Antique auction houses aren’t as available or even as appreciated as they once were. However, when people are looking for the ‘real deal’, visiting an actual auction proves to be much more enjoyable than shopping online. There are plenty of local neighborhood shops around the world as well as some big-name auction houses like Sotheby’s or Christie’s. The trick to success is knowing how things work and how you can avoid getting played by the system.
Typically, antique auction houses have a buyer premium that they charge to each seller that comes out of the auction price. For example, if you go and sell an antique at auction that sells for $5,000, the auctioneer will get a certain percentage of that money as their fee for hosting the auction and taking care of the sale. If you are a buyer, you don’t have to worry about this fee but it will come out of what you pay for an item. Many items are there on consignment, which means that they take them from people and instead of paying them up front, they take the item to auction. If it sells, they give the seller a portion of the profits and keep the rest for themselves. Typically, the commission percentage will be around 10% at most venues, but you need to verify what is charged before you list just to be certain.
Keep in mind there are employees to pay, overhead costs to cover, and their own profits to make. This is where they make their money. Antique auction houses aren’t out to get people, for the most part, but they do get paid for the services that they offer. While online auctions are great and help cut down on overhead costs and other expenses, they don’t have the same feel or atmosphere as a traditional auction. Many antique collectors are fearful that the auction house will be replaced by the internet, but with the environment that is a large part of the hobby in the first place, it will likely be a very long time before that happens, if it ever does.
These establishments have been around for decades and they aren’t going anywhere. If you’ve never been to the auction, there is never a better time than now to check it out for yourself. Just take the time to learn about the fundamentals first, including the inside tricks and secrets that experts won’t tell you so that you can be an informed buyer or seller within the auction house setting. Check your local neighborhood for antique auction houses so that you can see what places are near you, and then go out and visit them on auction day. You might just be surprised how much fun you have with your antiquing in this setting once you know what you are doing. When it comes to antiques, the internet just can’t compete with a traditional auction house atmosphere because that is half the fun.
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