Discover Vintage America March 2012
First timers’ guide to live auctions
by Rhiannon Ross
Have you ever wanted to bid at a live auction but feared that by merely scratching your nose, you’d walk out with an expensive monstrosity that you wouldn’t want even if it were free?
This is a common but unfounded fear, says Jason Roske, auctioneer and owner of The KC Auction Company, in Kansas City, MO.
“It has happened where someone waved at friends and I thought they were bidding on something but they weren’t,” he says. “But that’s rare.”
Roske adds that, in this case, the person wouldn’t be stuck with merchandise they didn’t want.
“If we take an extra bid, we offer the item up again,” he says.
Charles Keller, an appraiser, researcher and writer at Dirk Soulis Auctions, in Lone Jack, MO, says the auction process isn’t as intimidating as it may seem.
“Auctioneers are aware of new faces in the crowd and they notice timid bidding habits,” he says. “Most auctioneers are very forgiving in the live bidding process, so there’s really no reason to be intimidated.” Roske recommends newbies witness a live auction once or twice without the pressure of bidding.
“It’s not your typical sales environment. But it’s lots of fun. Think of it like going to a dinner party for the first time or a flea market bazaar in a foreign country. You may feel uncomfortable at first but you’ll get the hang of it after trying it a few times. The trick is to be open to a new experience,” he says.
One benefit of purchasing items at auction is that you can score great deals on retail merchandise, as well as antiques.
“Antique dealers often purchase furniture at auctions for resale and you can save by buying directly at auction,” Roske says. “If you can look past someone else’s taste in upholstery or make it wonderful with wood polish, you can end up adding unique items in your home at prices that can’t be touched in antique shops or resale shops.”
Attending an auction is also a great social experience, Roske adds.
“People develop long-term friendships, sometimes over 20 or 30 years,” he says. “There’s food for sale. People come and make an evening out of it.”
Decoupage artist and Discover design writer, Durwin Rice, often attends auctions. He recently purchased two, matching small sofas that were once in the lobby of the historic Rafael Hotel in Kansas City, MO, for $225 each (valued, he says, at $1,500 each). After having them professionally cleaned, they now sit nestled in front of his fireplace.
“Auctions are the
baccarat table not only for quality goods, both high- and low-end, but if the
stars are in your oven, you can really score big,” he says. “You never know
what might come up and you might be the semi-expert in the room on an item and
get it for next-to-nothing. There’s a certain synergy that happens at auctions
that works for both the seller and buyer that you don’t get at an antique
Beth Ann Brubaker, Kansas City, MO, says she enjoys attending auctions not only for the great bargains but because it also provides her a glimpse into people’s lives.
“Especially at full estate auctions, it’s so interesting to see what people collect,” she says. “It’s fascinating to see what is sometimes a whole lifetime of treasures.”
Rhiannon Ross can be reached at email@example.com.
Here’s how a live auction typically works:
- Preview items online. Most auction houses have a website where you can view the condition of items several days before the live auction.
- Research the items you’re interested in to learn more about the history and value.
- Bring packing items such as boxes, tape, popcorn or blankets to help prevent breakage. If you think you’ll purchase larger items, bring a truck and dolly or be prepared to return with one in the time frame allowed at the auction house. Typically, auction houses don’t offer delivery service.
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Auctions last for hours and sometimes all day.
- Bring a notebook to keep track of items you wish to bid on and the top amount you will pay.
- Arrive early so you can walk around and preview the items again. Check out items in boxes that could be auctioned off together. Some auction houses host preview shows at other times.
- Check policies of auction house. Look for signs and ask for literature.
- If you intend to bid, you must register at the start of the sale. Most auction houses require that you show photo identification; some also require that you have a credit card on file. However, purchases can be paid for in cash, and sometimes, with an approved check. Also, if you’re a re-seller, please bring your tax identification so you will not be charged sales tax.
- After registering, you will be given a bid paddle or bid sign with a buyer’s number on it, which identifies you.
- Listen carefully: Most auctioneers have a preferred delivery style. It’s best not to bid on the first offer. Typically, auctioneers offer a starting price and when no one bids, lower the offer.
- Often, the auctioneer works with “ring people,” who help spot bidders and who transport and display items for the auctioneer.
- Once you decide to bid, hold your paddle or card up high enough so the auctioneer can clearly see it. Don’t be afraid to call out to the auctioneer should he or she not see you.
- If you find yourself in a bidding war but wish to opt out, just shake your head “no” and don’t display your paddle or card. Auctioneers usually will give you tips throughout the process on the best way to bid.
- Similar items may be auctioned as a “lot.” For example, six stamp collections may be auctioned at once and the final bidder of the lot can decide to take one or more of these items, each for the final price (ex., $25 for each item or $75 for three items). The buyer has the option to choose how many items he wants at that price. The rejected items will then be auctioned off again.
- When it’s time to settle up, revisit the booth or desk where you registered to pay your total bill. Auctioneers charge a buyer’s commission or percentage of the sale. Signs will be posted informing you of this in advance. Auction houses also charge sales tax; again, this is waived if you show a re-seller tax identification form.
- Make arrangements to take your purchases home. Ask about pick-up policies and time frames. Many auction houses can provide you with contact information for delivery services, who will charge a fee. Auction houses also may be able to provide you with contact information for upholsterers, refinishers and restorers.
Dirk Soulis Auctions, 529 West Lone Jack, Lee’s Summit Road, Lone Jack, MO 64070; 816-697-3830, www.dirksoulisauctions.com
The KC Auction Company, Jason Roske, auctioneer and owner, 1106 Santa Fe, Kansas City, MO 64101, 816-283-3633, http://kcauctioncompany.com
KCPT Appraisal Fair
Bring up to three items for evaluation and appraisal to Kansas City Public Television’s Appraisal Fair, Saturday, April 21, 2012, at the Overland Park Convention Center, 6000 College Blvd., Overland Park, KS. Auctioneer Jason Roske will be one of the show hosts. For more information, visit http://kcpt.org.
Antiques the subject of new reality show
The National Geographic Channel will host a new, 10-episode reality series on antiques in America’s Lost Treasures,” beginning Monday, March 5. Kansas City’s historic Union Station and Missouri Town, along with auctioneer Jason Roske, will be featured in one of the shows. Played like a game show, participants could be eligible for a $10,000 award and inclusion in a future National Geographic exhibit. For more information, visit http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/america-s-lost-treasures.
International Society of Appraisers