EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 91 - March 23, 2003 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 7

How I Profit at Local Auctions, South Carolina Style

By Jo Graeber

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Would you pay $7.50 for a Bass Fishin' Monopoly game that was a hot seller on eBay? What about a new, sealed in the box EZ Krunch exerciser that sold on TV for $19.95 for a mere $1 each? Or an Alan Jackson doll for $4.50?

I did! I sold the Monopoly game for $38, the EZ Krunches for $5 each, and the Alan Jackson doll for $35.

Where did I get such bargains? At my local auction houses!

Many advertise in the local newspaper classifieds, some weekly, and some advertise in the Yellow Pages.

Once you go to a local auction, mingle and talk, and ask fellow bidders where other auctions are. People love to tell you and give directions. In my area in South Carolina, there are auctions seven nights a week with as many as three or more choices of auctions to attend each night. There may be more in your area!

Depending on the auction house, some activities vary. Some auctions sell items from one seller the entire night. These tend to be the better auctions with better quality merchandise. Many sellers will tell you up front that they will guarantee their items. If it doesn't work, you can bring it back next time he or she is there. You can browse before the auction to see what he will have for sale. It's at this time you can see that he has 20 of this item or only 4 of that item.

Knowing how many items a seller has can be important. If you can see that he has 20 John Deere knives, there is no sense in bidding up the price. In all probability there will be enough for everyone who wants one. If you can see only one of an item, then you might want to raise your bid to be sure you get it, while still trying to stay in a profit margin to resell your item.

Some auctions offer a combination of new and used items. These auctions will have three or more sellers in the same night. As soon as one seller's time is up, the next one brings in his load. The sellers bid for the spot and the price of their bid determines how long he will sell (an hour or 30 minutes) and if he will sell first, second or later. Everyone wants the first spot so they can sell before people decide to leave.

Sellers bring their goods in boxes and crates through the back door, directly from their cars or trucks, and put their items on the table for auction. There's no way to see the items beforehand, and the auctioneer starts the bidding immediately. If it's a table full of videos, the bidding is going on as you hurry up to the table to see what videos are available, and you raise your hand as you look!

These timed sellers offer used merchandise, so it's absolutely necessary to check your purchase before you ever leave the building. Be particularly careful bidding on electronic, electrical, or battery-powered items that are shown with no batteries for demonstration. Many of these sellers are not so honest, and your item may not work.

At the auctions that I attend, every auctioneer (and/or helper) buys items occasionally. (They also buy tickets for the jackpots - and win a lot!) Since I've never attended one that didn't buy their own items - and I certainly don't like the practice - I have to assume this is fair play. But, I've made some nice profits from these auctions, and I do have to recommend attending them. One just needs to be careful. In that respect, it's no different than online auctions, similar warnings apply.

At three of the auctions I attend, they occasionally have gospel singing before the auction begins. One of the auctioneers is a former preacher.

The most interesting auctions are those that have special nights for everyday people. These auctions allow you and me to go in with our household goods and sell for 15 minutes without being charged for a spot or having a reseller's license. A commission is charged, however. These compare to a garage sale that comes to you. You never know what wonderful items you're going to find. However, you cannot browse beforehand or do much inspecting of the merchandise before you bid on it. You do need to inspect it carefully before you leave, as these sellers may never be back.

Some of these off-the-street people include people that I see "helping" at other auctions. By helping, I mean they are people who hold the items up for show at other auctions or perhaps the same people that take your money or keep track of the buying.

At these auctions, the "real" off-the-street people sell items that are used or old and you "know" they came from home. Some others, however, (the ones I recognize from the other auctions), sell things I've seen them buy at other auctions: new things, things I've bought myself at those same auctions (John Deere knives and bandanas, remote control cars, new batteries in packages, etc.). Dirty dealing going on here? Perhaps, but what's a body to do? I get some good deals.

Perhaps it's the thrill of being there. Perhaps it's having the items in hand. Whatever the reason, let me warn you. Live auctions are very addictive and many times very profitable!

Editor's Note: Auction styles vary regionally. In New England, it's very important to thoroughly inspect items during the auction preview, BEFORE you bid: once you buy the item, it's yours.


About the author:

Jo Graeber has been auctioning online since 1996 and loves to go to local auctions as well. Jo is a retired newspaper writer/display ad creator and creates local crossword puzzles. She is currently working on several ebooks to sell online.


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