March 1st, 2016
To try something new I decided to attend my first live public auction last week, which is something I've never experienced before. I arrived at 2:30pm about a half hour before the actual auction was set to commence at 3pm. Happily there was free parking at this easy to find location. Once inside the door I was greeted with fresh coffee and homemade muffins which I passed up (for now) in order to focus my attention on the registration window ahead. Naturally there would be some sort of initial registry process for all this, or else how would bids be connected to whom? Somewhat surprisingly I wasn't asked for identification, credit cards or anything else. I simply filled out a card with my name, phone number, home address and email address. Done!
There was a tear-away office portion and I was given a large 3 digit number hand-drawn with a sharpee marker. That and the catalog of tonight's upcoming items and now I was ready for business! As expected a crowd had already gathered inside before I arrived, since the preview of available items begins hours before the commencement of the actual auction. There was an eclectic array of people already present; many were waiting to bid on the first items which, in this case, just happened to be furnishings from a recently closed restaurant. Teac tables and teac chairs, oversized artwork, genuinely vintage accent pieces...all from a foreclosed eating establishment.
So while it's my first real auction, what I've failed to include is that I've done some homework. Most auctions nowadays have modern techniques... and that means online bidding supplements the onsite bidding. In advance was able to see exactly what's being offered, and when, as each item comes with a couple of pictures. Each item up for bid is given its own unique number, so on a piece of paper I jotted down the numbers of the items I wanted to bid on (or what I was interested in). At least it's an even playing field since everyone is able to preview the items. Now, online previewing is not mandatory since 1) buyers can preview first-hand all the items early at the auction location before it even begins, and 2) there is catalog available that lists all of the upcoming items.
Using their own web-based preview allows me to properly research my auction wishlist, look at online eBay/craigslist pricing etc. It's important to remember that items sold at auction are as-is without warrantees or guarantees and there are no refunds. Factor this into your pricing, especially for electronics. Also noteworthy is that while minimum bids typically start at $10, online bidders have been busy bidding in advance, and the highest online bid aka current bid essentially becomes the set price "minimum bid" when the actual action commences. It's a known fact that in terms of statistics 75-80% of internet bids will win each auction item, solely because of the high number of people bidding online versus those who actually show up in person. Having said that, all bidders who are present will still have an opportunity to obtain any of the items since they get the last bid, so to speak.
The conductor of the auction, or auctioneer, refers to the online current bid for an item and begins the auction price from there. Often online bidders will have set up their own "max bid" price to each individual item so to ensure that poachers (I think that's the correct term) don't outbid them with small increases - they do it with items they really want but don't want to necessarily pay their own high "max bid" price. In the event that there is a bidding war between someone online and with someone who's at the auction, the new high dollar value is entered online in real-time (by the auctioneer's assistant) to see if the online bid will increase due to a set "max bid". If not, then the person at the auction will win with the highest bid.
For this auction there were over 800 items up for bid, and this can (and will) take a considerable amount of time to complete. If some of your items in your wishlist are assigned high numbers like 600 - 800, I recommend you eat first and get comfortable because you'll be there for at least 6 hours. In my situation my first item that I was interested in was listed as number 258 which took nearly 2 hours to get to - so there's a certain degree of downtime for those who are there only to acquire specific things, like me. Most of my desired items were in the 600-650 range which didn't start to come around until 8pm, nearly 6 hours since I arrived. That's OK because I was there for the experience!
After I bid on (and won) my last auctioned item, I rushed over to the pay wicket where it was time to settle my debt. There I presented my 3-digit card and a printout was produced which contained a list of all my items that I won, as well as the total price. It's important to remember that there's 18% buyer's premium fee (with a 3% cash discount) that's added on top of the total as well as applicable taxes (PST/GST = 12% in BC). So a whopping 27% was thrown onto my initial cost of $205 which brought the total to $260. Now that I had my list I handed it to a staff member who adeptly went around the warehouse to collect my items.
Now on to indexing and listing these great finds at CaribooCollectibles...