Antiques Auctions

Buying Antiques – Antiques Auctions

There is nothing in the world quite like a British antiques auction. The ideal place to find bargains in furniture and collectibles, antiques auctions are both exciting and entertaining.

You can see how antiques auctions work simply by watching TV. There are a number of antique shows airing at present (Flog It, Cash in the Attic etc) where the object is to sell antique goods for a profit at auction. Filming is done at provincial auction rooms, rather than Christie’s or Sotheby’s (two places where you’re unlikely to pick up a bargain, as sale figures regularly hit the millions!) Interestingly, it’s often the lesser-known names which hold the biggest surprises – such as the £53m Chinese vase discovered in 2010.

Finding out where the antiques auctions are

There are literally dozens of auction houses, so there’s bound to be one near you. Some, such as Bonhams, have an international presence whereas others are locally based. Many now take online bids, meaning you can spread your wings beyond your home town.

The easiest way to find out where the antiques auctions are is by using a portal such as Here, you can discover what “live” antiques auctions are taking place, browse catalogues, leave commission bids and more. It’s free to register, and well worth signing up to if you want to find that elusive bargain.

Some antiques auctions take place exclusively online. It’s best to avoid these, although eBay is a favourite of legitimate antique dealers wishing to dispose of excess stock. The majority of legitimate online antiques auctions are tied to traditional salerooms that accept phone and internet bids (called absentee bids). Up to 80% of those bidding at these events are dealers. You can’t go far wrong sticking with the professionals!

Bidding at antiques auctions

Antiques auctions are always preceded by a viewing date, where you can examine the lots. If you can’t visit in person, there may be an online catalogue. If something takes your fancy, it’s a good idea to research prices, so you’re not tempted to overspend.

On the day of the auction, you will need to register a paddle. This is a card with an assigned number, which you raise when bidding. To leave absentee bids, you simply register online, and tick any lots which have taken your fancy. A bidding slip is then presented to the auctioneer, listing the lots you’ve chosen and the maximum price you’re willing to pay. They then bid in your absence.

If you need to know more about the way antiques auctions work, all the major sale rooms have websites telling you everything you need to know.