|Images: Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers|
When I tell people of my passion for auctions, and all the great finds I have made over the years via Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers, they are always very interested but rarely take the plunge themselves. It is with some trepidation (mainly because I am loath to share one of my best shopping spots!) that I have decided to put together a guide on how you too can get in on the action.
It really is quite easy, but it does take more time and research than just walking into a store and ringing something up on a credit card. I have found more great steals there than I can recount (paintings, vintage purses and jewelry for well below the sale estimate), and lost just as many great items because they sold too high (ahem, a Birkin bag and some Louis Vuitton vintage trunks immediately come to mind from last year).
Skinner Auction Guide:
1. Do your homework. See what the auction schedule is, sign up for auction alerts and newsletters to figure out what you might be interested in. Skinner's website is a wealth of information. They post all individual lots digitally, with photos, about two weeks before the show. I personally check everything this way. They also keep records of all the past shows, and more importantly, what the items sold for. When trying to evaluate what an item might sell for, I check out the estimate, what it's retail value may be, and check to see what similar items have sold for in the past. For more information take a peek at Skinner's guide to online bidding (here). Skinner will hold it's annual fine jewelry auction December 7 (and I personally never miss one.....). There is a great post on the vintage jewelry buying process currently on Skinner's blog.
2. Register for the auction you are interested in. Skinner allows for online registration and even has online bidding. You can also call to set up an account or go in person on a preview day. You only need set up an account the initial time. From then on, you can register in person the day of the event (before the sale), or in a matter of minutes online if you are going to bid via the internet.
3. Going to auctions is FUN! The people watching at these events is unreal. It is a mix of people buying for themselves, collectors, and retailers, who buy antiques for re-sale. You simply raise your paddle when you are ready to bid. I find it is helpful to set a limit for myself on certain items. It is really easy to get caught up in the moment and keep bidding, especially if there is another interested party. Bids tend to pass at a rate of 100 per hour, so make sure to arrive with enough time to register and get your paddle (they recommend within 10 bids on the site, but I like to give myself more time).
4. You won the bid, now what? Go to the desk and pay. You write a check and take home the items on the same day. It is important to keep in mind that your final hammer/close price does not include MA sales tax (6.25%) or the buyer's premium (Skinner's fee is 18.5% up to $200,000). Tack both of those on to your winning bid and you know how much you need to write the check for. If you bid online, Skinner will invoice you for payment and provide instructions on how to pick up or ship your item. Done and done.
This is a brief overview, so make sure you check out their site and read all the fine print! Skinner offer's sales on jewelry, paintings and fine art, furniture, carpets, fine wine, and even musical instruments. There is something for everyone. If you are looking for a unique holiday gift, I highly recommend the upcoming fine jewelry sale (held at the Boston show room) or the holiday discovery auction (held at their Marlborough location). My final words of wisdom: know what you want, and more importantly, know your limits!