take time to process,and during these times requests have increased many fold so get your requests in early to avoid any disappointment.   
  4. When it comes to registering to take part in the auction always try and register in plenty of time. You may experience teething problems or if there is a question over your registration it can take time to resolve. 
  5. Once the auction starts, get involved with your bidding as soon as you can. Remember you can see the auctioneer, they cannot see you so cannot use any other sign of your intention other than you pressing the button and participating. 
  6. Online auctions are often slower than those in different times, so if you are planning your timing take this into account. Ask the auction house how many lots per hour they might do.  
  7. Although auctioneers may be closed to public attendance, bidding online may not be the only way you can participate, you may be able to leave direct commission bids with the auctioneers, or book a telephone line. Contact the auctioneer to find out all the options 
  8. Be sure you are aware of all the charges you may have to pay depending on how you intend to bid to avoid any surprises and to help you set your limit. 
  9. In these strange times remember to plan carefully how you pare to get hold of your winning lots and do not get caught out by size, weight or cost. Options might include pack and post direct from the auctioneer, courier, mail companies and some auction houses may have a limited direct and controlled collection service. If you are unsure speak to the auctioneers before the auction and get any relevant quotes. 
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  11. After the sale if you are experiencing any challenges over your purchase, contact the auctioneers and keep them informed.
  12. Occasionally items may go unsold during a sale. If you are interested in any of these items contact the auctioneers direct after the sale to see if a deal can be done on these items.     

Remember when the hammer goes down….it’s sold. Stay safe, good luck and happy hunting ‘online’!

Auctions Covid Style

I remember many, many years ago, when my father was alive and computers were in their infancy, having a discussion with him about the internet and he said to me “one day we will sell a whole auction on a computer and no one will be in the saleroom”. I remember laughing with him in a “Yeh, right Dad?!” sort of a way. Well Dad…. you were right.

Last Monday at Sheffield Auction Gallery that happened. No one there, but everyone there, no need to distance because everyone was at home. It was amazing and the prices were exactly what we would have expected from a “regular” auction and in some cases, better.

One thing Covid-19 has done for us all is to make us think outside of the usual box our thoughts tend to be restricted to. The pub pulling pints of beer from the back of a van, until it was stopped. The restaurants turning into takeaways. Endless small shops delivering food, filling a gap the supermarkets can’t cope with. The list goes on and on.

Believe it or not, the auction fraternity is also thinking outside of it’s own little box. Well, some of us are. Now it is well known in many circles that my ability with and love of, all things IT is questionable, so it is difficult for me to take any credit for Monday’s auction, but by golly I am still going to bask in it’s glory. It was brilliant.

This is the way forward through our Covid-19 experience and ourselves along with some of the other Auction Houses around the country are marching onward. When the present crisis is a dim and distant memory these sales will still be running alongside the regular auctions.

Collection of goods following the sale will still be very controlled with strict distancing observed by all and of course the postal delivery service will take a great deal.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website