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Internet auctions mystify even the most internet-savvy. Ebay, Yahoo, Amazon and many other sites boast that they have hundreds of thousands, even millions of items up for sale. You are just interested in bidding on a tea cup to add to your collection. How do you start?

(1) Register for the site. Make sure it is reputable by checking with other people and sites to see what sort of reputation it has. All of the big name auction sites, such as those listed above, do a credible job. Register for the site by going to their Registration page, picking a screen name and password for yourself and logging in.

(2) Find the item number that you are interested in. Each auction item has its own unique number. Follow the individual site's directions by either clicking onto the item as you see it, or entering the item number on a separate form.

(3) Now for the tricky part: Assess how much the item is offered for, what you think it to be actually worth to you. Is that tea cup something that you have been looking for for a long time, and something that would complete a collection? If so, it might be worth quite a bit to you. Is the tea cup just something that has caught your eye? If so, it might not be worth as much to you. Figure out what it is worth and enter the maximum price that you'd pay for it. Even if the bid right now is $5, go ahead and enter that maximum bid of $25. That is not necessarily what you will pay for it. (Note that there is a charge to ship the tea cup to you, and that is listed in the item description. If you don't see this information, either email the person who is auctioning the item, or don't bid. You are usually responsible for shipping charges and you will want to know exactly what they are and if they are reasonable.)

(4) Now, fill out the rest of the form and relax a bit. The auction will go on for a few more hours, days, or perhaps a week. Note the end date of the auction. You'll usually get an email telling you that the auction is complete. If no one bids over your high bid, you will win the auction. If someone has decided that they will pay more than your $25, then you'll lose the tea cup. (It should be noted that no one is able to find out how far you will bid; that is, what you maximum bid is, so everyone in the auction is just entering what they feel that they will pay.)

(5) If you have the high bid, the seller will email you promptly (if he has not gotten in touch with you in 24-hours, send your own email.) In this communication, he will give you the address to remit your payment to. Send a check (most sellers will wait until it clears) or a money order (most sellers will send the item right away with this form of payment) but NEVER cash!

(6) Wait for your item to arrive. Isn't internet bidding fun?