Monday, December 10, 2007

Going To Auctions

Auctions are a lot of fun and, if you're careful they can be a good way to make money too. I started going to my local auction house after stepping out of a nightclub one evening (yes, I went to a club!) and hearing the auctioneer's sales patter, which I'll try and reproduce here: "we've got a dishwasher, GE, guaranteed to work I'll give you 24 hours...and whatamIhear...shabadadadahundreded dollars...gimme a hundred a hunhunhunHundreddollars shabadabadbadafifty dollars hey gimmee fifty say fif-fif-fifty dollars who'll give me TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS FOR *THAT* DISHWASHER!! Anybody? Anybody somebody sommmmebody maybe anybody? Throw that one in too - twenty five dollars you're getting TWO dishwashers, guaranteed to work! You tell me folks, they're here to be sold. Tell me where else you'll find a deal like that!?.

A minute later he was offering three dishwashers for $10 and nobody took them. It was 11 o'clock at night, there were maybe 20 people there and this guy was trying to shift appliances to a tired audience. I looked around the room at the paintings, shelves of random household contents and thought "...this looks interesting."

I came back that Wednesday, and the next Sunday and learned how it works. You can hold up a couple of fingers and offer a price - you don't have to wait for him to come down that far. He doesn't have to take it, though, and might say "I'll come back to you." If you wait long enough he might make a big pile of stuff nobody else wants and sell the whole lot for one price. I did this and got a box of interesting objects for $3 that I split up and sold for $30 (and counting).

I also learned that it's easier to to sell common household items and "stuff" than to look for antiques. I've done really well on simple things like insulating window film (bought 25 boxes for $3, total and sold them for around $150), wine bottle totes ($400 for a HUGE amount of them, made $1200 and counting), LED baseball cap lights ($2 each, selling for $5).

Here's how the *ideal* scenario works, and it involves "haulers", travelling salesmen who come to 3-4 auctions a week with a truck loaded with overflow from warehouses, business closures and the Home Shopping Network! Write down items they're selling that you can easily store and ship, along with the price. When you get home, look them up on eBay and Amazon. If the price is higher, there's a chance the hauler will sell the same items next time he is at the auction - you can even put in requests ahead of time through your auctioneer (as I have found out.)

Sales can be seasonal - Christmas is an excellent time for little toys and gadgets like the cap lights. I bought 60 on Sunday and have sold 13 this week. They're small, strong and won't get damaged in shipping.

Be Patient
Remember that most items in the auction house won't sell right away - there's simply not enough time to get to them all, especially stuff on the back shelves. Write down interesting items, go home and research the current market prices on eBay and Amazon. If you think you can buy it cheaper than that, ask them to put it up at the next auction, take it home and try your luck. And if you get caught in a bidding war, just let it go. There's always more bargains to be had later.

Try and keep your house neat and the stuff you bring home organized, or it'll be a real drag. Ship items promptly and well-packaged - a good reputation on eBay and Amazon is a valuable thing.

And lastly, there's a great social atmosphere at auctions. You'll make new friends, trade tall tales about the one that got away, and see arguments, disputes and fights...I saw the cops get called once :)

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