Buying And Selling At Auctions – Tips For The Antiques Lover

Tips For Buying At Nautical and Antique Auctions

This is the last in our series on buying at auctions; we hope you have found the tips and insights both helpful and action-oriented. You can find the First Article in the series here, and read the Second installment here.

If you are a fan of nautical and antique items, heading to an auction may be right up your alley. (Remember, an antique is typically defined as an item being over 100 years old.) With that said, you will have a much better experience if you know what to expect. Here are five tips that will ensure you get the most from the experience.

Attend A Preview

When there are auctions that are for larger items, auction houses tend to set up a preview so people can get a solid idea of what it is they are bidding on. This is especially common when it comes to nautical auctions. There is no way that you should place a bid on something unless you are perfectly aware of what it is you are getting into. Even if you view a catalog and everything seems to be legitimate, it is still a good idea for you to attend a preview event.


Antique Ship’s Compass- Learn more about vintage compasses here

Make sure that you are discreet when you are attending a preview. It would be a colossal mistake to show interest in a particular item since this means that you may alert someone of your intentions and give someone else the idea that this item is ideal. Be subtle and you will be able to reduce the chances of having some unwanted competition.

Read The Conditions

You should never make a purchase without thoroughly reading the conditions of the sale. There is something inherently wrong with buying a nautical item from an auction without reading all of the fine print. Imagine buying an item that is being sold as-is and you don’t realize this at the time of purchase. You will not be able to get a refund if the conditions specified that this was a final sale and there are no exceptions. You can avoid this fate if you are mindful and you read everything before you buy. You may also be interested in auction laws in various states if you have questions on this subject.

Verify Payment Methods

Make sure that the payment method you intend to use is accepted by the auction house in question. There are many people who would prefer making purchases of items with a personal check or credit card. Unfortunately, there are some places that only allow buyers to pay for their purchases with cash and/or cashier’s checks. You do not want to show up ready to make a purchase and you are not allowed to do so. Giving them a call ahead of time would be a wise decision.

Stick To Your Max

When bidding on an item, it is a good idea to set a maximum prior to the start of the auction. Even if you want an item very much, you should walk away if you notice that your maximum has been exceeded. This can be very hard to do when you see a desirable item, but it is necessary if you don’t want to end up paying more than an item is worth and/or you can comfortably afford.

Buy In The Afternoon

If there is an auction that is running for most of the day, try buying things that are on sale later in the afternoon. Most of the people who have been there since morning will have run out of money by then. As a result, you will be able to get a much better deal.

There are auctions held every day where valuable maritime items are sold. If you have an interest in attending one of these auctions, it is wise to prepare yourself ahead of time to avoid any issues. As long as you follow all of the advice that was given to you here, you should be able to make a purchase without incident.

There are many reputable auction houses that accommodate both in-person and online bids, and we recommend Boston Harbor Auctions if you are looking for an antique auction. Specializing in nautical antiques, they have a comprehensive selection of, and expertise in, these types of events. Call them for questions on appraising antiques you wish to sell, or to participate in one of their auctions.


Because appraising is an important part of the buying and selling process, we want to include this video as an introduction for those interested:

Thank you again for reading our series on auctions; be sure to check back soon for our next article postings at our homepage.

Mistakes To Avoid When Attending A Nautical Antique Auction

This is Part Two in our series on successful bidding (both in-person, and online) at nautical antique auctions. Part One may be read here.

There are many people all over the world who adore nautical items. Heading to an auction is a great way to add to your collection. Before you grab your wallet and head to an auction house, make sure that you are well prepared. Here are several mistakes you should try your best to avoid along the way.


Bidding Erroneously

You should never bid on an item unless you are absolutely sure that you want it. There are many people who like items, yet they are unsure if they actually want to go through with the purchase. If you bid on an item and you are the winner, you will be expected to pay. You will not be allowed to change your mind after you have heard the bang of the gavel.

Leaving Items Around

Once you have bid on an item and it is yours to keep, you should take it to your vehicle and secure it as soon as you can. You will have no recourse if you leave your things unattended and someone helps themselves. It may seem like a hassle to run outside every time you buy something, but this is better than buying some items and having someone else walk away with them.

Bidding Too High

If you are locked in a bidding war with another buyer, try your best not to bid more than necessary. For example, if you have your eye on a boat and it was estimated to sell for $60,000, you should not bid $50,000 if the last bid was $30,000. While you may see this as a way to ensure you end up with the item in question, it actually increases the chances that you will miss out on securing it for a much lower price. Also, remember the extra fee you will pay as the winner of any lot you bid on successfully- read more on the buyer’s premium here.

