Auctions 101: For Those Who’ve Never Been To An Auction

There are many people who have never attended an auction, if you are one of these people just know you are not alone.  Here are the basics of what you can expect when going to an auction.

An Event

First of all, auctions are an all encompassing event.  They are a place where people can go to purchase items quickly and many times at a great price.  Auctions are also a social event, many attendees go just to socialize with each other.  Many people who frequent auctions get to know one another and going to an auction becomes part of their social lives.  Auctions are also entertaining from the “fast talking” auctioneer who’ll insert jokes here and there to the excitement of people bidding against each other and ultimately there’s only one buyer.  There is also the food, some attendees may go just to get there afternoon lunch or evening dinner.  Some auction halls serve delicious homemade meals and desserts, like homemade pies.  Other auction halls may offer a variety of packaged snacks, coffee, and soda.  Overall, the experience of an auction is exciting and just a wonderful place to socialize and buy some great stuff!

Finding an Auction

The majority of auctions are open to the public meaning anyone can go and buy items.  Auctions most likely not open to the public are auto auctions are very high end auctions selling very pricey items.  The main sources for finding auctions are in your local or regional newspapers and online.  Newspaper ads will give you the location, date, time and brief description of items available at an auction.  Many auction companies now have websites where you can find a full and more descriptive listing of upcoming auctions which also include photos of the items to be sold.  A useful online site both for auction companies and people looking for auctions is  This a website utilized by most auction companies and they can list all of their upcoming auctions and include descriptions and photos. is a great source for auctions and its free–for everyone!

On First Arrival

You’ve decided on the auction you’d like to attend and you go.  Keep in mind that most auctions allow for a 1 to 1 1/2 hr preview time.  Utilize this preview time to thoroughly inspect the items you are interested in and decide how much you are willing to spend on those items.  If you arrive after the preview time you will have lost the ability to preview items.  Most auction companies do not allow any further previewing once the auction begins so be sure to allow yourself time to arrive and preview.

You are under no obligation to purchase items when you attend an auction.  You may decide after inspection that your no longer interested and in that case you can just leave.  If you find that there are items you want to purchase then you need to register as a bidder and be given a bid card.  The auction will have a specified place for you to check-in and register as a bidder.  You will be asked for a photo i.d. (driver’s license, military i.d., etc.) and your data will be inputted into their system (if they are computerized, which most auction companies are).  Once they have all of your information they will give you a bid card with a number on it.  That number identifies you as a bidder and when you make a purchase and are the high bidder on an item that number is inputted into the system along with the price of the item.

Many times your bid card will have an area to write notes, use this area to write down “lot #’s” of the items you are interested in.  The auctioneer will call out the lot # for each item that is currently being sold which helps you know when the item you want is up for bid.  Sometimes an auction may have multiples of similar items and when you are sitting in your seat it can be difficult to identify if the item you are interested in is the one currently being sold so this is where knowing the lot # becomes a useful tool.

The Auction Begins

The preview is over, everyone takes their seat and the auction begins.  The auctioneer will start by stating the Terms & Conditions of the auction which explains what forms of payments they accept, he/she will state that items are sold “as is, where is”, among other pertinent terms and conditions of the sale of the items.  Once this is complete the auctioneer will begin selling items.  The auction runners will then begin to bring items up one by one.  The auctioneer will call out the lot # of the item, the auction runner will hold the item up so it can be seen by the crowd and then the auctioneer will start with a bid amount he/she deems as an appropriate price to start the item for.  Once a bid is received the auctioneer will go to the next increment and look for a competitive bidder in the crowd.  Auctioneers will vary the increments of an item based on the item.  E.g. a cheaper item that may ultimately only sell for $10 and starts at $1, the auctioneer may go in $1 increments.  An item that could potentially sell for $100 and starts at $50 may go in $5 increments.  It all depends on the item and what the auctioneer chooses to do.

Your Turn To Bid

You’ve waited patiently and the first item you are interested in has come up for bid.  You have your bid card in hand, you’ve made a mental note of how much you are willing to spend on that item and the auctioneer starts the bidding.  You can immediately put up your card to get your bid in or, as many people do, wait until the auctioneer lowers the opening bid then put your bid card up.  What happens the majority of the time is the auctioneer will start at a certain price and all of the bidders will hold out on bidding, so the auctioneer then decreases the opening bid amount until he/she gets the first bid.  If you hold out too long you could potentially put yourself in a position where there are multiple bidders at the same time and the auctioneer must choose who gets the initial bid and if it is not you then you will be offered the item at the next increment.  When bidding,  put your card up when the auctioneer is at the increment you want to bid at and once the auctioneer recognizes your bid put your bid card down.

You will know that the auctioneer has your bid because he/she may make eye contact with you or point at you or a combination of both–in most cases it will be obvious when the auctioneer has your bid.  A possible scenario in which you may not realize if the auctioneer has your bid is when a competing bidder is sitting in close proximity to you, in which case the auctioneer will use eye contact to let you know that you are either the high bidder or the auctioneer may be asking you if you want to go to the next increment.  Be attentive to the auctioneers body language so that you can determine where you are in the bidding process.

The item you want is still being bid on and there are multiple bidders.  Listen to the auctioneer to know what the increments are and if you are outbid and the item has not reached your limit then be sure to get your bid card up making sure the auctioneer gets your bid. Keep bidding until you either win the item or the item has exceeded your limit and someone else becomes the high bidder.  If you are the bidder the auctioneer will say SOLD and indicate to you that you are the winning bidder and once he/she does this, hold up your bid card and the auctioneer will then call out your bid number so that the clerk can input it into the system along with the selling price.

The Auction Is Over

You’ve stayed for the entirety of the auction and won the bids on multiple items and now it’s time to check-out.  Take your bid card to the cashier, they will pull up an invoice of all the purchased items associated with your bid card and then take your payment.  The majority of auction companies require a paid in full receipt to be shown to the auction workers prior to removing items from the auction.  Be sure to keep your paid receipt handy to show the workers if requested, load up your items and head back home!  It’s that easy, it’s that much fun, and once you go to an auction you’ll want to keep going!

FYI…you do not have to stay for the entire auction.  If you’ve purchased all of the items you came for then you can go to the cashier and check-out anytime during the auction.  If you have registered as a bidder and did not make any purchases you do not need to return to the cashier, you can just leave.


Get on or check out your local newspapers and get yourself to an auction!

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32 Erie Street, Oswego, NY 13126
(315) 343-6530 or 236-6530
Auctioneer: Corrina Pauldine
AUCTIONZIP Auctioneer ID: 31269