How to buy antiques from online auctions

Whether you’re redecorating your home, adding to your collection, or buying to resell, purchasing antiques at auction is an exciting experience.

Buying from traditional auction houses provides the sound of the gavel banging down, the flurry of bids competing at breakneck speed and the exhilaration of winning the lot. But it can also be fairly costly and involve travelling around looking for what you want, taking up valuable free time.

Buying antiques from online auctions is a similarly exciting experience but has the added bonus of being a much more measured and considered process, meaning that you’re less likely to be drawn into an ongoing bidding war! Plus, finding the type of lots you’re looking for is a heck of a lot easier, too, as more choice at your fingertips and lots are handily categorised to speed things up.

Here, at William George, we hold many antique auctions featuring rare, unusual and desirable items and we won the title of Best Antique Auctioneer 2020, so we know what we’re doing!

To help get you started and be ready to start bidding, we’ve put together a set of tips on how to buy antiques from online auctions, so read on to find out more…

Time for a close-up

One of the most important things for you to do before starting to think about your bidding game plan is to have a look through the lots available at auction. Vendors will have provided images and a detailed description that you can study closely to find out more about individual items. Home in on the images and look for any surface damage, warping, or imperfections (especially if they’ve been described in the copy). The vendor should also have noted if the piece has had any restoration work done on it, so you should take a look at how that appears too.  

If you feel that there’s anything more that you want to know about an item, it’s always a good idea to get in touch with the specifics you’re missing. We regularly work with a range of loyal vendors who are passionate about what they do, and we are only too happy to get in touch on your behalf to answer any questions you might have!

Ready for some research?

Before you place a bid, find out as much as you can possibly can so you’re fully ready and informed. A huge volume of our timed auctions are live for over two weeks – this is a great chance for you to use your time wisely, sizing up your competition and planning your bidding strategy!

It also gives you time to look into the items a bit more: is it an antique (over 100 years’ old), a collectable (less than 100 years’ old), or a vintage piece (an older item, roughly 25 years’ old or older, that has become fashionable again)? It’s good to go in with a bit of useful knowledge tucked under your belt.

Reining it in

The beauty of an online antiques auction is the fact that you don’t tend to get swept up in a whirlwind of excitement and adrenaline like you do with in-person auctions. You can make a plan, mull decisions over at your leisure, and watch the auction’s progress in a cool, calm manner – all of which is great for your wallet (no impulse purchases, here!).

The final bill

This is just a little reminder to make sure that the maximum amount you’ve set yourself for your bidding plan takes into account any other additional costs – some of which may not be obvious with some auction houses.

We aim for transparency at William George, so there won’t be any extra costs that you aren’t aware of. They are clearly displayed when you're bidding. Purchases include a buyer's premium, on top of which there is sometimes VAT, and, in some cases, delivery costs. You can always look into whether you could make the whole thing cheaper by arranging your own transport for the item.

Online antiques auctions offer you the unique chance to have fun finding items you love, in a way that’s simple, easy, and hassle free. What are you waiting for? Have a look and see what we can tempt you with today!

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