If you’re curious about online auctions but feel intimidated, don’t worry! This article will guide you through the process step-by-step, allowing you to explore an array of items and bid on them online.

Many of us miss the fun of standing around at outdoor auctions, eating a hot dog and drinking weak coffee, seeing friends, and sometimes freezing, getting sunburned, or even getting soaked. But we had fun. We interacted. We socialized and maybe even got into a bidding war. You could keep an eye on the competition because they were standing beside you or if you were smart in front of you. 

Well for the most part those days are but distant memories. A few auctions are still run from auction halls like Patrick Doherty in Milton, Ontario, or Brad Snider in Belleville, Ontario but many of the live auctions are now held in hotel boardrooms or conference centres. At those auctions, you will often see TV monitors and video cameras and people sitting behind laptops bidding for people all over the world.

I remember several years ago going to Boston to attend a Skinner auction and being in the room with one auctioneer, 2 phone bidders, and two people online taking online bids with only 8 people including me sitting in the audience. At the time I felt sorry for the auctioneer and went up to her after the auction to apologize for the poor attendance. How naïve was I? What was unusual then is now the norm. So the question I pose to you is why not get on board if you haven’t already?

Now, you can participate in online auctions from the comfort of your own home, bidding against people from around the world. Literally, once you start the world becomes your showroom. It is as easy to bid online in your hometown as it is to bid in Halifax, Ottawa, Chicago, Boston, Brantford, or Moffat. 

Step One

Pick an Online Auction

This is easy and yet there can be steps involved. But stay patient. Of course, you have to be able to navigate the internet on your phone, tablet, laptop, or PC. If you have trouble with this start by asking any 8 to 10-year-old grandchild, niece or nephew, or neighbour’s kid. They are all wizzes and in a few minutes will get you started browsing the internet.

Let’s say you have heard of us – Visbids, through your visit last week to The Aberfoyle Antique Market. Type in “Visbids” or any other auction house you wish in the search bar. You will notice that it takes you to a Business Page and on that page, you will usually see a line “Call, Directions, Share, or Website”.  Click website.  

Off you go to the auction website. From there you will see ways to go to their current auction.  In our case – Visbids, there are three separate ways to go to the auction. But a neat trick and one that puts you at the head of the class is to click on the little three lines at the top right which opens a drop-down box and simply clickCurrent Auctions”.  

Searching Visbids on Google using mobile view for online auctions

There are only two primary types of online auctions. There are stand-alone auctions where companies have their proprietorial auction software. Check out Sotheby’s, Christie’s, or Gardner’s Auctions in London, Ontario. You go directly to their website and bid on their auction in their website, using their own auction software. The second and much more common online auction occurs where the auction house uses a shared platform to host their auctions.

For example, if you go to Visbids, Illieston, Plato, or Shackleton’s, these are hosted on HIBID out of Lincoln, Nebraska. HIBID provides the software and common interface with the bidder so all auctions look quite uniform. HIBID is responsible for storing all the data, but more about that in another blog. 

Other auction houses use multiple platforms like Miller and Miller in Baden, Ontario, A.H. Wilkens in Toronto, ON, or Pridhams in Ottawa so you can bid using the platform of your choice like LiveAuctioneers based out of NY, NY. It is your preference here.

Step Two

Register for Online Auctions

This is an important step. If you want to buy something in the auction you must first register and then disclose certain personal information. You go to the LOGIN/NEW BIDDER Tab to build your profile, register for the auction, and give them credit card information. Canadians are amongst the highest if not the highest users of online purchases in the world. So you are with the majority of Canadians who shop in the e-commerce world. 

The registration for HIBID requires your name, address, phone number, email address, a bidder name you create to bid, payment method – credit card number, security code, and expiry date. 

Here’s an important note. Buyers’ personal information is stored on secure servers in the US. Individual auction houses on shared platforms like Visbids only have access to your name, address, and email address so we can contact you or have your purchases sent to the right address. HIBID and its parent company authenticate your credit card and verify that the shipping address matches the address on the credit card. 

Step Three

Start Bidding

The next button you need to click to get into the auction, particularly in HIBID, is the green “BIDDING OPEN” tab. It opens the auction so you can see all of the lots. If you don’t want to bid but just watch you do NOT have to register. You can see how the auction is going or what your favourite things are selling for just by going to the website and pushing the green button.

There are several strategies on how to bid at an online auction. It is much like an in-person auction but you have more options online. But we will save that discussion for a later date. 

You simply click on the title of the item (lot) want to bid on and you will see a black square marked “BID $5.00” or whatever the amount is in order to place a bid. You have two options here. Either click on the bid button at the bid increment shown or hit the plus sign on the side to raise your bid to more than the minimum next bid. Bid increments are set by the auction house. The increment increases the more expensive the article is. At first, it is only $5.00 in many auctions.  

A real advantage of online bidding is that it is anonymous. The computer generates a code for each bidder made up of letters and characters so you can remain hidden in the background. No more holding your card up or waving your hand for your competition to see.

Let’s say you are not ready to bid but you want to keep track of some items. Simply click the “WATCH ICON” right under the title of the lot you want to follow.  Now you have two ways of following your favourite items. You next go to the little icon top right that sort of looks like a person and click on it.  It produces a drop-down list and either selects “Current Bids or Watch List”. The Watch List contains the bids as well but not vice-versa.  Keep checking on the activity as things get faster as it nears the end of the auction. The page will tell you Your HiBid total and Your Max bid total as well.  

Step Four

Know About the Timing of Online Auctions

There are so many possible details in this section but we will keep it simple for now. Let’s talk about the length of the auction, the end of an auction, lot speed, and soft close.

An auction can run for any length of time but generally 3 -10 days. You can bid as soon as the open goes live for bidding.  

In the last hour before closing the action heats up dramatically. There is a computer-controlled countdown in the last hour and if you go into “Live Catalog” you can watch as items count down to close. There is a clock on each item giving minutes and seconds left in the bidding. Each auction house sets its own pace for closing. Intervals range from 10 seconds to one minute per lot.

If you are bidding on several lots and they are all closing around the same time, it can be quite nerve-wracking. It requires some time management and careful attention but it is a very straightforward process. Just bid on the item closing first to avoid being disappointed. 

Some people wait until the literal last minute to bid. If that happens then the bidding gets extended for a certain additional amount of time. This is called the soft close. In our case, another minute is added to the bidding automatically. The amount of additional time for the soft close allows the other bidder time to consider making another bid.   

Step Five

Paying for Your Purchases

Again there are several ways depending on the auction house. Visbids chose to run everyones’ credit cards right after the auction closes. Others require you to call and make payments online or over the phone. We prefer the more efficient route and prefer not to handle your credit card information ourselves. There is also the option of paying by e-transfer or by cash. Any special arrangements must be approved by the auction house well in advance of the auction closing.

All online auction houses add a buyer’s premium to the purchase. This varies from 10% to 28% depending on the auction house.

The online auction world is now open to you. Feel free to make any comments, corrections, additions, or ask any questions. Simply write an email to info@visbids.com. 

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