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How To Win At Your First Art Auction

Art auctions can be intimidating places. Here's how to get it right on your first visit to one.

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Art auctions can be intimidating places. Here's how to get it right on your first visit to one.

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How To Win At Your First Art Auction

Art auctions can be intimidating places. Here's how to get it right on your first visit to one.

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If you’re about to head off to your first art auction then you’re probably feeling a mixture of emotions.

You’ll be excited at the prospect of coming home with an amazing new piece, but you’ll also feel quite a bit of trepidation when you think about the speed of the proceedings, or about losing a bid, or even buying something that turns out to be worthless!

How can you avoid the pitfalls and make a success of your first steps into the world of auctions?

Well, there’s a few easy guidelines that you can follow to make things easier for you and to give you more of a chance of coming home with a prize.

Note down the lot number of the pieces you’re after

If you’re into art, then you’ll be more likely to research the name of the artist and the background of the work. Of course, this is very interesting, but when it comes to auctions, what you need most is the lot number so that you know roughly when your targets are coming up.

Otherwise, you could be stuck in a hot, noisy auction room for hours and you’ll soon feel fatigued.

Get condition reports

Once you’ve made your selections, ask the auction house for condition reports. Auction houses like Ross’s Auctioneers are more than happy to give condition reports so that you can find out about any damage or flaws before you make your decision.

Almost all houses sell items as seen so once you’ve bought it you won’t be able to return it if you find a flaw. Getting condition reports means that you can prune your list a bit more – rather than spending money on your first favourite and finding it’s not what you expected, you can move down the list.

Get the details right

Many auctions are held over two days now, or at least held over two sessions in one day, so you might turn up on the wrong day or on the wrong side of noon. Make sure you know which lots are to be sold at what time so you don’t miss them.

Find out how much your buyer’s premium is

Many auction newbies find out too late about the buyer’s premium – it’s an additional charge on top of the eventual selling price (or hammer price) and it comes as something of a shock!

This charge goes to the auction house, not the artist and is essentially a commission. Usually this premium is between 18% and 25% and it could make a big difference to your plans and your budget.

Make sure you’re actually registered to bid

Each auction house has its own registration process for people who want to bid. Some just want you to register your details before you start bidding for the items you’re interested in while others want your bank details before you can start.

Some houses also let you register online, which may be especially handy for you.

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How To Win At Your First Art Auction

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