Antiques, Antique Dealers,
& Auction Houses in the
Beautiful Hudson Valley

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Auctions represent, at their best, the free marketplace. By definition, this is where a willing buyer and a willing seller meet to exchange merchandise. Please see our column on using auctions to establish value.

Basically, all auctions work the same way. Merchandise is exhibited for a period of time prior to the actual auction sale. This allows the potential buyer to inspect the items. This period of time prior to the auction is called "preview". The items to be auctioned are then brought up to the block (where the auctioneer is located) and offered for sale. Variations include - pointing to items in place, showing video pictures, computer generated pictures, or samples of merchandise when large numbers are offered. Items for sale may be listed in a catalog, or on a list, and sold in number order with the auctioneer announcing the lot (or item) number prior to each individual sale. Many sales have no list or identifying lot number, other sales have letters or colors that identify the consignor (seller), here the auctioneer acts as an agent for the seller. Some auctioneers own all or part of the merchandise that is sold. This situation is mostly among smaller auction houses. Most auctioneers simply represent the seller, these may be individuals, estates, or businesses.

The Hudson Valley has a tremendous concentration of active auction houses, and in fact may be the best place to purchase antiques in the United States. If you want to buy at auction, which in general is a very good idea, check out where your local (within one hour, or a bit more) houses are located and attend an auction with the main purpose of seeing how they operate and the type of merchandise they sell. Do not attempt to buy the first time, especially if you are a novice at auction sales.

  • Does the auction house look "business like" - lighting, sound system, office area, food service during the auction, payment terms - credit cards, checks etc.

  • Housekeeping - Is the building clean, are the restrooms clean, has the merchandise been dusted and cleaned? Pride in presentation is a good indication of a good business person.

  • Is the merchandise to be sold accessible? Can you look at the backs of furniture, under tables, and closely inspect artworks? Is it visible, or is someone trying to hide something?

  • When the auction starts - can the auctioneer be seen and heard? Are the items shown clearly? Is the audience always aware of what is being sold? Is there the appearance of order and control?

  • How does the auctioneer come across - personable, sense of humor, relates to staff, shows respect for the audience? Remember this is a show. You should be having a good time.

If things look good to you, find out when the next auction is scheduled and prepare to attend and buy.

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