The Lifestyle Magazine of Kent, Surrey & Sussex

Expert’s view

Expert’s view


Tips on saleroom etiquette by Tony Pratt of The Canterbury Auction Galleries

With the rise of digital technology, you could fill your home with antiques and fine art without leaving the house. Live auctions are fascinating and often exciting, though, and I believe you should first master the fine art of buying in the saleroom. After that the auction world – digital or otherwise – is your oyster.
In any auction sale there is one golden rule: Caveat emptor or Let the buyer beware. Never buy unless you have made sure the item in which you are interested is not damaged or deficient in some way. The onus to check is on you. Time spent viewing and examining carefully the pieces on offer is time well spent.
One pitfall in an auction sale is getting carried away and finding yourself bidding far more than you had originally intended. To guard against this, write down beforehand the highest prices you are prepared to pay… and stick to them.
Auction houses charge the buyer a commission, so check out the rate before you start bidding. Buyer’s premium, as it is called, needs bearing in mind when fixing your upper limit. You may also have to pay VAT on the buyer’s premium part of the price.
When the bidding starts, it is wise to hang back until the pattern of bids is clear. Join in when you think fit, but don’t leave it too late, or your bid could be missed. When you make your move, bid calmly and decisively. Auctioneers have a trained eye to spot you, but if a raised hand or bidding paddle fails to catch his attention, make a spoken bid by saying “Yes” or “Here”. From then on, the auctioneer will return to you as the bidding advances. By now a nod of the head or raising your paddle is all that is required.

There are rules of auction etiquette and good manners:

• When you want to drop out of the bidding, let the auctioneer know by shaking your head clearly. Don’t leave him hanging on for you. This is frustrating and slows down the sale.
• On winning a lot, give the bidding number you received when you registered before the sale clearly so it can be noted for your bill accounts.
• More lots will be added to your bill as you buy them and you can pay at any time during the sale. Save the receipt as proof of payment when you collect the goods.
• If the idea of bidding yourself is too daunting, leave a commission bid with the auctioneer. He will buy the lot for you as cheaply as other bidding permits not at your upper limit as some people think.

Why not come along to meet our experienced team and myself?

Readers of The Canterbury INDEX are also invited to request a complimentary catalogue at one of our view days. The Canterbury Auction Galleries is at 40 Station Road West, Canterbury, Kent CT2 8AN, call 01227 763337 or visit

Image – Lot 773: A charming late 19th century Bergmann cold painted bronze figure of an Arab boy making coffee by Franz Bergmann. Its small size of just two inches high made it particularly appealing. It sold for £640


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