Every time I look at items someone wants to sell at auction the person will hold up something and ask what it will bring. My answer is always the same. It depends on if two or more people are interested in it. If so, it might bring a good price. If there’s only one person interested in it the price will probably be much less. There’s really no way to tell what something will sell for at auction. I’ve seen $5.00 items sell for $200.00 and a $200.00 item sell for $20.00. However, there are some things you can do to help improve the prices you receive when you sell at auction.
- Use a reputable auctioneer. You want to hire an auctioneer who has a reputation for honesty and integrity. People are often willing to spend more for an item when they know the auctioneer won’t knowingly misrepresent an item to them. Talk to others who have sold at auction to see who they used and whether or not they would recommend that person to others.
- Throw away the junk. While less valuable things can be sold in box lots few things hurt an auction like having tables full of junk for sale. There are auction houses that specialize in selling junk, but they usually do not attract the kind of buyers you want to attend an auction where your good merchandise is being sold. When people are accustomed to bidding $2.00 on everything they won’t bid much more than that for your good items.
- Don’t scrimp on advertising. Depending on the type of auction you may be expected to pay for advertising. Advertising can be expensive, but not advertising can be even more expensive on the day of the sale. Your auctioneer should be able to tell you what various methods of advertising will cost in your area. Many auctioneers will allow you to set a budget for advertising, but do not set it too low or you may not attract the people you want at your auction.
- Be very careful about putting a reserve on items. With a reserve, if an item doesn’t bring the price you want it does not sell. Reserves can do more harm than good. People are seldom bothered if a reserve is placed on an expensive automobile or property or other high value item, but they can get very upset if reserves are on lower value items. I once had an auction where the seller wanted to put reserves on $25.00 items. That can kill a sale. If you’re that worried about what the item will bring, don’t sell it at auction.
- Clean your items before taking them to the auctioneer. Few auctioneers have the time to clean items that are going to be sold. If a set of dishes comes in filthy I will sell them filthy, and the price will probably be much less than if they were clean. Have your vehicles detailed so they look their best before the day of the sale. It doesn’t hurt primitives to have a little dust on them, but if they’ve been out in the barn you might want to clean them up a little.
Here’s a couple of final tips to help you feel satisfied with what your items bring at auction. Remember there is a difference between the sentimental value of an item and its value to a buyer. That might have been your grandmother’s chest that has been passed down through the family, but it didn’t belong to any of the buyer’s grandmothers. They have zero sentimental attachment to that chest. Don’t be surprised if it brings less than the sentimental value you’ve attached to it.
The second tip is that prices tend to average out at an auction. It’s important to look at the total sales, not the sale price of one or two items. You might be disappointed at what a particular item sold for, but chances are some other things brought more than you expected. Focus on the total sale, and you will probably be glad you sold at auction.