Buying for Beginners

If you've never attended a live auction, you needn't worry: Scratching your nose or yawning at the wrong time isn't going to make you high bidder on an item you didn’t want. Buying items at Blackwell Auctions isn’t complicated or scary, but there are a few things you should know going in.

1. There’s a buyer’s premium of 15%. In addition to whatever the high bid is on an item, the auction house collects 15% more. For example, if you are high bidder on three items totaling $300, you would pay Blackwell Auctions $345 ($300 + the 15% premium), as well as applicable sales tax. This fee is an industry standard. Some auction houses charge a lower premium, while the largest houses charge 25% fees.

2. You can bid even if you can’t make it to the auction. There are multiple ways to bid on an item. For some auctions, we will provide an online bidding option. But for all of our auctions, you may leave a bid (often called an “absentee bid” or “left bid”) or you may request a phone bid. Absentee bidding allows you to register for the auction, then leave bids on the items you want. The auctioneer or clerk will bid on your behalf up to the amount you leave on those items, and no higher. Alternately, you may request to bid by phone. A clerk will contact you a few lots ahead of your item, and once the bidding starts, the clerk will let you know what you need to bid to win. Please note: Unless you are already in our system as a regular attendee of Blackwell Auctions, you must register in advance for the auction to take advantage of either option.

3. As-Is, Where-Is. Items sold at auction are almost always sold “as-is,” which means that it is the buyers’ responsibility to examine each piece they buy for any imperfections or flaws. That said, Blackwell Auctions will make every effort to make bidders aware of exactly what they’re buying before they bid. We don’t like unpleasant surprises, and we will never knowingly misrepresent an item as something it’s not.

4. There are no stupid questions. If you’re not sure about the process, anywhere from start to finish, please ask an auction staff person for help. We’re here to walk you through and make your experience at Blackwell Auctions a pleasant one – and one you’ll want to enjoy regularly.

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Auction Jargon

When you start attending auctions, you'll sometimes hear words or terms used that don't seem to make much sense.

That wouldn't be a problem except that not understanding what you're hearing might mean you're missing out on the whole experience. Attending auctions and consigning to auctions can be a lot of fun, but it's best to understand a few basic auction-related terms.

If you encounter one that's not on the list, feel free to ask a Blackwell Auctions staff person what it means. Remember #4 above: There are no stupid questions!

Source: National Auctioneers Association

Absentee Bid :: A procedure that allows a bidder to participate in the bidding process without being physically present. Generally, a bidder submits an offer on an item prior to the auction. Absentee bids are usually handled under an established set of guidelines by the auctioneer or auction company. The particular rules and procedures of absentee bids are unique to each auction company.

Absolute Auction :: An auction where the property is sold to the highest qualified bidder with no limiting conditions or amount. The seller may not bid personally or through an agent.

Appraisal :: A written or oral statement, independently objectively and impartially prepared by a qualified appraiser, prepared in accordance with generally accepted appraisal standards, setting forth an opinion of defined value of an adequately described asset, as of a specific date, supported by the presentation and analysis of relevant market information.

Auction Block :: The podium or raised platform where the auctioneer stands while conducting the auction. "Placing (an item) on the auction block" means to sell something at auction.

Bid :: A prospective buyer's indication or offer of a price they are willing to pay to purchase property at auction. Bids are usually in standardized increments established by the auctioneer.

Bidder Number :: The number issued to each person who registers at an auction.

Bidder's Choice (aka High Bidder's Choice) :: A method of sale whereby the successful high bidder wins the right to choose an asset or assets from a grouping of similar or like-kind assets. After the high bidder's selection, the asset is deleted from the group, and the second round of bidding commences, with the high bidder in round two choosing an asset, which is then deleted from the group and so on, until all assets are sold.

Buyer's Premium :: An advertised percentage of the high bid added to the high bid to determine the total price to be paid by the buyer.

Commission :: The fee charged to the seller by the auctioneer for providing services, usually a percentage of the gross selling price of the property established by contract (the listing agreement) prior to the auction.

Hammer Price :: Price established by the highest bidder and acknowledged by the auctioneer before dropping the hammer or gavel.

Reserve :: The minimum price that a seller is willing to accept for a property to be sold at auction. Also known as “reserve price”.

Tie Bids :: When two or more bidders bid exactly the same amount at the same time. This must be resolved by the auctioneer.