If you have never been to an Auction House to bid at a live auction you are missing all the fun.  Forget ebay, buying Fine Art and Antiques from an Auction House is a fun and easy way to shop and invest your hard earn dollars.  Here are a few of my tips for beginners for buying from an Action House:

1.  Always buy from an reputable dealer or auction house, the most popular in the States are Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco, L.A., N.Y.; and Christie’s and Sotheby’s in New York.  They hold auctions several times a year, and can request catalog via mail in advance or view sales online.  Bidding by phone or online are also available, but unless you are a dealer or have previewed the inventory, I would not recommend it, plus the live auction is quite fun and exciting.

2.  Once you decide to go to an auction, always go to the advance preview, preferably a day or so in advance if available.  This gives you plenty of time to do some research on the pieces you are interested in, such as market value; and to set your maximum bid in advance of the bidding start time.  It also prevents you from impulse bidding.   A good tip is to bring a laptop with you, so you can take a break and do some research on the items you would like to bid on.

3.  You will also need to plan extra time to register, which must be done in advance, if you do decide that there are items you would like to bid on.  Bring your I.D. and a credit card.

4. Once you register, you will be given a bidding pad with your bidding number on it. You will use this to bid on items once the live auction starts.  Don’t leave it lying around amongst the inventory when you are browsing, think of it as your credit card.

5. The two best rules to remember when at auction are always buy things that you love, and always decide your maximum bid before the bidding starts and then stick with that.  With that said, sometimes it is a good idea to keep an eye on the things that you might not otherwise consider bidding on but still like, simply because once in awhile you can get something really nice for a bargain, just because no one else was interested or they were sleeping. This can be a nice surprise, especially when you don’t get the item that you were originally trying to bid on.

6.  Always factor in other costs such as the house fees, commissions, taxes and shipping and insurance charges.

7. Look at some of the under valued Artists and Designers or period pieces, you can usually get a better value, and you never know when they may suddenly become popular and increase in value.  But don’t purchase anything that is not in excellent condition, unless you like it the way it is, as refinishing or reupholstering an item could lead to a huge decrease in its value, with the exception of fine art paintings.

8.  Think long term.  Investing in antiques and fine art is best when kept over the long haul or handed down to your heirs.

9. Don’t forget to check out and make arrangements for delivery or pickup of your winning bids before you leave the auction, even if you exit the bidding early.

10. Most of all have fun, but be on your toes and stay alert, bidding can go fast sometimes and so can your pocket.