Buying at Auction

Auctions can be a good way to both buy and sell antiques. There are a few things that you need to aware of if you have never been to an auction before.

Viewing Days

Auction houses will have the items for sale on display before the day of the auction as well as sometimes on the actual day to give you time to look at them and ask any questions. Make sure you are happy to bid on the item and set your maximum price and do allow for the buyers premium (see Auction Fees below)


In order to bid you will need to register your details with the auctioneers and they will give you a number to display when you bid at the auction. Many auctioneers now have online bidding (extra fees might be charged) and telephone bidding if you can't attend. You can also leave a 'bid on the book' with the auctioneer to bid on your behalf. Find out from the auctioneer what you need to do to take advantage of these methods.

Auction Fees

An auction house, as with any other businesses need to make money. The auctioneers make their money from charging the both the seller and the buyer a premium, a percentage of the price achieved. This fee in the UK is subject to VAT (value added tax at 20%). Therefore when you buy, remember that a winning bid of £100 will have a commission fee plus VAT. For example, if the buyers premium is 15% plus VAT, would mean a £100 winning bid will cost in total £118.00. That could be £18 more than you thought if you didn't know this. Therefore, when you set your maximum price include the fee!

Don't Get Carried Away

As mentioned already, set your maximum spend on an item and stick to it. There may at times be items that you had no intention of bidding on but capture your attention during the auction. You might be tempted to bid on them without having examined them. If they seem to be very cheap and the bids dry up, the temptation might be to have a 'cheeky bid'. It might turn out that the item is a bargain but the reason others haven't bid as expected might be it's not worth anymore. It's best to only bid on items you have worked out for yourself the most you are prepared to pay. Before the auction, check the catalogue to make sure you don't miss things you would like to buy and examine these before bidding.

You Win!

If your bid is the highest and the hammer goes down you win and you can't change your mind. You have just agreed to buy the item at the hammer price plus fees.

Happy auctioning!

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