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Check antiques publications and local newspapers to locate antique auctions in your area. If you don't know about regional antique publications, ask a dealer at a local shop or mall to recommend publications. Be sure to read the ad carefully to learn the time for the auction preview, procedures for accepting checks, and availability of seating, food, and restrooms. Check to see if there is a buyer's premium, which can add as much as 15% to the final purchase price.
Do your homework and study the values and trends in your collecting interest. It is also important to decide at what level you want to collect. Do you want a quantity of lower end items or several better pieces?
Plan to attend the auction preview, which is your opportunity to examine all items being sold before they are put up for auction. You can decide if that antique doll is wearing an original outfit, examine the marks on the bottom of a dish, or check the construction of drawers in a desk. Be sure to see if items of interest to you are chipped, cracked, stained, or missing pieces. A magnet, tape measure, flashlight, magnifying glass and even a list or pictures of your collection may help you at an auction preview. Do not mar any items by scraping or applying chemicals. After all, they're not yours until you get the final bid.
Learn the lingo. If a set of 6 chairs are sold "times the money" the successful bidder must take all 6 chairs at the high bid price multiplied by 6. A $20 high bid "times the money" means all 6 chairs sold for $120. If the chairs are sold "choice" the high bidder may choose 1 or more chairs at $20 each.
Before the auction, each bidder registers and gets a bidding number on a card. Once the auction begins, if you want to bid on something, simply raise your bid card. The auctioneer and the ringmen keep track of who's bidding. If you're not sure if they see you, simply ask, "Is that my bid?" If you no longer want to bid, put down your card and shake your head no. Your bid is as important as anyone else's bid.
If you are the successful bidder, hold up your bidding number. It's helpful to keep track of what you bought by writing the item and final price on the back of your bid card.
Remember you are responsible for the safety and transportation of all items you purchase. Be prepared. Bring boxes and paper if you plan to buy breakable items. A truck is essential to transport furniture and other large items.
Be sure to pay the cashier prior to leaving the auction. If you enjoyed the auction, ask to be put on their mailing list so you'll know about other auctions in your area.
Relax and enjoy the auction. If you make a few mistakes in buying, they will probably be offset by the fun you had and the bargains you bought.