Bidding Etiquette and Conventions

Bidding at auction has a set of seemingly unwritten “rules” which I am now going to reveal by writing them down.

Firstly minimalist bidding is a feature of Lovejoy and other auction related programmes but next to useless for oak aged auctioneers such as ourselves. We “sell” you a bidding card for you to vigorously signal your bid.  Preferably do this against a dark background and at a height approaching that of a low flying drone.  Nods and winks, little flicks of the wrist, hiding behind other bidders and bidding with your left foot, will all fail to get our attention.  We are pretty good at filtering out coughs, sneezes, nose cleansing and nit removal but if you think we have taken a bid from you which was unintended please tell us ASAP.

Secondly don’t hang about.  If you bid first you will get the lot for the lowest possible price.  Anyone who bids after you will have to bid more than you. If you bid again you will still be getting it for the lowest possible price.  If you wait until the auctioneer says £5 and 25 people put their hands up, you may not get in the bidding (see third point).  If you entered a bid at £10 maybe only one other person would have joined in and be bidding against you. The other 23 people will have lost interest.  Once bidders have started they are more likely to carry on and out bid you.  Psych them out by bidding early.

Thirdly when there are multiple bids, the auctioneer will do their best to pick the first two bidders, bid them up and ignore everyone else.  They will only bring in fresh bidders when one of the first two, stops bidding.  Then its pot luck who they choose.  So reiterating my second point, bid early and not with the mostly ignored masses.

Fourthly auctioneers are acting for the sellers and their meaning in life is to get the maximum amount for each lot.  before you point it out, this benefits the auctioneers as well.   Sometimes the auctioneer has agreed a sensible reserve with the seller, sometimes sellers impose unrealistic reserves and sometimes the auctioneer believes it is not in theirs or the sellers best interest to sell a valuable item at a rock bottom price.  The auctioneer will attempt to get the bidding going and drive the bids towards the reserve.  Sometimes they will show some discretion and sell below the reserve.  They are permitted to bid up to the reserve but not beyond unless they intend to buy themselves (which they are also allowed to do). It’s the bidders choice about when they stop bidding. If an item does not sell, you may be able to negotiate a sale at the desk.

Fifthly if you are the winning bidder, hold you bidding card up high with the number facing the auctioneer and the right way up.  The auctioneers deliberately don’t remember the numbers during the bidding process because they could write the wrong number down on the selling sheet.  They are concentrating on spotting bidders and remembering the bidding  increments.  If you win hold your bidding card up high.  It will also help the auctioneer to spot if two people think they have won and sort it out!  Make sure the auctioneer calls out your number. If they don’t, shout.

Last but not least remember to include the buyers commission in your valuation of the lot.  At our auction it is currently 10% but at many large commercial auctions this can amount to 25% of the hammer price and with VAT on the commission for pre-owned items.  At auctions of new items this can approach 50% with VAT on the hammer price and commission.

I hope this has improved your understanding of the bidding process.  If you think I have missed something or have any questions please comment below.