Auctions are probably one of the most thrilling shopping experiences to be had. There is that unparalleled excitement which precedes the buy, pretty much like the chase before the kill. It raises your adrenalin levels and you want to win your prize – no matter what.
Proof of the success of the auction sale formula is the entire concept behind eBay, for instance, which allows you to bid online against complete strangers at the other end of the world, sometimes for days on end. However if your claim to auction experience is only and uniquely via eBay, then you really are missing out on a lot. I firmly believe that everyone should visit an auction every so often because it is not merely one huge exciting shopping experience, but a learning experience as well.
Visiting Pierre Grech Pillow of Obelisk Auctions as he and his team work towards preparing for the next major art, antiques and jewellery auction, it is quickly visible just what a great deal of work and energy goes into preparing for the event. As an auctioneer, he is backed by many years of experience during which time he made some staggering sales of unique items at auction, including old master paintings, rare Maltese furniture, automobiles, property and more….. But what does he think of the average auction bidder?
“Every auctioneer’s dream is to have clients who attend auctions with big budgets at hand. The ideal clients would know what they want and will pay anything to acquire it. Naturally, not everybody can enjoy this type of luxury and not everybody has the necessary connoisseurship either. Most clients are people who are genuinely interested in beautiful objects to include in their home and visit the auction initially out of curiosity, and then out of intrigue when they discover something important falls within their budget.”
Asked what sort of advice he could give to prospective auction buyers, Mr Grech Pillow provides these suggestions:
Visit during viewing days. Viewing days are especially organised ahead of the auction itself, for possible bidders to be able to view items at leisure.
Ask questions during viewing days. The information in an auction catalogue includes a brief description of the object. Anything else related to the object’s quality, make, period, country of manufacture, can be obtained from the people attending the auction. Do not be shy to ask questions. Unasked questions may lead to the wrong purchase or a delay in deciding whether to purchase or not, when delays can cause you to lose a chance to bid for what you really like.
Ask permission to see things closely, to open furniture, to examine a painting. This preliminary process will help you decide better whether you want to bid on an item or not.
Use the catalogue to write your personal notifications, mark objects of interest, compare reserve prices.
Take note of the auctions days and times and which lots will be auctioned off when. Do not be late for the auction sale on the day you wish to attend. Even if the object you are interested is 10th in the list, unless people bid or make multiple bids on the first nine items, the 10th may be sold off pretty quickly and you would have lost it to another buyer who was there on time. This apart from the fact that it is quite disruptive to the auctioneer and other bidders to arrive at an auction late during the proceedings.
If you cannot attend on the day of auction, you may make a private bid prior to the auction proper or phone in to make your bid. Discuss these possibilities with the auctioneer during the viewing days.
The reserve price is the least possible amount the seller will sell his/her item. This is usually the lowest it can be sold at.
If you are unsure of how the auction engine works, visit the auction before you actually want to bid, so that you observe the process and know what is expected of you in the bidding hall.
Ultimately, enjoy the experience. Auction halls are great meeting places for connoisseurs, collectors, interior designers, artists and just about anybody who appreciates the finer things in life.
Written by Marika Azzopardi
Marika Azzopardi is a freelance writer and journalist. A frequent contributor to national English language papers and magazines, she writes about a bevy of topics including art, people and life in general. She is also the author of children’s books and short stories, delving into adult fiction from time to time.