All three rings above are from Skinner Auction, won through online bidding
You’ve seen me show off jewelry won at auction on here and on my Instagram page. I’ve bid online at auction multiple times, with various platforms, different auction houses–even different countries. I’m here to break it down for you, to make bidding at auction less intimidating and hopefully you come up a winner. But winning isn’t something that always happens for me–eight times out of ten I come up short and end up defeated. It takes time, effort and practice–but most importantly luck and intelligence. The first few times I bid online I was SO nervous! (And when I say bid online, I’m not talking about bidding on eBay. I’m referring to bidding live at a real-life auction, just virtually via computer.) When I was a beginner at this, I usually lost or ended up missing certain items I was looking out for..a few times I didn’t even realize you had to register beforehand! A good portion of my personal collection consists of pieces won at auction, my wins came from Skinner, Fellows, Hampton Estate Auction, Richard Winterton Auctioneers, and Burns White Galleries.
In total, I’ve placed 11 winning bids on rings that are currently in my personal collection! Some of these are the most unique pieces and my absolute favorites. Some of these are the best “deals” I’ve scored as well. I have never purchased something at auction that I would say is worth less than I paid for it. In fact, many items are worth twice, three times, even four times more than what I paid. So if that doesn’t entice you enough, here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way to help you even more:
1. Register at least one week in advance of auction date.
I didn’t realize this when I first started out, but you need to fill out a few online forms before you can bid! Most auction houses have to also “approve” of you bidding as well, so the paperwork completion is not an automatic in. Sometimes the process can take a few days, depending on how backed up they get. It is also noteworthy to know that every auction house requires different forms before allowing you to bid. Some even require a scanned copy of your driver’s license and credit card!
2. Register with several websites which host auctions.
This is helpful because there are so many great websites which host live bidding. They also act as an auction calendar, pulling up reminders and suggesting items they believe fit what you’re looking for. Sometimes they even approve you to bid at auctions you didn’t even sign up for, just in case you decide to bid last minute. It is like early bird check-in.
3. Login and bid live.
I hardly ever win bids that I place on items weeks or days prior to auction. It is almost like wasting a bid. I suggest figuring out the date and time a particular auction is set to go live, time it correctly, and login/bid live. This also helps to get a feel for how people are bidding–are items going for crazy prices? Are there more floor bidders or online bidders? It also helps you view how the process goes. For example, item is called up for auction, bidders bid, “final call” happens and hammer!
4. Don’t forget about the fees.
These might surprise you! When bidding, make sure your “max” bid isn’t truly your max amount you’re wanting to pay, because there are fees involved! If you are within the US and are bidding at a US auction, the fees usually include a buyer’s premium (with the % varying depending on auction house), taxes if applicable, and shipping & handling. Premiums can get high–for example, my winning bid on one ring was $1,000 with a $230 premium added.
When bidding outside of the US, things can get tricky. Money conversion usually confuses me, so half of the time I’m not sure if I’m bidding in US dollars or British pounds. Make sure you know your conversions! Many British auction houses charge a VAT as well as a premium, so make sure you read before you agree to bid!
5. Opt to phone bid vs. bid online.
This is my newest discovery. I’ve never bid over the phone until a few weeks ago with Michaan’s Auction house. Rumor has it that if you place a winning bid via phone, your premium is lower than if you were to place that same bid online. Also, phone bidding was super easy–I had to fill out a form and include the lot I was interested in bidding on. About 3 minutes prior to my lot going up, I received a phone call. You can hear everything live in the background, so you really feel like you’re there! The person on the other end will say, “it’s now at X amount, do you want to bid or pass?” and continue until you’re done.
A few things I could easily find negative about phone bidding–one, if you’re a person who would rather text someone than call someone, you would probably prefer online bidding vs. phone bidding. Yes, even if the premiums are higher, you would still opt for this lol. Two, you feel more obligated or slightly pressured to bid higher/longer with another person on the phone vs. you in the privacy of your online world hitting the “bid” button. At least I did.