As I sit here in my newly furnished ‘study corner’ in my living room, I think I can safely say my first Auction Room experience has been a great success. It has also given me a new, fully affordable addiction – because after you’ve been once, you will definitely go back.
Some auction rooms offer catalogues of items, some list their items online. Others, like the auction room in my area, allow you to go along and view items before coming to the auction which is held every Wednesday night.
So, I go along on Tuesday afternoon to have a good look at the items, and have to be dragged away an hour later by my protesting partner. The furniture can be anything: there is everything from old wooden chests to a piano (which I desperately wanted); a huge vintage desk, a rather funny looking retro lamp, and a selection of ’70s armchairs. If you are coming for the vintage value then you definitely won’t be disappointed, but neither will you be let down if you are coming for practicality – there are three piece suites, beds of all shapes and sizes, and even major kitchen appliances. There are hundreds of old books which will sell by the box, and event quaint little trinkets, photos and teapots. You really might find anything, there are no boundaries. After reminding myself on several occasions that I live up two flights of stairs and therefore a piano/vintage cabinet/old fireplace will most definitely not fit into my flat, I note down the numbers of a few items I like, and then return on Wednesday night for the auction…
The atmosphere is friendly, relaxed and busy with people viewing items; and of course the distinct sound of the auctioneer calling out in the background really completes the experience. It is something you only really ever expect to see on TV (Cash in the Attic on day-time BBC, anyone?) rather than experience in real life, and it is fantastic.
The first and perhaps best piece of advice I can give is that you will undoubtedly be mingling with a multitude of old men who are interested only in bidding on boxes of fishing equipment. And the first couple of hundred lots will be said boxes of fishing equipment. This makes for a long and tedious wait on the more interesting items coming up that you might want to bid on, so it is definitely not necessary for you to be too keen and arrive for the auction starting (unless you want to bid on fishing equipment…) The timing really is a matter of judgement depending on how far down the list your items of interest are, although so far I have generally stuck to going along about an hour after the auction starts.
Whilst you wait for your items to come up, you are free to look around and view the items at leisure. This means that you are not necessarily obliged to go along before the auction to view the items; you can just view them on the night, but it is generally a better idea to go and view before when it is quiet and you can take as long as you like to view items. Additionally, by going before the auction, you can go away and take time to think over the items you want to bid on. This way you may be less likely to purchase items impulsively on the night – something which is very easy to do.
Bidding on items is something which seemed quite daunting to me at first, but in fact it is very relaxed and easy to do. Upon arrival, I am offered a card with a number on it, which is to be used for bidding. I write my name and address on a sheet next to my corresponding number, so that paying for any items after the auction is quick and easy. To bid on an item, you simply hold the card up for the auctioneer to see – and definitely don’t go waving it around absent-mindedly when you don’t want to bid: a lesson well learned during my second visit to the auction rooms in which the woman who came with me managed to accidentally offer up £40 for a box of light fittings…
Once you have bid on all the items you want to you simply go and pay for your items. The overall price you pay will often include a service charge of around 10% i.e. if your winning bid is £10 you will actually pay £11. You are then free to either take your items home with you or arrange delivery if it is offered by the auction rooms.
And that, quite literally, is all there is to it. In fact, the process is so straight-forward and enjoyable that I was surprised the auction rooms were so quiet; much quieter than I had expected when there are so many treasure bargains to be found there. Rather, I had expected auction rooms to be a known hotspot for the vintage items and antique furniture pieces – things which are in such high demand today. Furthermore, I was expecting an epic battle against a determined bidder to win my items.
However, quite the contrary, it seems to be the exact opposite: a hidden gem for sourcing some wonderful antique pieces at unbelievably low prices, and one which I whole-heartedly recommend anyone to take advantage of whilst it remains so.
A FEW TIPS TO TAKE FROM MY EXPERIENCE…
1. Be prepared to do a bit of waiting around. Wrap up warmly if the auction is held in somewhere which might be cold if you’re standing around.
2. On that note, if you know the numbers of the items you want to bid on, try to time your arrival with an estimated time at which your items might start coming up.
3. Decide on an amount of money you are willing to spend before you go in order to stop impulse buying.
4. When bidding, do not immediately place a bid when the auctioneer states the opening price. It is not uncommon to hear “£100 for this? No, nobody… a couple of pounds then?” By holding back, you might get your item for a much lower price than the original opening price.
5. If you miss the auction on an item you wanted, and the item didn’t sell, don’t be afraid to ask if you can still buy it – this is how I acquired my typewriter.
6. If you are planning to pay for delivery, remember you will likely only have to pay one set delivery fee no matter how many items you are getting delivered.
Desk (with sewing machine underneath) – £24
’70s Armchair – £10
Old Radio – £10
Old Typewriter – £2
Red flowery fabric on desk – £2, eBay