Antiques, Art and Collectibles Auction Ploys

To bid or not to bid, that is the question. Then there are the little matters of how much to bid and when. News travels fast in the collectibles, antiques and art markets, and when excellent items come up for sale at an auction, chances are you won’t be the only bidder determined to acquire them.

Think of yourself as an athlete getting ready for the Olympics. You must train, strategize and move quickly. With more bidders than good collectibles in the world and with most bidders being pretty canny and well informed these days, you can count on a real contest.

And just as athletes often psych out their opponents, so should you be ready to do some head trips on the other bidders if you’re going to take home the “gold”—that prized collectible you desire. So prepare yourself.

Collectors take your mark—auction tips

Research the works you want to buy. Get acquainted with their provenance. Fix your budget in advance so you don’t get caught up in bidding mania. And decide whether you’re going to bid in person, by phone (register a day before), by absentee bid (register a day before) or online with real-time video and audio (register two days before).

Bidding by phone or online is popular both for the convenience and the anonymity it offers. If you are a bidder that is known for the quality antiques and collectibles you purchase, others might latch onto the item you’re aiming for and push the price far higher.

If attending in person, sit where you can clearly hear what the auctioneer is saying and get him/her to notice your upraised paddle. Misunderstandings are all too common in the fast-paced auction atmosphere.

Keep a cool head. Even if the conversation around you is full of interesting tidbits about the items for sale, don’t be swayed from your predetermined plan or volunteer too much information. It’s every man for himself at an auction, and people aren’t above taking advantage if you show a chink.

Win those collectibles

Alas, there are no surefire bidding strategies. You discover what works for you as you go along. You can—

• Bid from the very beginning and keep bidding until you win. Do this often with the cheaper items and other bidders, seeing your persistence, may just let you coast through when the pricey collectibles you really want come along. Then again, if they have the same idea, the same determination and more money, you’d just end up with a lot of unnecessary memorabilia.

• Wait until the auction is underway before making your bid. This gives you the opportunity to appraise the direction the auction could take.

• Wait until the bidding has slowed down to make your bid. Some collectors like to jump in just before the final hammer. Aside from the dramatic value, it can throw competitors. They may not be prepared to bid higher.

• Bid in small incremental raises. This is playing it safe and smart.

• Or, bid in large incremental raises. If done often, this can have an intimidating effect on other bidders. For example, if you top a $500 bid with $200 and continue at that rate, people will get wary about bidding against you, and you may win—and, if you’re lucky, at way below the estimated sales value.

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