Antiques aren’t normally cheap, but in this down economy, there are bargains to be had at many antique auction houses. Some regional dealers and collectors are reporting lower prices at antique auctions, as well as fewer sales in antique shops. If you are in the market for antiques now may be a good time to hit those places, especially the auctions. Hammer prices are about as low as they are going to get in many parts of the country.
If you are in the United States, begin your search by picking up a copy of “Antiques and Auction News” at your local antiques mall or market. This periodical is national and free, usually found wherever antiques are sold. If you can’t find a hard copy of the most recent issue, the publisher has an online presence, listing upcoming auctions across the country. Another good auction house resource is found at AntiqueAuctionWeek.com which also lists national auctions.
Most live auction houses also have their own indivudual online presence, even if it is just a venue to advertise scheduled auctions, such as AuctionZip.com. If you sign up to be on their mailing lists, you’ll be updated regularly with the dates and times of their upcoming sales. Each upcoming sale will probably show pictures of the better items they will be offering.
Some of these auction houses post their past sales. Studying past sales is an excellent way to determine future prices, but not always. Prices at auction depend on the people in the audience. Every audience is unique and this uniqueness can sometimes cause a huge fluctuation in prices, but that’s the exception – not the rule. The difference in hammer prices from one region of the country to another can also be huge. Dealers will travel hundreds of miles if they are confident that the time and money spent on travel will be worthwhile.
Consider the buyer’s premium and any applicable sales tax when evaluating auction prices. Buyer’s premium is a percentage paid to the house above and beyond the hammer price. Sometimes the buyer’s premium is so high a good hammer price doesn’t matter. Watch out for this. Higher buyer’s premiums are understandable, because of the ever expading costs of doing business, but there are still some houses that only charge a BP (buyer’s premium) of 10%. These are the houses you want to track.
Determine where the best auctions are. If they are not local, try to schedule a trip that allows you to attend at least three or four different auctions in that same area. Should you be unable to travel, you can still pick up some of these out of town or out of state deals by taking advantage of absentee or telephone bids.
You can locate the items that interest you online. Most auction houses will allow you to call and leave bids with them. You will probably be required to provide them with your credit card information and you will also have to pay shipping on any of the items that you win.
Try not to buy big or heavy items out of your area, even if the prices are right. The cost of having these items shipped to you will eat up any savings you may have otherwise realized. Also keep in mind that you are bidding on items you have not seen in person. The auction houses will provide you with a condition report but that doesn’t mean they will take an item back if you are not happy with it. There is no substitution for viewing an item in person.
It is possible to make a killing when buying certain types of items in certain parts of the country – we see it all the time. For example, hand woven Oriental rugs sell for next to nothing in many parts of Florida because these areas are saturated with them. You can buy an Oriental rug in Florida for $150 and that exact same rug would sell for $1100 in Manhattan.
If you do the proper research you can come up with a certain classification of merchandise that sells well in your area but does not sell well in, say, Montana. This would warrant your keeping close tabs on all future auctions scheduled in Montana.
This type of research can be a daunting task but a profitable one if you do it right. If you locate enough merchandise in one area and you know you can do well with it, rent yourself a van and hit the open road. Otherwise, let your fingers do the walking and use the phone.
11/15/2011 by Anne Benedetto
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