Being Too Competitive

There are some auction attendees who get so caught up in the idea of beating the competition that they lose their minds. The idea of bidding is to help you secure something that you actually want. The last thing you want to do is become so competitive that you bid on things that you really do not have a strong desire for. You may end up winning the item and regretting it later; be careful. Again, set the highest price you want to pay for a particular item, and stick with that number.

Forgetting A Chair

Sometimes auctions are so filled that there are no seats left. While it is possible to stand, this can make you tired and sour your mood when it comes to bidding on the items you want. The best way to avoid this issue is to bring a folding chair with you to the auction. Once you head in and it is clear that it is standing room only, head back to your car and grab your chair. You want to ensure that you have as much energy as possible when it comes to the bidding.

Failing To Double-Check Boxes

In the event that you are bidding on an entire box of nautical items, you need to verify that everything is actually in the box. Unfortunately, there are some sellers that will remove items after you people have attended the preview. As a result, buyers end up with lots that are missing desirable items. (A Lot is the term for a single item, or a group of items sold together at an auction.) Take a quick glance into any boxes you plan to bid on before the auction gets started.


Attending an auction can be very exciting and result in procuring items that you may not have had access to otherwise. With that said, make sure that you avoid making any of these mistakes if you want to have a positive experience and walk away with a smile on your face.

Thank you for reading our second post in this series. Article Three can be read at this link

For a few more tips on bidding at auction, we recommend this video on the subject:

How To Buy At Maritime Auctions – Some Tips

Auctions are a popular topic: from online services like eBay, to in-person establishments such as Christie’s, millions of dollars are spent per year on purchases made at auctions. Auctions can be general– meaning that all types of items are bought and sold at a particular one- as well as themed. Themed auctions center on specific types of items, such as cars, coins, or the particular estates or sales originating from an individual or group.

In our next article series, we will focus on a specific type of auction: the maritime auction. In addition to discussing the basics of this type, we will introduce tips on bidding, as well as mistakes to avoid.

ship lightAntique Ship’s Light

Before we get into the detailed tips on how you should buy items at a maritime auction, let us first take a look at the different auction houses that sell maritime pieces.

If you search for it online, you will see that there are major maritime auction houses in the United States and the United Kingdom that offer antique flags, scuba diving helmets and other pieces used at sea at least 50 years or so before. Many of them also sell maritime art.

The major maritime auction houses include Bonhams, Charles Miller, among others. How do you buy at these auction houses? Well, the first thing you need to do is to look at the items in their lot. Is there something that you want to have? Remember that things bought at auction cost you money. You don’t want to regret your decision bidding for things in the heat of the moment and not truly asking yourself BEFORE the bidding if you want the item in question.
If you do find something that you absolutely want, do more research on it. Ask about its history and its value in the maritime industry. Some auction houses do allow you to inspect the item before the bidding starts. You should take advantage of this fact by paying these houses a visit. If you’re not able to make personal visit, ask for more pictures on top of the ones you see on the website. One good place to begin researching those potential purchases is the National Maritime Historical Society website.

Once bidding starts, go ahead and place your bid. Please take note, the price that closes at the banging of the gavel is just the price of the item. Auction houses typically charge commissions of 10% to 15%, sometimes more. Also, in the case of online auctions, they charge you for using their website on top of the commission. You can avoid paying this charge by being there when the auction happens, and if you can’t make it, by phoning in your bids.  If you want to buy at the lowest possible bid, you could also ask the auction house to bid on your behalf.

When you win the bid, pay as soon as you can. Pay within five days because after that, you will often be charged a storage fee by some houses.

What items can you buy at a maritime auction house? All sorts of items. While maritime art,  diving masks, flags, and ship models are common, there are other items that you can get at auction: Naval and Nelson memorabilia, rowing-related objects, and nautical instruments, among others. You can also bid on mariner’s craftwork, like dioramas.

People have different reasons for buying a specific item at auction. Some do it for sentimental reasons, while others do it to gain a trophy prize. Whatever reason for choosing a particular maritime item for bidding, you are not excluded from determining whether or not that item is really what your heart desires. It also does not exempt you from doing due diligence on the item in question.

If you want to sell your item to an auction house, you can do so. But prepared though because the price that you want may not be the price that the item will be sold for. It all depends on the valuation done by the auction house. Aside from selling directly to the auction house, you could also put your item on consignment, which means that it will stay with the auction house until someone bids on it and wins it.

Aside from the official valuation, demand for your item will also determine its closing price. Typically, you will know what the final price is within two hours before the auction closes, although this can vary.

Thank you for reading Part One in our series on Maritime Auctions; Part Two can be read at this link