Attending estate sales and auctions can do a lot for your E-Biz. It offers you the chance to find exceptional deals and supplement your normal inventory. And it provides you with an opportunity, from the hundreds and thousands of pieces that pass through an auction house in a matter of hours, to pick up any number of rare items for significantly less than their retail value. And finding auctions in your area is as easy as connecting to the National Auctioneers Association ( where you can receive free newsletter lists and emails from auctioneers throughout North America. Be Prepared… Many auction companies give you a chance to preview upcoming merchandise, the day before the auction, to inspect items that are of interest to you and examine their condition. You can ask auction staff for opinions and information on the wares; some houses even have open computers with Internet access to allow you to conduct spot research on items you’re considering. To get the best deals at an auction, it’s important to take advantage of these viewing and research opportunities. You need to know exactly what you’re bidding on, what its condition is, and what you can get for it online. This enables you to determine what you can afford to pay for an item and still have room to make a profit. To avoid overbidding, figure out your bidding limit ahead of time and stick with it. The Way It Works… Auction houses typically conduct live auctions in a gallery, often combining the contents of several estates. Multiple auctions may be conducted simultaneously in different areas or “rings”. Inspecting the merchandise ahead of time lets you see which auction ring you would do best to join. If you want to bid on items from multiple rings, check to see if the house publishes an approximate time guide. This will give you an idea of where an auction will be – in terms of content – in a given ring, at a given time, so you can plan accordingly. When you register to bid, you name is tied to a bid paddle number that the house uses to track your purchases throughout the day. When you leave, your wins are all calculated onto one invoice. According to Barry Gordon, president of, to gain the maximum benefit from an auction, you should plan to attend the entire proceeding. Advises Gordon, “Often, the folks with the staying power are the ones who get the best deals. When you get into the late stage of the auction, the crowd has gotten smaller, and some of the best buying opportunities are there.” What You Can Find… Since auction houses are often employed by estate executors and downsizing seniors, it’s not uncommon for many of the items to be from the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. You can find everything from sterling silver and fine china to signed crystal, Royal Doulton and Hummel figurines, as well as rare, old sports cards, collectibles, solid wood furniture sets, paintings, tools, even low-mileage automobiles. These unique items are a great way to attract customers to your auctions or store, where you can also show them related, high-margin items. Explains Gordon, “Estate sales are great for beginning eCommerce sellers who haven’t yet established wholesale accounts and relationships; but they’re also an important ongoing resource for veteran e-tailers, or for any online seller, to spice up their product sourcing and add some flavor to their regular selection.”

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