Tips For Shopping at Auctions Safely

When you go to place a bid on an auction item, either in person or online, you want to know a few things about the item ahead of time.  One of these important pieces of information is where the item came from.  How did the seller obtain it?  What kind of user history has it experienced?  Though it may cost you some time and energy, finding out an auction item's history is very important.

A display of auction items.

But why is it so important?  For one thing, the item could have been illegally obtained.  Unfortunately, this is a very real problem at many auctions -- artwork, in particular, is purchased off the black market for low prices and sold at a price that more reasonably reflects its value, making a huge profit for the seller.  You may be pleased to have an original piece of art in your house, but if you're caught with it, you'll be responsible for having illegal goods.

It's also important to check an item's history to assure quality and know that you're not getting a faulty item.  If that car you're interested in came more recently from a junkyard, chances are there's something wrong with it.  Also, checking an item's history gives you a contact in case something goes wrong or you want to trace its path even further back.

So you're convinced, eh?  Start by asking if the auction has a catalog available and perusing that for items you'd like to buy.  Some catalogs are more detailed than others, and will contain information about where the item came from, who currently owns it, and more.  You can use these tidbits to start a more informative search.

Talk to the auctioneer if you get a chance.  They are often given more details about each item so they can inform prospective buyers if they are asked about an item's origins.  Auctioneers are usually more than happy to speak with you, as their job is to sell the items and curious questions usually mean you are interested in eventually purchasing the piece.

Especially when it comes to online auctions, try to contact the owner personally.  The auctioneer may have information they can give you, although some owners prefer to keep their information private.  Online, you can usually ask the seller a question via anonymous email, and most people are happy to give you an answer.

If it comes down to it, you can always use the internet as a research tool and check a VIN number, serial number, or other identifying code on the item.  Antiques and collectibles might be more difficult to search for, but you can still trace the general history to get an idea for where it's came from.

More auction tips are available on our blog, along with a great garage sale community, with tons of resources for free!

Comments (6) -

Perry Sanders
Perry Sanders
2/14/2013 3:15:01 PM #

I recommend to attend auctions that are licensed and authorized by the proper authorities. You would not want the cops going after you because you bought a stolen item. You can research ahead of time and should be careful for off the radar auction events because chances are there's something going on. If you get an opportunity to examine the product at close hand then absolutely do it.

Always ask for the documents or certificate or receipts that recognizes that you bought the product legally and fairly. There's always that risk your facing at auctions but being more careful and keen would not hurt either.

Jon Mills
Jon Mills
2/22/2013 4:14:35 AM #

The first thing you should consider in an auction is SAFETY. During the auction, never leave your things unattended. You could easily forget your purse or bag if you're enjoying the auction too much. Never get your sight away from your children because they could easily get lost and wander in the auction.

Caren Silva
Caren Silva
2/22/2013 4:28:45 AM #

When going to crowded places, please don't wear a lot of jewelries. You'll never know every person and what their motives are. Even if they are good, honest folks, if you give them an opportunity to steal or rob you then they would pounce and take advantage of the moment. Your like a big fish around sharks who are all hungry. You can be the victim of crimes if you show them you are wealthy with all those accessories you have.

Merle Payton
Merle Payton
2/25/2013 1:23:38 PM #

If you've had a fraud deal, immediately report it to the proper authorities. There's still a great chance that you can recover your money if you report it as soon as possible. Every minute passing by, lessens your odds of retrieving your money and convicting those people who tricked you. Don't panic, just stay calm and think about what happened before, during and after the auction, the faces of the auctioneers, owners and their names. Those are vital information which could help in finding the responsible parties.

Kendrick Mack
Kendrick Mack
2/25/2013 1:27:02 PM #

To make sure that you're dealing with a genuine quality seller, check out his past transactions, feedback and his history. If he is not that trusted yet, start a deal with a smaller price so that if he's a fraud, your loss can only be minimal. To add, check about his return policy if there's anything you need to know about the rules and regulations in auctioning with him. Just have a background check to see if he's worth it.

Grace Gorde
Grace Gorde
4/9/2013 8:37:35 AM #

I agree that auctions must be Licensed. Purchasing items which has an unfamiliar background is not a good practice. You might get hooked with legal authorities just because you attended and auction? That would be unfair but I guess prevention is always better than getting caught with something you're not primarily involved.  

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