Where do you buy your antique goodies from?

Hey guys! So this week isn't going to be full of pretty interiors pics, just FACTS.  If you're on the hunt for a stunning new antique piece for your home but have exhausted the local antique shops, flee markets, reclamation yards and Ebay, then why not try your local auction house.   It sounds like a pretty obvious route to go down but so many people (including me) are daunted by them.  To start with you've got to be antique savvy right (you don't)? Let alone knowing all the jargon the auctioneers use like "commission bids" and "buyers premiums".  

It's my ultimate DREAM to buy an insane piece of art work from Sotheby's or Christie's but for now I'm sticking to my local auction house run by TV legend Philip Serrell, just down the road in Malvern.    

I don't profess to be an expert at this antique game in any way, and I'm learning as I go, but I've been popping along to preview days for the last few months and in that short time I've learnt, at least some, of the ropes.  I wanted to share these with you today! Buying at auction is a great way to learn more about antiques, and potentially save money by cutting out that middle man.

First up: The Auction House Jargon

I had a vague idea of how auctions worked but some of the lingo used confused me, so let's start by looking at the jargon and what it all means. 

PREVIEW DAY - The day or couple of days prior to the auction itself. The chance for potential bidders to view the lots (this may extend to the morning of the sale too).  Check the auction house website for sale days and preview days.  

GENERAL SALE - The term used to describe a sale of all sorts - retro, antique, furniture, books etc etc.  More specific sales like fine art or jewellery auctions also run alongside general sales. 

LOTS - The item/s that are for sale.

VENDOR - The person/people or company that are selling the items to you, the bidder. 

BIDDER - That's you! The highest bid wins and purchases the lot there and then!

ESTIMATE - This is the price range of each lot at which the auctioneer believes the lot might sell at.  This may be set low to encourage bidding.  These 80's style pastel lamps below had an estimate of £5-£15, I bid £20 but they went for more.  It's so difficult to know how much things will sell for but you kind of learn as you go and the estimate is effectively a guide price.         


THE RESERVE  - This is the lowest price at which the vendor will sell their lot (you won't know what that is).  The lot will be withdrawn or "bought in" by the auction house if it does not meet the reserve.  It may then be possible to purchase that lot by negotiation after the sale. 

REGISTERING - You'll need to register your details before the sale with the auctioneer to enable you to bid, but anyone and everyone can bid. 

BIDDING - This can be done on the day with a bidding paddle and number, by absentee bid or by telephone bid. 


ABSENTEE BID OR COMMISSION BID - If you're not attending the auction itself but would like to bid you will need to make a commission or absentee bid by filling out a form (often called putting a bid "on the book") indicating the lots you are interested in and the highest price you are prepared to pay. During the sale the auctioneer will execute commission bids against those in the room and on the telephone. Telephone bidders are usually private dealers who wish to remain anonymous from the auction room.  

PAYMENT - Usually the lot becomes the property of the bidder once the hammer falls and immediate payment is made.  You may also receive an invoice in which you are given a time frame to make payment - double check this with your auctioneer. 

BUYERS PREMIUM - A charge made by the auctioneer as a percentage of the final hammer price.  VAT will usually be added on to the buyers premium.  Each auction house's premiums will differ but it's usually around 10%.

STORAGE AND COLLECTION - Auction houses normally want collection straight away and will charge for any storage after the sale (+VAT). Sometimes you can leave it for a day or two before collecting a bigger item but be sure to speak with the auctioneer and study their Terms & Conditions.  If you have arranged to store your lot for a period of time, look into your own insurance!  (Failure to collect within the agreed deadline may lead to lots being resold by the auctioneer, so take care).  Check to see if the auctioneer can arrange delivery if collection is not possible. 

PURCHASE PRICE - hammer price + buyers premium + VAT on the buyers premium + any storage or delivery charges + VAT. 

NOW FOR MY Tips on buying at auction

Now that you're equipped with the jargon here are a few pointers and tips for buying antiques at auction! 

1. Start with your local auction house if you can and get to preview day.  For a newbie keeping it local means you can physically see the items.  Personally I'm not ready to go down the online bidding route just yet. Even popping along to a few preview days without bidding is a great way to get into the antique auction groove and gives you an opportunity to study sold prices in your area of interest. 

2. Give yourself plenty of time on preview day to walk around a few times.   The second or third time you walk around might be the time you spot something you hadn't before.   

3. Have a budget in mind.  Taking into consideration the estimates and auctioneers costs on top explained above, have an idea of how much you want to spend.  It can be so easy to get carried away and spend three times as much as you can afford.

4. This sounds obvious but always have a use for the item you're bidding on.  Where will it go? What will you use it for? If it's a large piece of furniture you're interested in, get the vital measurements!  

5. Double check the items you're bidding on, especially if you're placing a commission bid.  The sticker system (the lot number is written on a sticker) attached to each lot can be a bit confusing so just make sure you're bidding on the right item with the correct lot number.  The auction house will most likely be packed to the brim of lots and be super busy with potential bidders, so double checking lot numbers against items is vital!   Also make sure you get a copy of your absentee bidding form so you can check items your bidding for. 

6. Invest only in things you like.  If you're buying something for your house then thats obvious, but if you decide to re-sell one day, it will be made all the easier by having genuine interest and knowledge of the item. 

7. If you’re starting a collection, buy the best you can afford.  This is especially true with china - stick to the big names and well known designers.   

8. Consider parcel lots - if you're interested in re-selling antiques consider parcel lots.  These are a few different items which get grouped into one singular lot.  The idea is that you can divide these up and re-sell individually if you're looking to make any cash on the side. 

9. Beware of restoration - if you think something has been tarted up with a paint job or has been restored in any way the advice is to steer clear, unless you absolutely love it, but this could de-value the piece should you decide to re-sell in the future. 

10. ASK ASK ASK - Do not be shy of asking how old a lot is, it's history, how much similar lots have sold for.  Glean as much information as you possibly can and determine your bidding level.  Auction houses are friendly places.  You don't have to be in any way an expert, just be clear about what you like and what you don't! 

I'm headed to my favourite LONDON auction house, Lots Road, next week.  I've been going there since I was 5 years old as my dad had a furniture business next door and it's HUGE.  A definite recommendation if you're in the SW3 area!  I have my eye on this glass, brass rimmed coffee table for our lounge.   


Let's see what happens! Guide price £150-£250.....

I hope this has been helpful? 

Have you bought anything from an auction before? As always I'd love to hear from you! If you enjoyed this then please feel free to share away via the links below.


Till next time lovely readers!