Going for a song? Our expert guide to buying at an auction

If you love watching Bargain Hunt and Antiques Road Trip on television, you may have seen local auctioneer CATHERINE SOUTHON, right, finding some great bargains. Ahead of her next auction – at the Farleigh Golf Club next Wednesday, on March 7 – she offers you some tips on how to snare a valuable and beautiful bargain for yourself

You can watch a live auction, but you can have a go yourself. Auctions may look a little intimidating on television because of their fast pace, but you will quickly get a feel for it. There’s no need to worry about bidding by mistake because you scratched your ear; that’s not enough to become the sudden owner of a tea service you don’t have space for.

So what do you need to do to be able to bid in an auction?

You need to register with the auction house beforehand. You can do that on the day of the auction. You will need to fill in a form with your contact details and identify yourself (bring your driving licence or passport). Then you will be handed a small paddle with a number – this number is linked to your details, so don’t lose it. It is what you hold it up when you wish to bid.

The catalogue for next week’s auction is online now, so you can have a look what you may like to buy, but you can also purchase a catalogue on the day. Browse through the catalogue to see what catches your eye. The items for sale will also be on view at the golf club next Tuesday, March 7, from 9.30am to 5pm and again on the morning of the auction, from 9am until it starts at 10.30am.

Original artwork for Punch covers from the 1950s feature in next week’s auction

It is definitely worth having a look beforehand. Although the catalogue tends to give you dimensions and will tell you if there is major damage to the item, you should make sure for yourself that you are happy with its size and condition.

You may also spot something else during the preview, so it is definitely worth having a good look in advance.

If you have never been to an auction, get there early and watch other people bid, get a feel for the speed and how others go about it. There will be people bidding in the room, some bidding over the phone talking to an auction house employee, and others will have left a maximum bid with the auctioneer beforehand, so she has a book in front of her with those bids.

Once the bidding starts, it will go in increments usually of £10 to start with, but it will go up in bigger increments with higher value items. The catalogue states the sale price estimate and the auctioneer usually starts below the estimate. Before you start bidding for something, decide what you maximum bid is and try not to be carried away, but stick to it.

If you want to bid, get the auctioneer’s attention by lifting your paddle number up. The auctioneer will point at you, so you know your bid has been taken. You will then bid against one other person. “£40 with you, 50 against, 60 with you, 70 against… Do you want to bid?” If you decide you don’t want to continue bidding, a simple shaking of the head, will do the trick. If you have made a successful bid, the auctioneer will ask for your paddle number.

Next week’s auction includes some jewellery items, such as this lot, which comes with its design drawing

After that, you can leave the auction room whenever you like, pay for your purchase in the office where you registered and you will be able to hand your receipt to a porter who will get your item or items. You have to keep in mind, though, that you will have to pay a premium and VAT on top of the hammer price of 21.6 per cent. A successful bid of £100 means you will have to pay £121.60.

Next week’s auction includes the alarm clock once owned by actor and comedian Kenneth Williams, plus paintings, jewellery, porcelain, silver, clocks and watches, small furniture, collectables and other works of art. Estimates start from as little as £30 – so even with a small budget, you can certainly still find a bargain at auction.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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