Harold M. Smith, Auctioneer
Harold M. Smith
Smith Auction Company

Serving the tri-state area since 1982
Auction & Private Purchase Options
DE NJ PA Auctioneers
Annette T. Smith, Auctioneer
Annette T. Smith


Never wave to your friends at an auction...

You've all heard the stories. Cousin Sam's mother-in-law, Thelma, waved at her friend across the floor at a local auction and ended up with a $350 bronze Medusa pipe holder.

It happens. You should know better than to raise your hand at an auction -- unless you mean business. But, everyone doesn't. Common bidding nuances are often sufficiently diverse and obscure to frazzle even the most practiced auctioneer.

Auction bidder types...

  • The Banshee: Wild waving of arms and bidding card, accompanied by energetic though erratic body movements and unintelligible shouting. This is usually practiced by novice bidders, particularly when they feel that they're being overlooked. When bidders of this category actually get what they're going after, they generally jump up and down, applaud vigorously and shriek.
  • The Flasher: While normally holding the bidding number toward their bodies, bidding flashers briefly, though determinedly, expose their cards to the auctioneer with much the same motion as their proverbial raincoat-clad counterparts.
  • The Lauren Bacall: No movement whatsoever, except for a covert, sly little wink.
  • The Humphrey Bogart: They just purse their lips and whistle.
  • The Pinkie Flick: Probably the most acutely nonchalant of all; they most often sit in profile with the blankest of bored expressions, but watch that pinkie. The merest flick is a bid and since most flickers are dealers and thus feel that they're a member in good standing in the ranks of the heavy hitters, woe to the auctioneer who misses them.
  • The Sad Sack: Can be male or female so long as the expression is appropriately gloomy. These folks generally stand (even though there's room to sit), arms folded across chest; the slightest inclination of the head, not nearly sufficient movement to merit the "nod" category, indicates their bid.

Auction bidding tips...

  • Maintain eye contact with the auctioneer. If you cut the contact, he's going to think you dropped out.
  • When you start bidding, get his attention by unabashedly waving your hand or your bidding card. Once he's aware of your interest, a significant nod of the head will keep him coming back to you.
  • If the bid is in your court and you wish to drop out, it's polite to shake your head in the negative. Some people just break eye contact, but you better be well-known to the auctioneer.
  • Know when you start to bid how high you're willing to go. Don't expect the auction to be put on hold while you discuss yea or nay with your hubby. You'll lose out for sure.
  • DO NOT hop out of your seat to examine an item on the block prior to bidding on it. That's what previews are for. This practice irritates everyone and makes you look either egocentric or inexperienced or both. In the same vein, don't buy an object, get it and try to give it back because it's not what you thought. You bought it, you own it!
  • If you're entering the bidding late in the game, you're more apt to be overlooked by the auctioneer. Do not be embarassed to verbally get his attention; a loud "Yo" or "Here" will do nicely.
  • If you get the bid, immediately hold your card up, number facing the auctioneer, your fingers not covering any portion of it. Don't try to just call out your number. It simply doesn't fly.
  • Be aware that auctions are addictive!

Auction buying tips...

  • To find out about auctions or estate sales follow the newspapers in the geographic area in which you're interested, or request that local auction houses add you to their mailing lists.
  • Find an auction you think you'll like and attend a couple times prior to bidding.
  • If you're buying for yourself (as opposed to resale) check out the items you're interested in during the preview; fix a top price in your mind -- DO NOT DEVIATE from your budget -- and do not be influenced by what anyone else does or does not do during the sale.
  • Auction mania is one of the most "catching" of contagious diseases. Even veteran collectors occasionally get caught up in the fervor and end up paying a great deal more than they intended or find that they've purchased an item they don't even want.
  • Try to figure out who the antique dealers in the crowd are. Watch them. If you and a dealer are interested in the same item, factor in the strategy that they're going to stop bidding when the price reaches half of what they feel they can sell it for at retail.
  • Don't get caught in crossfire. It's a petty world, folks. Recently two antagonists took the price of a mediocre item sky-high. Not because they necessarily wanted it, but because they thought the other guy did! It's a no win game, but if you have unlimited funds, there's apparently a certain degree of satisfaction in this sort of competition.
  • Don't forget the standard 10 percent (or higher) buyer's fee and the state tax. Combined, this brings a $1000 item in at $1160.
  • Many auctioneers take off parts of July and August. Though they'll deny it, summer auctions tend to bring in less income than those held during the remaining 10 months. This is great for bidders, even though the pickings might be sparse; savvy consignors tend to hold upper end items until fall.
  • And remember -- what you think you see, is what you'll really get! If you get the bid, you bought it, you own it, period!

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