The writing staff of I Love Lucy never missed an opportunity to situate America's favorite redhead in those very places where she would get into the most trouble; choosing between entrees at a swank restaurant, boxing chocolates at a candy factory production line, or making one of her many cameo appearances on stage and TV. On one episode, Lucy also found herself at an antique auction. Naturally-to Fred, Ethyl, and Ricky's horror-every itch, twitch, and bat-of-the-eye poor Lucy made, was taken as a bid by the steel-eyed auctioneer. As a child, attending auctions with my parents, I remember grabbing hold of my chair seat every time the bidding exceeded a hundred dollars. I think that show did it to me. I knew that, one day, I would raise my hand at the wrong time during an auction, instantly putting our entire family into the poor farm.
Fortunately, antique auctions are not the foreboding places depicted on television. In fact, they are fun and profitable areas for you to take advantage, both buying and selling. Here's a few facts you should know.
There's a number of quality auction business's, I counted 12 off the top of my head, that run frequent sales within an hour's distance of your home. Many of them advertise their better sales in this paper. Keep an open-eye in the Waterbury Republican for print and classified ads. For a more comprehensive listing, pick up a copy of the Antique's & Arts Weekly, a weekly antique trade-paper available at many local stores.
Auction businesses earn their wage by selling other people's property on "consignment." "Commissions" are normally charged to both the consignor (the seller), ranging from 10% to 30%, and the buyer, ranging from 10% to 15%. When antiques are sold in a competitive public auction bidding environment - dealer's, collector's, decorators, and just regular folks, are all there to purchase their favorite pieces for the least possible money. They have one problem - each other. The advantage to selling in such an arena is that things normally bring pretty much what they're worth. Disadvantages include, the commission, waiting time for sale and payment, and the chance that your piece won't "fly." You can reduce this risk by selecting the proper auction, choosing the right time of the year, and, of course, by having something fresh and great to sell. Good authentic antiques attract spirited bidding.
When you visit a quality antique auction, you'll often find not only great buys, but entertainment as well. Most professional auctioneers are charismatic men and woman with expertise in antiques and a quick wit. Many old-timers mask their knowledge, so that that their customers can easily outsmart them. "Bidders don't like a smart auctioneer," they say. When you go to a public sale, get there early to save seats and spend time carefully inspecting every item you may bid on. If an auction catalog is available, usually for a few bucks, write down the highest bid price you would happily pay for every inspected item. Don't bid on what you don't inspect. Don't exceed your bid level. No antique looks better than one under the bright lights of an auctioneer's stage. Look for ads concerning local auctions. And remember, if you're not bidding, keep your hands down!