I like objects with a story, a history – items that are different, funky, unusual…items well made. I’ve talked a lot about my dump finds, but not about my other love – auctions. I love auctions. They get my heart pounding and my legs jumping. Auctions are great places to find all sorts of things – all sorts of things, old and well made; antique bird cages, dress makers busts, mechanic chests (amazing small wooden chest, 2-3′ in height, with a number of very thin drawers), wooden trunks (with ornate hardware or no hardware), pottery, well made furniture, leather bound books, iron gates, vintage water dispensers, all sorts of Americana, printers’ drawers, lighting, bronze urns, architectural ornaments, iron beds, chandeliers, silver, jewelry, hand-woven rugs, art, antique linens, nautical objects…the list goes on and on, it all depends what your into…I’ve always been drawn to utilitarian objects. The simpleness and usefulness of these objects is what exudes beauty to me. Not to mention, quality. A pile of linens, old silverware, chipped enamel ware – items which are practical, yet aesthetically pleasing offer an unpretentious, relaxed look and are still useful today…not to mention the fact you are reusing, repurposing and/or recycling.
old silver – $1 ‘box lot’ (box of odd’s and ends – this silver was in it)
dressmakers bust – $75 – went as low as $14…I finally ‘won’ at $75 – steal!
Picking up bargains at an auction is not always easy, though it is worth the try. If you’ve never been to one, but have wanted to – just go. Check it out. Make notes on what items sell for and what the opening bid was. Try bidding on something inexpensive, just to see how it feels. I was intimidated at first – everyone seemed so confident and it all happens so quickly – one slight hesitation and the piece your after is gone! Or worse, you get so caught up in the bidding (and the ‘want’) that you lose sight of what it’s going to cost you. Remember, 10-15% (or more) will be added on to the purchase price for the auction house profit. You’ll be reminded of this when you go to pay for your items – it can add up.
My advice is always attend the preview. This is held prior to the actual auction. A preview may be held the day before or an hour or two before the actual auction. Look items over carefully – open and close drawers, look on the underside of furniture/paintings, inspect what it is your after; everything is sold as is…also, if it is a larger item (one that won’t fit in your car), find out about storage fees in advance – if it’s going to cost you an additional $30 for the auction house to ‘store it’ for you, then maybe it’s not such a great deal or maybe it is? Lastly, don’t forget to check out the ‘box lots’. These are boxes filled with an odd assortment of items. They may be related objects or random. I found this bust in a box lot of random items which cost me $1.
Also, while your attending the preview, be sure to make notes on the pieces that ‘pull’ you (interest you) and then keep a ‘highest’ price in your mind – and on paper – better enabling you not to get ‘caught up in the moment’ and over bid. Over bidding is just as bad as not bidding…
If you find yourself getting ‘hooked’ (I did) and auctions become a part of your weekly routine, you will start to notice regular buyers (and what they bid on) as well as what things go for. Meaning, you will start to know a good deal when you see one. A good deal depends on the market value of the item at the time of the auction and who else is bidding against you (antique dealer, buyer, collector). For example, one auction I used to attend regularly had a buyer who would always bid on all lighting fixtures, regardless of condition; lamps, chandeliers, etc., he owned an antique lighting store. He had the capital and the reassurance in knowing he would (eventually) make his money back plus a profit, thus he was willing bid higher than most, almost always guarantying himself a great buy. One day, he was not there. I was so excited. There was a chandelier up for auction and I had been looking for one. I was able to score this incredibly beautiful bronze chandelier for $7! Yes, you read that right – $7.00.
Just the crystals alone are worth over $100. If he had been there, I’m sure we would have gotten into a ‘bidding war’, and he most likely, would have won.
Most importantly have fun, get your number up there and keep track of what your spending. Not only for each item, but your running total, and remember to include the ‘buyers premium’ (10% +). Spend within your budget. For me, the best part of attending any auction (there are a lot of different types of auctions) is the energy – the blase attitude of the seasoned buyers, the speed of the auctioneers voice and the fact that you just scored a great deal on a piece that most likely no one else will ever have.
Butterfly assemblage from Rio – $7. I removed original frame and placed in shadowbox, total cost $10.
Large wicker laundry basket, with handles – $5.
Cake dome – $3, found in box lot. Base I picked up at Salvation Army – $2. Total cost $5.
Printers tray – $14. Shells, priceless. Collected on travels.
S – O – L – D – that is music to my ears, especially when it’s under $10.