Bidding Point

Don't let the snooty vibe of high octane sales hammer you out
Print Edition: April 14, 2013

Don't let the snooty vibe of high octane sales hammer you out. Hold your own at auctions

Estimates are given for all lots and can be based on prices recently paid at auction for comparable property. These are based on rarity, condition, quality and provenance. Since estimates are subject to revision, contact the auction houses a couple of weeks prior to the bidding. Bidders are encouraged to inspect the condition of the lot by visiting salerooms when products are on view, especially for high-value goods. Even though condition reports give you a fair assessment, they don't imply the lot is free of faults or imperfections. Visiting personally also let's you discuss the reserve price or lowest estimate price with specialists. Notice the symbols next to the lot numbers as these indicate how much VAT is payable for each.


There are four ways to bid: the conventional saleroom bid, the telephone bid, the written bid and the online-live bid. If it's your first big bid, play it safe by being present at the saleroom. You'll be provided a paddle number against a government ID proof, Make sure the auctioneer sees your number correctly because all lots sold will be invoiced to the name and address in which the paddle has been registered and cannot be transferred to other names and addresses.

Absentee bids too require you to mail a copy of your identity proof along with an authority letter giving a representative right to bid on your behalf. Telephone bidding involves a staff member talking you through the sale. For this, one needs to book a slot at least 24 hours prior. The written bid is simply your maximum bid and most catalogues come with a form for written bidding. Christie's Live allows you to see and hear the auction in progress, Bonhams Live and Sotheby's BidNow stream feeds from the saleroom and allow you to join in with a simple click. Auction speeds vary, but average between 50 and 120 lots per hour. The bidding steps are generally in increments of around 10 per cent of the previous bid.


If you are successful, you pay the hammer price plus buyer's premium on each lot together (for instance, 25 per cent of the first 25,000 of the hammer price plus 20 per cent of the excess of the hammer price above 25,000 up to and including 500,000 plus 12 per cent of any amount in excess of 500,000) with any additional applicable charges such as VAT. Most auction houses apply collection and storage charges, so have your bid collected immediately after.

Courtesy: Bonhams, Christie's and Sotheby's auction houses

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