How To Handle Your First Live Auction

Stepping into an auction house in Palm Beach can be intimidating, especially if you’re a novice bidder. You don’t have to be a billionaire to find something you like at auctions, since many different types of auctions are taking place at different price ranges. There are, however, instances in which novice mistakes can result in overbidding or missing out on a piece that you were unaware of but would have liked. Here are some basic tips for novices to get the most out of their auctions.


Before you step into the auction room or log in to an online auction, it’s crucial to do your research. Familiarize yourself with the types of art, jewelry, or pottery that will be featured. Most auction houses provide detailed catalogs, either online or in print, ahead of the event. Study these carefully. Understand how auctions work, the history, the artists or makers, and the market value of the pieces you’re interested in. This knowledge not only enhances your appreciation of the items but also informs your bidding strategy.


Whether attending in person or online, you’ll need to register as a bidder. For online auctions, this process might involve creating an account on the auction house’s platform. Ensure you complete this step well in advance to avoid last-minute hiccups. Some auction houses also offer a preview period, where you can view items up close. Take advantage of this opportunity to inspect your desired pieces.


It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of bidding, so setting a budget beforehand is essential. Remember to factor in the buyer’s premiums (a percentage of the final bid price) and any applicable taxes or shipping fees. Sticking to your budget will help you bid responsibly and avoid buyer’s remorse.

If you’re a newcomer and a bit worried about your impulse control, it may be a good idea to start your bidding with an absentee bid. An absentee bid allows you to bid the exact amount your budget allows or what the expert recommends, allowing you to automatically win out on any ties that you get with a live bid. In this situation, you should try and pick a bid that’s above a typical threshold, like $21,000 over $20,000. This little bit extra may allow you to win a bid over getting a tie bid.


For your first auction, you might want to start by bidding on lower-priced items. This approach allows you to get a feel for the pace and style of bidding without the pressure of high-stakes competition. Observe how seasoned bidders operate and take notes.


If you opt to go for an in-person bidding experience, and it’s worth doing at least once, you’ll get an idea of how things run very quickly. For example, the bulk of art dealers tend to sit in the first few rows and make subtle gestures for their bids. The reason for this is that they will likely be reselling the work down the line, so they want to keep things private. Another thing to note is that this often means the auctioneer will be focused on those rows. Make sure that you sit on a side seat so that if even the auctioneer doesn’t notice you, the spotters will, so your bid gets counted.


Auctions can be unpredictable – the thrill of a find, the pace of bidding, and the final hammer price often hold surprises. Understand that you might not always win your desired item, and sometimes, pieces can go for much higher than anticipated. It’s important to approach each auction with a clear mind and a flexible attitude. Set realistic goals for both bidding and potential acquisitions.

Remember, part of the auction’s charm lies in its unpredictability and the learning experiences it offers. Each auction is a journey, sometimes more about the experience and the knowledge gained than about the items acquired. By managing your expectations, you can enjoy the process and make more informed decisions without the pressure of unrealistic goals or outcomes.


Embrace each auction as a learning opportunity, a chance to immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of art, jewelry, and pottery, and a playground for developing your bidding acumen. Stay curious, keep researching, and continue building relationships within the auction community. These connections and experiences are invaluable, often leading to insights and opportunities you might not have anticipated. Register now for our upcoming events and start your bidding journey today!