How to survive an antique auction

So, on the weekend, I went to an antique auction!

It’s been YEARS since I sat in the sidelines, white knuckling my number as my favourite page came up in the roster.

I’m not sure if I adore the process or not, but I hung in there, because some things just needed to come home with me. If the price was right…

How to survive an antique auction / tips on bidding, and the pros and cons of all things auction via

Well, I’m glad I stuck it out because I got some GREAT stuff for the Crafty Affaire Harvest Market I’m taking part in Sept 6th!

I love what I got so much I will not be upset if it doesn’t sell. I want it all for myself anyway. 🙂

And that really is a key point. Buy what YOU love, because you may end up with it.

Here, let me help get you in the right frame of mind… 😀

So! If you have never been to an auction before, they are a trip! I highly recommend attending at least one, so you know the score.

Auctions are the best place to land things for lower cost. So they are especially great if you plan to resell.

But you pay the price by waiting… waiting and waiting some more for your desired treasures to rise to the top of the list. 

Meat grinder, antique mirror, folding yard stick / How to survive an antique auction - tips and see the loot! via

How to survive an antique auction

Pros of an auction:

Cheaper prices.

LOTS to choose from.

There’s so much stuff, you’ll miss a ton in the preview. So keep your eyes peeled when the sale begins!

It is exhilarating bidding on your item of love!

Old books, candy jar, clock, galvanized bucket / How to survive an antique auction - tips and see the loot! via

Cons of an auction:

You’ll be there for the entire day. It’s a LONG haul. So grab a good seat and your food / coffee before hand.

A seller’s fee is added to each item, so prepare for that.

You’ll be sitting through lots of stuff you have absolutely no interest in. 

You’ll be enticed to buy lots of stuff you thought you had absolutely no interest in. BEWARE.

You’ll end up bidding on stuff you didn’t know was there, and you may not even like it once you see it up close. ( I only got one thing I didn’t like. I did good. 😀 )

The auctioneer is very fast. And you may raise your hand when you thought it was a different price. So be prepared to pay $5 more than what you think he just said… ahem.

Antique step stool, clock collection / How to survive an antique auction - tips and see the loot! via

Auction Tips:

Go at least an hour early so you can preview all the items. If you can’t make it auction day, you can generally go the day before and leave a silent bid. But if someone bids the same as you did, they get it by default because they were present.

Buy the list if the auction house sells one. You’ll want to circle all your loves during the preview so you know when to be alert during the bidding.

Bring some empty boxes. They generally don’t have many if any at all to spare.

Buy ONLY what you LOVE if you are a seller, because you may end up with it for good. 

Set a top dollar beforehand, then stick to it. Be relentless here or you’ll rack up your credit card in no time.

Stay sharp. You’ll need to make some quick decisions. I’m still kicking myself I didn’t bid on that super cool dolly loaded with wheels I needed to haul this stuff around. But I didn’t see it beforehand. And they started bidding before the helpers pulled it out. The bidding was over mere seconds after it was in full view. DANG!!!!

Ok, let’s snoop to see what all came home with me…

Old books and grape crate / How to survive an antique auction - tips and see the loot! via

Lots of antique books! (stack them with your vignettes)

Neat old grape crate.

Old drills / How to survive an antique auction - tips and see the loot! via

 Old shovel heads. (plant them in your flower beds)

Antique drills are from the flea market shopping trip HERE.

Rusty metal pulley and wheel / How to survive an antique auction - tips and see the loot! via

Some double rusty pulley thing. It’s fabulous and it works.

Antique red wheel.

Crock pot.

Big rusty old serving spoon.

Antique wooden framed carved mirror / How to survive an antique auction - tips and see the loot! via

The detail on that vintage mirror! What a beauty.

Water jug I thought was an antique. Oops. But it sure is pretty!

Antique carved sewing machine drawers / How to survive an antique auction - tips and see the loot! via

Can you even believe the details on those antique sewing machine drawers?! (mount on the wall as small shelves)

Antique clock / How to survive an antique auction - tips and see the loot! via

Antique candy store jar. (display or store anything, nice wide mouth)

Antique styled clock (not old but it sure looks it!)

Clay pot with holes on the sides. (cool for succulents)

Rusty miter saw. (great base for something)

Antique butter churn / How to survive an antique auction - tips and see the loot! via

Antique apple press. This beautiful beast is heavy, but it’s cool! I may keep it as a table base.. not sure yet.

Old funnels and red books / How to survive an antique auction - tips and see the loot! via

2 galvanized funnels. (lampshades!!)

Vintage canning jar lids. (industrial wreath)

Fab red antique books.

A seller’s life is very different than when you shop for yourself. It’s getting tough to walk in my just cleaned out workshop / garage again. 

Ah well. It’s the price you pay for having the pick of the crop. I have to 100000% say I adore every single piece I’ve been purchasing and will be delighted to hang on to ANY of it should it not sell.

