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Information for Buyers

One of the biggest auction advantages for buyers is control and transparency. As a buyer, you are in control, deciding when to bid and how high or low you are willing to go. Auctions allow you to buy property and items at a price achieved competitively against other bidders in a transparent process. Auction results are also immediate. If your bid is successful, the property or item belongs to you. We have some tips below that will help buyers have a successful experience at auctions.

Buyer Tips

Auctions are different from Retail Sales

The two have very little in common. Auctions are different from retail because auctions are governed by federal laws, state laws, Uniform Commercial Codes and city ordinances. When you bid at an auction you actually enter a legal contract.

Register for the Auction

To bid at an auction, you need to register before the auction begins. You give your name, address and phone number and may have to make a deposit. In return, you receive a bidding number. This helps the auction house keep track of who won what item.

You must have a bidder’s card in order to buy at the auction

To obtain a bidder’s card, you must put down a deposit for a bid card. This insures that you will pay for all your purchases that you bid on. Once you pay for your items or decide to leave the auction without purchasing any items, your deposit is immediately returned to you. If you do bid and win, your deposit is applied to the purchases.

Be careful when you bid on lots

Know how much you are bidding and whether you are bidding against your spouse, parent, sibling or friend. Although you can retract a bid while the bidding is open, you cannot retract it once the auctioneer has said "sold." Auctioneers expect you to take full responsibility for your bids.

Before the auction, preview the items you’ll bid on

Know what you are bidding on by closely inspecting each item before the auction. This is the purpose of the auction preview. Use your own evaluation of the item, rather than comments by the auctioneer or other bidders. Auction items are sold “as is” with no guarantees of any kind from the seller or auctioneer.


The moment the auctioneer says "sold," the ownership of the item being auctioned has changed hands.  This is the law. If your merchandise is later stolen, you will still have to pay for it. It is no different than having your wallet or purse stolen while shopping at a store.

Auction Momentum

Both buyers and sellers benefit from good auction momentum. Auctioneers have the right to reject any bid amount that would slow the bidding. Auctioneers cannot wait for slow bidders, so know in advance what you want to buy and how much your bid limit is. You could miss out on an item you wanted if you don’t stay with the auction pace.

Make it clear that you are bidding

Don’t be shy about bidding loud and large. Raise your bid card in the air if you want an item and keep it up until you are done bidding. Make certain the auctioneer is aware you are bidding because the auctioneer may be taking bids from someone in front of or behind you. Once the auctioneer says "sold," the item is gone even if you are willing to continue bidding. While spotters or ringmen are there to help the auctioneer spot bids and will signal your bid to the auctioneer, make sure it is apparent that you are bidding.

A Winning Bid

When the auction starts, you will hear a ringman call out a lot number and give a brief description of the item. The auctioneer will begin selling the item and will ask for you to bid. The auctioneer continues to go up in increments until the item has been sold. Once the bidding has closed, the auctioneer will say "sold" and state the winning bidder’s number and the final selling price.

During the auction, clerks record the description of your items and your buyer number as well as the amount you paid for the item.

“Choice” vs. “All for one money”

There are some terms that are used during an auction of which you need to be aware. These terms are "choice" and "all for one money."

  • "Choice" means that if five chairs are selling, you are bidding for the price of one chair. If you are the winning bidder at $50, you may buy one, two, three, four or all five of the chairs at $50 each. If you would like the blue chair and the black chair you may buy them for $50 each so your total bill for the chairs will be $100. If you want all five chairs you will pay $250 for all five. If you have color or style preferences, you need to be ready to tell the auctioneer very quickly what items you want to buy.
  • The other term that may be used at auction is "all for one money" which means that five chairs will be selling and the price you are bidding is for all five chairs. So, if you are the winning bidder at $50 your total bill for all five chairs will be $50. The auctioneer makes an announcement before they sell an item if unique selling options are being utilized.

Multiple Auction Rings

Auctions are often conducted with multiple auction rings. This means that two or more auctioneers will be selling different merchandise at the same time. So if you want to buy an item in a particular area, you will need to keep an eye on that ring so you know when to bid.

Money Transactions

Auctions are generally cash only transactions so you will be required to pay for your purchases with cash or cash equivalent (traveler’s checks, money orders, etc.) before the end of the auction. Some auctions accept Visa or MasterCard. If you have questions about what forms of payment are accepted, make sure you contact the auctioneer prior to the auction.