How to bid at auctions and start your own collection
We asked Salcedo Auctions in time for the Gavel & Block live auctions
Aug 9, 2019
Since 2017, art center and auction house Salcedo Auctions’s subsidiary Gavel & Block (after what an auctioneer bangs down when a sale has been made) holds a live auction event where people can bid on rare and antique items that’s been authenticated by experts. This year, the emporium will be held on Aug. 10 and will showcase items by art icons like Henri Matisse and Salvador Dali as well as pieces by Filipino masters Arturo Luz and Vincent Manansala.
It’s obviously a must-see for art lovers, but if you’re new to the world of auctions like I am, you might be scared and intimidated by the thought of going to a live auction event. Personally, my only experience of physical auctions (meaning not just stuff online like Yahoo Auctions or Ebay) solely consists of that one scene in Imagine Me and You where the main characters visit a charity auction. It’s not the best representation, I know. Because of this, I talked to LA Consing Lopez, head of marketing and communications for Salcedo Auctions and former stylist and magazine editor, to know more about how auctions work.
How do the Gavel & Block auctions work?
Primarily because of the way auctions are portrayed in films—angry ex-wives airing out proverbial dirty laundry at Christie’s à la First Wives Club—most people think that this traditional method of unloading goods is reserved for the very rich and restricted to higher valued items. In many ways, this is true. Globally we are seeing incredible interest in the arts and astronomical prices at auction houses. But the truth is, an auction is what you make if it. Historically, the concept came from ancient Romans who used auctions to liquidate properties and all its contents. So in many ways, it was an ideal way to quickly sell and snag a few deals.
Gavel & Block is a subsidiary of Salcedo Auctions, and was created to cater to a growing base of younger, curious, design savvy individuals looking to start or enhance their collections. Not limited to just art, Gavel & Block is a little more all-encompassing than its “motherbrand,” including items like prints, limited edition pieces, antiques and collectibles, and general curiosities that are highly designed focus. As such, for the aspiring collector, a Gavel & Block is a great foray into the auction world.
The first step in the auction process is perhaps the most fun. It’s viewing the lots. One may opt to look at the pieces on offer on our website, as the entire catalogue is online. But from experience the best way is in person browsing, basically window-shopping. Usually a week before an auction date, typically 2 p.m. on a Saturday. You can also request a printed catalogue, which is entirely complimentary.
Once a client has decided on pieces you would like to bid on, the first step is registering and paying an initial deposit of P10,000 by credit card hold or cash. Don’t let this hold you back, this amount is put directly toward any purchase made, or returned immediately at the end of the auction if no purchase is made.
Each lot has a low estimate and a high estimate. All this means is that the low estimate is the minimum value that it can be sold for and the high estimate is the suggested price of the value of the work.
So how do you bid?
Once you’re registered, there are three ways you can put your bid:
I. Live Bidding – Come to the auction house at the designated date and time. Sign in and get your paddle and number. Have one more look at the preview of lots, take a copy of the catalog, grab a cup of coffee, take a seat take your cue from the auctioneer when your preferred lot comes up.
II. Absentee bid – One can leave a maximum budget per lot with a representative of the auction host and they will bid on your behalf. This is a great way of bidding within budget on several pieces.
III. Phone bid – The closest thing to live bidding, an auction house representative will call the customer on the phone and together will bid for an item in real time.
We always recommend that a client come in person to look at the lots. It’s important to see what you’re bidding on and to see if there is anything else that may strike your fancy. Pieces are sold on an “as is” basis, so you should always inspect the condition of the lot you’re interested in. It’s also a good idea to make the most of the specialists and experts of the house, so if you have questions about provenance, details, or fun facts they can be easily answered.
Just know that there is a buyer’s premium over and above the hammered price. This is completely standard, what this means is that a small percentage is added to your invoice that already includes the house’s commission and VAT.
How do you start curating a collection, especially as a young person/someone starting out a family?
An auction like Gavel & Block’s ‘emporium’ is especially fun and recommended for up and coming collectors because it puts into the spotlight the “thrill of the find.” Just like going through vintage markets and thrift stores abroad, there’s a great chance of a “steal” in an auction like this. Many times, auctions tend to be about particular pieces or artists, but this one is vast and varied, with a little bit of something for everyone. If you’re starting out, it’s always recommending you zone in on something you love. Find apiece that resonates with your lifestyle. Also, depending on what stage you are in your life, whether you’re decorating your first home or looking for something to cover wall space in your apartment, there are lots to explore in this sale.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to try their hand at bidding at auctions but are still hesitant/scared?
Don’t be intimidated by bidding in person. The auctioneer knows how to read a room and the people bidding, so he’ll be able to tell if you’re seriously raising your hand/paddle for an item or just scratching your forehead or drying your nail polish.
Overall, the live auction process is a lot of fun. It’s interesting to see what people are interested in and how much they’re willing to pay for it. There’s definitely a rush of adrenaline when you’re fighting for something you want or on the flip side you realize that you’re the only one who wants a piece and you win it without any competition. Don’t be afraid if someone bids against you, you never know how seriously or casually the person wants it. Sometimes just one bid more from you might be enough to win it.
Featured photo is Alfredo Esquillo, Jr.’s piece “Megaphomaniacs 04” courtesy of Salcedo Auctions
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