Getting an Auction Game Face

biddingI take for granted that I grew up in the world of auctions. Once my parents left the military, my father became an auctioneer and opened our own business. We lived and breathed it — literally, we lived in the auction house, traveled all over the country gathering items, lifted the furniture, cleaned the glassware — we were the business.

It has always been exciting to me. Throwing my hand up, the anticipation of the next bid, hoping the other bidder stops (maybe with an occasional “stank” eye), and hearing the final “sold.” Giddy that I got the “prize.” My husband has told me to stop “squealing,” as apparently that is embarrassing; however, I can’t help it! All of this can be somewhat intimidating to a new participant. With my own auction business beginning this late-April in Morgantown, I have heard the worries of the younger generation who have never been to an auction. Of course new experiences can be scary but this definitely is nothing to worry about!

Preparation is one of the more important aspects of being a successful bidder. Once you find an auction you’d like to attend, arrive early enough (most auctions post preview times) to be able to register, obtain a seat, or spot suitable for viewing, and be able to look over the items carefully prior to bidding. Also learn, prior to arriving, what types of payment are accepted. This is usually listed in the ad, or you can call the auctioneer.

All bidders must be registered. This is a contract allowing you to attempt to buy an item. Make sure you bring your drivers license, or other form of ID. You must be at least 18 years old to participate. Registration also allows you to find about any associated fees with an auction.Estate sales typically do not have a sales tax, where a consignment sale does. There may also be a buyer’s premium. This is a fee (usually an additional 5-10% of the total bill) charged by the auctioneer to help offset auction costs (facility, bathrooms, utilities, etc.). Knowing these potential increases will help you decide how much you are willing to bid on an item. Have a piece of paper handy and write down what you are willing to pay — top dollar — for each item. If you are on a budget, or know that the piece might require additional costs to repair, this will help keep yourself in check when the bidding gets intense. I will warn you, though, that I sometimes fiddle with my final idea costs. There’s no better burn than losing an item over a dollar!

Previewing items prior to bidding is very important. Auctions move fast. Usually at least 100 items, or more an hour. The auction staff will move one item after another without hesitation. There will not be time to look at the item while it is up for bid. I attempt to arrive at least an hour before each auction. If there are several items from the advertisement that I am interested in, I might leave even earlier. Open those furniture pieces up, dig through those boxes, look over glassware for damage — ensure the piece is something you really want to bid on. Items are sold “as is” and “where is.” Meaning once the bid has closed, it is yours. You are under contract to pay for the item and remove it. Auctions are meant to be exciting and fun — not buyer remorsed!

Now to the fun part, bidding! Throw that hand, or bidder card up high! If you are unsure the auctioneer, or the staff see you, yell (only nice words, please). The auctioneer typically keeps the bid between two participants. Once one drops out, the search for the next begins. If the auctioneer is going between the two, and you are wanting to bid, leave your hand up, so they know you are ready to participate (unless the bid amount is over what you are willing to pay, of course!). My experience from being on the podium in front of a large crowd — its very hard to discern whether you are bidding, waving, scratching your nose, or dancing. Don’t try to be an undercover bidder. If I can’t tell what you are doing, I’ll miss your bid. It’s simple. Throw that hand up and I’ll notice you. And, if you are just scratching your ear, you won’t end up with a $2,000 piece of furniture on accident. Win, win for both of us!

Don’t forget to pay before you load!

See, nothing to it! You’ll be adding to that collection of yours in no time.

If you have any auction-related questions, feel free to email me at Watch for Black Cat auctions beginning in April. We will announce dates, locations and items on, and on our FB page:

Come visit our storefront! Black Cat Emporium at 3329 University Avenue, Morgantown, WV 26505.

Terry Gallentine, Owner, Black Cat Emporium