It’s Not Your Father’s Auction Any More
inJune 19, 2012 - 5:36am
Have you taken advantage of the buying opportunities of a “live online auction” ? This latest trend in auctions can let you bid and buy at a sale just about anywhere. It can be a great way to purchase inventory for your store, or find rare pieces for your collection.
A “live online” is a selling event conducted by an auction company at a physical location where an auctioneer is in charge and calling bids, and a crowd of people is present to bid on items in person, while the event is simultaneously being transmitted via the internet to people submitting bids by computer from distant locations.
Increasing numbers of auction houses are utilizing live online bidding to reach out to bidders who can’t or prefer not to physically attend. Most auctioneers do not own the necessary software, instead reaching out to a separate company to host the service. There are three main companies that do this: Live Auctioneers; AuctionZip; and Proxibid. All have easy to find websites, and are very self explanatory. The way for a would-be bidder (you) to break into the scene is to register and create an account with one or more of them. After doing so, you’ll be able to find auctions through them and sign up to bid in future auctions. All have “help” functions that can answer any questions.
Like anything else, some “tricks of the trade” can make participating in a live online auction less daunting. Once you find item(s) you’d like to bid on, register with the service company to participate. Make sure your computer system meets the requirements: for instance, you may need to download/update programs such as Java.
Bookmark a copy of the auction catalog well in advance, and look through it for potential items to bid on. Live online auctions may provide only the briefest of item descriptions: ask for a specific condition report. Do not assume anything about an item’s condition. Read all the auction terms: live online auctions can demand very high “buyer’s premium” (a fee you must pay, based on the hammer price is of your item). Shipping often is handled by a third party, separate company, likely meaning additional charges! Be sure you find out before bidding what conditions you must meet and charges you’ll be assessed if you win.
When the auction begins, a “console” will appear on your screen that provides a real time account of what is happening on the actual bidding floor, along with the photo and catalog description of the item being bid upon and a “bid bar” which you must click to place a bid.
If online auctions are a completely new experience, sign up for a practice run – a “dress rehearsal” auction you can attend in which you don’t plan to bid on anything! This is a great way to become familiar with how an auction proceeds and get comfortable with the console you’ll be working with when you finally want to place bids. Depending on your internet service and speed, it’s a good idea to close out of all other programs, running only the auction.
Once you’ve practiced and actually participated a time or two, live online auctions can be fun as well as great buying tools. One last warning is that bidding by computer is not infallible. Blips and service interruptions can prevent your bid from reaching the auction in time – or lock you out of bidding at all.
Murphy’s Law says that when that once-in-a-lifetime chance comes along to bid on something you can’t live without, your electric service will go down or your computer will crash. Protect yourself as well as possible by using Father’s old tried and true method: pick up the telephone several days ahead of the sale, contact the auction house directly, and ask them for an absentee or telephone bid. Father isn’t out of the picture, yet, at all!
Written by: Jane Silvernail
Time’s Treasures Railroad & Country on Ruby Lane