Laurence and Sally Martin's Auction Tips

Laurence and Sally know how to stand out in a crowd at auction. Get their tips on how to make your mark and win big at auction, along with shrewd thrift store shopping advice.

At Auction
1. Make sure to ask how much the buyer’s premium is. This is an amount, usually 10% to 20%, that is paid by the buyer on top of the hammer price. For example, $100 with a 10% buyer’s premium will require the buyer to pay $110 for the item.

2. Always preview items, looking for condition, including defects, chips, cracks, missing or faulty pieces. Plug electronic items in to be sure they work. Do not bid instantly if you have not previewed the lot.

3. When bidding is low on an item, say $10, wait for the first bidder. Then bid second. Most of the time the second bidder will take the lot!

4. Beware: Some lots may offer multiples of an item. If the auctioneer says, “Times the money,” that means you will pay the winning bid times the number of items in the lot. Be careful. If the winning bid is $30, and there are 3 items, you may be paying 3 times $30. That’s $90 for your winning bid, not $30.

In the Thrift Store
1. Before going hog wild, you need to develop a certain knowledge or understanding of vintage/antique items. You can educate yourself by reading the free antique and collector guides from various shops; checking out the sold items on online auction sites such as eBay; and reading the description of various items online or in collector books.

2. When shopping for china, glass, etc., check for the manufacturer’s markings. These can tell you who made the item, in what country, and sometimes you will discern when it was made. Also, look for crazing (spidery-looking lines), chips and cracks, as well as wear to the edges and gold trim, if applicable. Look for heavy usage on dinnerware, too. Unless rare, nobody wants to buy anything overly used or damaged. Keep an eye out for serving pieces. They fetch much more than plates and cups.

3. When you are experienced, ask the owner about the best priced item that they have in the shop.

4. Never pay the tagged price. If the item or price tag is dusty or faded, the owner wants to sell it. When making an offer be polite. Don’t extend a ridiculous offer and make the seller not want to even sell it to you.

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