Red metal kitchen step stool chair / How to survive an antique auction - tips and see the loot! via
So I kinda hope this red metal step stool chair doesn’t… 😀

Build your own rustic toolbox at Crafty Affaire! / hosted by
To see round 1 shopping, how I’m setting up and more about my workshop, visit HERE.

See anything you like? Any auction tips to share?

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Categories: Events, Junk Drawer, Shopping
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35 thoughts on “How to survive an antique auction

  1. Wow! It looks like that was one amazing auction. You got some great items! I would double check that butter churn. It looks like it could be an apple press…which I think would be even cooler! 🙂
    Well done!! Can’t wait to see pics of your booth. I’m sure it will be fabulous!

  2. Hi Donna.
    Dang, you got those sewing boxes……….I arrived just as they sold!! Did you happen to know how much that old wooden wall phone went for? I spent all the money I allowed myself on a sideboard, so left before I had to endure seeing it go to someone else!!

    • Oh my goodness… you were there?! Friends, Louise is the one that emailed me telling me about the auction! I didn’t stay for the phone on the wall, but it was circled on my list. I had just had enough by then. LOL Sorry I missed you!

      • Oh yes, I’m always there (bad, bad me)! Sadly, they have given me my own number, which makes the whole process even easier to spend money! I didn’t really need the sideboard, but I had a spot already picked for that phone:( Don’t know if they told you or not, but if you use your debit card or actual cash, their buyers’ fee is 2% cheaper than if you use your Visa, MasterCard, etc.

  3. Oh it looks like you had a great time. I so wish I had one around here. I think it would be a blast to go to an auction.
    Have fun with your new pieces! They are fantabulous!
    Best regards, Hope

  4. Wow!!! You made a haul! I love the old sewing machine drawers, they have fantastic detail on them. I also love the clocks, stool and gorgeous mirrors. I have never been to an auction but always wanted to. I am gearing up right now for next weekend for a 43 mile yard sale. Sounds interesting, huh? I can’t wait to see what if anything you get to keep. Have a great day!

  5. What awesome treasures Donna! Auctions are so much fun because you just never know what you’ll bring home, see or learn about.

  6. Hi Donna, I love auctions. I grew up around them and flea markets . what I do when I buy things that I love and hate to sell is this. I display it for a while to get my fix:)… then I sale it at some point when I fill like I can part with it:) Happy junking and good luck with your sale.

  7. I have only been to one auction before and it was a cow auction, lol. My husband and I were driving along a country road one day and he asked if I have ever been to a cow auction and I said um, no so to my amazement he pulled in. We watched for a little bit and it was certainly a trip. I would much rather have been to your auction. You scored so many wonderful items!

  8. So amazing… going to a real life auction is on my bucket list. I hope and pray I can contain myself, I tend to be excitable. 😉 Beautiful scores, like you I think I would have trouble saying goodbye to those goodies. Excellent tips, pinning.

  9. I love your blog, so many great ideas and so fun to read! I went to an auction one time. I thought I was buying a single box of ornaments (choice, I thought) but I ended up buying 24 boxes – that is 24 times the price I thought I had paid and 24 times the amount. It took me forever to give away all of those ornaments. But I kept going and a few auctions later, I made some great deals. Then a few auctions later, I sold some great deals! We met some very nice people, had a lot of laughs and plan to do it again! Dazee

    • Hahah oh my!! Yes, I noticed sometimes the items were grouped and other times it was everything. I could never really tell! I wanted to raise my and and say, “Excuse me, what did you just say?” a hundred times…

  10. I love auctions, a lot of my furniture and stuff came from auctions and when I had my antique booths I had to go in order to have inventory for the booths. I only go to auctions where there is no buyers premium, unless it is an estate sale of someone that I knew had something I really, really wanted. Something I learned the hard way, never ever buy anything at auction you haven’t examined first. I’m in love with that mirror you bought and I might be interested in buying it from you, and those sewing machine drawers are beautiful, I would love to buy those also, would you be interested in selling them to me. I love everything you bought you did really good.

    • Hey Patty! Thanks for your interest, but the mirror weighs a TON so shipping would cost a small fortune, plus I’d be afraid to ship it anyway due to breakage. (I’m in BC Canada)

      This round all these items are for the market I’m a part of (so I have stock) but perhaps in the future I’ll offer some online choices.. we’ll see how this all goes first. 🙂

  11. I remember going to farm house auctions in Indiana many, many (a zillion) years ago.
    I always took folding chair, food, drink and knitting–got lots of knitting done. Thanks for the memories
    Bonnie in Oregon

  12. I used to go to lots of auctions in Orange, CA–loaded with antique stores. The furniture always went so cheap!! I was at one auction where a ton of tin toys were being auctioned off from a collection of someone who died and one guy near me was buying almost everything, He was constantly on his cell phone. During a short break, I asked him if he was a collector and he said he was buying for someone else who had seen them in the catalog. When I asked who, he said “a famous actor” but would not give me the name! Those tin toys went for high bucks!!

