Austin's Auction Tips
1. Get to know the item that interests you. LaGina Austin recommends attending the auction preview, when “you can come see this wonderful material that’s not in a museum,” she says. “Touch it, feel it, hold it, handle it.” And ask for a condition report, because once you bid, that’s the contract. You’re saying you agree to the terms: “You can’t say, ‘Oh, this is cracked; I didn’t know it.’”
2. Make sure the auctioneer can clearly see that you’re bidding. Go subtle and you may go without. Also: Know where you are in the bidding process. “I’ve had people trying to overbid what they’ve already bid,” Austin says.
3. Understand the conditions of sale. There’s the hammer price–the final price at the podium–and then there’s the charge the auction house tacks on to that number to cover its services. “I’ve had people say, ‘I didn’t know there was a 20% buyer’s premium,’” Austin says. “There is.”
4. Finally, have fun. “This group of ladies came to [one of our Discovery auctions], and the first lot they got they were just cackling with laughter. They were so happy. I told them they’d won it, and they were like, ‘Really?’”