Going Once, Going Twice ... Auctions, estate sales offer unique finds

Julia van Allen

Ryan Stanton / creative commons 2.0
Ryan Stanton / CC 2.0

Estate sales and auctions are a bit of an enigma for those outside of the usual circuit. For those who are first-time buyers or first-time sellers at an auction or estate sale, the experience can be stressful. But old pros know estate sales and auctions are treasure troves for unique finds.

“It’s as good way to find things you don’t see otherwise, and it can be fun too! Some people go to auctions just to socialize,” Stewart said. “It’s an entertainment kind of thing.”

Estate sales are typically held in the seller’s home. Potential buyers have the chance to walk around the house to view the for-sale items, which are marked with prices and distinguished against the items that are not for sale. Estate sales are typically used when a family needs to liquidate their belongings or the possessions of a relative that has passed away. Estate sales are also used when a family is downsizing, going through a divorce, moving, or going bankrupt. There is usually just one offer per item at estate sales. Auctions, on the other hand, involve multiple people bidding for the same items. The auctioneer will rattle off prices and highest bidder wins. It’s a fast-paced and exciting process; auction and estate sales have been used for centuries and around the world.

LaVern “LL” Stewart from LL Stewart Real Estate & Auction Service in Eau Claire specializes in the real estate and property side of the auction business. He’s been an auctioneer for 45 years. “In smaller auctions for antiques people get more competitive,” he said. “For large items, typically people are bidding as to what the value is to them.”

You never know what you might find at an estate sale or auction. The items for sale can range from art collections and antique glassware to sports cars or livestock in some cases.

Estate sales are often listed in newspapers. There’s potential for a little leeway in pricing, so have a range of prices in mind when you spot the perfect item. If you find an item you want, but it’s too big to carry around, mark it with a sold sticker. Bring cash to sales – you never know if the sellers will accept cards or checks.

For auctions, attendees should come prepared to make bids quickly, or to change their game plan altogether. Some auctions have a preview day where buyers can preview the items that will be on the auction block. Quick reflexes and a flexible mind are a must-have for the auction circuit. The auctioneer’s call is final, no take-backsies.

“You just have to follow along,” Stewart said. “You bid on what you want and don’t get caught up in the excitement of it Sometimes you bid more than you want to and it’s still a good deal.”

A few things to keep in mind: For estate sales there could be emotional attachment to an item from those selling it, so please be respectful. Remember that selling the belongings of a loved one who has passed is a painful process, and don’t make it harder for them. For estate sales and auctions, the golden rule applies: treat others, and their belongings, the way you want yourself and your property to be treated.

Vintage Wares is sponsored by:

Hope Gospel Mission Bargain Center
2511 Moholt Drive
(off Clairemont Ave, West Side)
Eau Claire