  13. Wow, what scores! Thanks for sharing your tips.

    A question on the detail you mentioned about seller fees – how are those calculated or does it depend on the auction/organization? Is it a flat fee per item or a percentage? Is it “too virgin” of a question to ask the organizers when signing in?

      • At this particular auction its 15% of your total before tax, if you use debit or real money, and its 17% if you use credit card. Selling stuff there is far worse…….they charge 25% of what the item sold for (it could be more there, can’t remember). So it hurts less to buy than to sell!!

  14. Oh, Donna, I’ve been looking for a cider press! We have a Winesap apple tree overflowing with apples that we’d like to press for cider. Alas, the shipping from Canada would kill me…

  15. Went to my first Auction at age 11. Bought a table and carried it all the way home( about 12 blocks). I still have that table. If it wasn’t an antique then…it certainly is now:-) loved it then, love it more today.

      • Donna, I was a tall lanky eleven year old with boundless energy and a stubborn disposition:-) No longer lanky and energy levels no where near an eleven year old…but still a tad (or more) stubborn. Thankful for my old pick- up truck. Lol.

  16. You can ask the “barkers” (pointers, helpers) what the price is while biding is going on if they have them helping. Usually, at the auctions I’ve been to, the barkers move around in the crowd and will come closer to the bidders so that they can see your movements. If you want to communicate with them during the bidding to find out the price you gotta get really bold and just yell at them. Not in a mean way, just a ‘I can’t understand a thing that guy is saying’ kind of way. Don’t worry, they don’t mind. Very nice finds!

  17. I don’t attend many auctions but the last one, about five years ago, I made a killing! An antique shoe drying rack for $20!!! Yes, $20!!! Will post a link to a similar rack here but not sure if it will work. 🙂
    At that same auction, I won a woven laundry basket, fairly sure industrial, with wheels, about 3 feet by 2 feet and 2 feet high for FIVE BUCKS!! I also got a matching set of vintage Danish blonde wood furniture- round, 2-shelf end stand, three shelf book case, and a dresser with one large drawer at the top, two half size drawers on the left side and on the right side, it appears to be two more drawers but actually opens as a cupboard. I love them all and got them for an UNBELIEVABLE $40! I am STILL gobsmacked at the prices I paid for these incredible pieces!

  18. You got some fabulous finds, Donna!

    It must be different there, because a seller’s fee isn’t added to the winning bid where I live. I especially love those clocks, and the mirror and sewing boxes! Great pickins!

  19. What a great auction. These tips are spot on. Auctions do take a long time and you can get caught up in a bidding frenzy if you are not careful.

    You have great taste. I love everything! Lots of industrial chic at that auction!

  20. Those sewing machine drawers are from a Singer treadle machine. I have the rest of the cabinet, minus the machine and the wheel. I had never seen such an ornate cabinet before, and just had to have it. The front is just as beautiful as the drawers.
    Auctions are so much fun! I deal mostly with vintage clothing, and estate auctions are a good source at great prices. Box lots can yield surprising results also. I once paid for a huge box of mostly newer tins to get one vintage Royal Baking Powder tin. Previews are your friend! Allow yourself plenty of time to dig around, and write down, or check off lot numbers plus notes on why you want that particular lot, and how much you are willing to pay. Also, take note who is bidding against you. I have sold unwanted parts of box lots to fellow bidders before I even left the sale. Just this weekend, I bought 5 wood boxes of canning jars. I wanted the boxes, another lady wanted the jars. So we made a deal, and I didn’t have to go home with jars I didn’t want!

    • Now those are fabulous tips! This is too funny… a gal was bidding against me on a jacket. I let her have it. But after the auction, I approached her and told her I was interested if it didn’t fit her. I offered her double what she paid… it didn’t take her long to hand it on over! haha So it works the other way around too!

  21. We are planning to go to our first auction this coming Saturday. I’m anxious and excited. I saw a picture of a big load of keys of all kinds, so that is my draw. I don’t know what else there might be of interest, so I just need to go with the flow, even if I don’t bid or win anything. With your story, I know a little more. I’m going for the experience, mainly. I told my girlfriend to bring a book in case she gets bored. I hope she’ll still love me afterward! lol We are going to make a day of it. In the morning, garage and yard sales. In the afternoon, the tail end of an estate sale where things will be 50% off. Their prices are usually way too high from what I’ve seen before, almost even at half off! It would have to be pretty special for me to need what is offered! After that, off to the auction, which will take place in a town about 45 minutes away. (Dinner before.) The auction doesn’t start until about 5.30 pm, so hopefully it won’t go too late. We are going to have a very full day. I can’t wait!

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