5 Gun Auction Bidding Tips from RIAC CEO, Pat Hogan
By Pat Hogan & Joel Kolander
The 2017 December Premiere Firearms Auction will be the largest Premiere Auction in our history, generating the biggest catalog we have ever produced. In a regularly-sized auction, we can receive over 20,000 sealed bids before the auction begins, resulting in a large number of bidders submitting the same amount for a particular item – approximately 400-500 each auction! When you factor in the number of bids within 90% of those tied bids (one bid less), that number jumps to 900-1,000. In other words, collectors know what guns are worth and bids tend to cluster around certain numbers.
If no higher bid is received to break a tie, the winning bid is awarded to the earliest bidder meaning a lot of broken hearts on account of a tie bid. That, dear friends, is the first of several bidding tips I would like to give you to help you win the guns you want in your collection. Take them to heart. Far from a sales pitch, these are earnest tips that you can use to your advantage and cost you nothing. Well, except for all the guns you’ll win.
1. Bid Early
We mentioned this in the introduction, but here it is in detail. If there is still somehow a tie bid after you’ve received your outbid notification (see #2 of this article), the item is awarded to the earliest bidder. That means without bidding an extra cent, you give yourself a better chance to win simply by hitting the catalog earlier than anyone else. My advice? Don’t wait until the last minute to bid. This is another thing you can do with ZERO COST to help put guns in your safe.
One can also utilize a “+1” on your bid, which authorizes the auctioneer to go one additional bid increment and helps decide tie bids. Long story short? Get those bids in early to be the first collector at that winning bid number. If you would be heartbroken losing a certain item at your top bid, place a “+1.” If you don’t win at your top bid +1, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
Advanced Tip: We have an “Auction Alerts” email that we send out when the catalog goes live online, letting you get first crack at the items and the earliest opportunity to bid. You can sign up for these in your Main account page and clicking the box next to “Auction Alerts.” Click here to sign up now.
2. Use Bidder Notifications
In brief, this is a free service provided by RIAC that sends you a series of emails prior to auction notifying you if you have been outbid or tied (Click here for a full description of the Bidder Notification service). These emails do NOT state what the current winning amount is, nor who placed it. Once you receive an outbid notification, as a collector, you have a choice. You can bid more or bid on another lot (covered more in tip #5), letting you choose how to most efficiently use your pocketbook and still go home with a collector firearm.
It doesn’t get much easier than that to find out if you’re outbid on an item (or tied). Thousands of people are signed up for this service already. Click here right now to sign up. Under your Main Account page click “Bidder Notifications” under Email Options. It’s that simple. Seriously. Use them.
3. Bid Live
The previous two tips are for folks who bid before the auction via sealed bid (also sometimes called an absentee bid). But if you really want to give yourself the best advantage, I recommend bidding live. This can be done in person at our facility (all auctions are open to the public), over the phone, and as of a few short weeks ago, via our very own live online bidding service – RIAC Live.
Bidding live is the best way to avoid the pitfalls listed in the previous two tips: being outbid and being tied. It allows you to adapt. If you bid live, you’ll know immediately if you’re outbid – not by waiting for some notification after the fact. You will also know if your max bid is tied with someone else, and can decide right there if you’d like to make that one extra bid to take home a prize. Live bidders can also hear corrections and get a feel for the auction (something experienced bidders want to know). A feature available to live phone bidders are our Text Message Alerts, which provides a quick reminder to make sure they don’t miss a single lot.
- Your wishlist items appear in green during the auction (shown below), you must login to your website account. If you placed a sealed bid on an item prior to auction. That too will show (shown below right side of item).
- Items you win have “Collector Sheets” available in your RIAC web account.
- More features besides these are coming out early in 2018.
4. Know Your Bid Increments
Something that has always bothered me about other auction houses is that they don’t use fixed bid increments. They might start off, “Who will give me $5,000… $5,000…. what about $3,000? $3,000? Do I hear $1,000?” (this isn’t an example of fixed bid increments, but it drives me nuts. Why wouldn’t people wait to see how low you’re going to go?). After someone finally chimes in a $1,000, the next thing out of their mouth is “Now who will give me $2,000?” Now that someone has agreed to pay $1,000, you’re going to try and immediately double it? Oy vey.
Or when someone wins an item for $7,050. A customer bids an item up to $7,000 and you’re going to sell them out for $50? Allow me to assure you that will never happen at RIAC. Our bids constantly increase in approximately 10% increments, making it fair for all participants.
Having both worked the Online Bidding console and placed bids by phone, I have seen this jumping around be difficult on the Online Bidding console operator, who now has to manually (and quickly!) type each new bid instead of just progressing to the next sequential bid. If the console operator isn’t in sync with the auction, people online won’t have the most up-to-date information and won’t be able to place a winning bid. This can also be confusing for phone bidders watching live streams where the yet-to-be-updated screen does not match what they’re hearing over the phone, potentially a 2-3 second delay, which is a critical amount of time during a fast-moving auction.
OK, rant over. The tip is that RIAC uses fixed bid increments and those numbers don’t change (yes, even though the disclaimer in the picture below says we could). With a little strategy, you can easily use fixed bid increments to your advantage.
Sealed Bidders: Did you know that many people tend to bid those nice, big, round, even numbers ($1,000, $3,000, $4,000, etc.)? By making your bid increment not so “common” and raising it just one increment ($1,100, $3,250, $4,250), you stand a much better chance at winning the lot. Another common point of bidding are the “jump points”- the points where the bid increments increase ($1,000, $5,000, $20,000, etc), so the same strategy applies there as well. These are also big round numbers, but often see more activity than those without significance to a bid increment.
Live bidders: If you’re live bidding, you want to be the one placing the bids at the “jump points.” We call this being “on the right foot.” A quick example is that when approaching $2,000, you would want to be on the “evens” ($1,400… $1,600… $1,800) and your competition to be on the “odds” ($1,500… $1,700… $1,900). Continuing this trend means that you would place a bid at $2,000 – a simple $100 jump – but your opponent would have to follow that with a bid for $2,250 – a $250 jump from their previous bid of $1,900. This sort of jump isn’t always enough to scare people off, but many times it is! Besides, it never hurts and that’s what this article is all about.
Advanced Tip: If you’re on the “odds,” you can always jump bid to land on the “evens.” Instead of bidding $1,900 and letting them bid $2,000. Just skip $1,900 and jump to $2,000 yourself. It’s a bold move and often unexpected.
5. Find Related Items
We sell around 25,000 guns annually. Odds are there are going to be some similar selections available within the same auction. Didn’t win what you wanted on Day 1? Go search Day 2 and 3! Our catalogs are designed that way – featuring a single genre across multiple days. There are plenty of good reasons to search later items in the auction.
- There are likely similar items and now you have one less competitor to worry about.
- Many collectors find what they want early on in the auction and, for reasons unknown, stop looking.
- Some people have exhausted their budget early and are unable to compete for later items.
It’s like Disney World (no, not because people call RIAC “The Happiest Place on Earth”). When the park opens, a ton of people pile into the first ride they see, and then the next and the next, creating massive lines and wait times along the way. Savvy folks head to the back of the park first to avoid those crowds, enjoy no lines, and get in lots of rides! Auctions can work the same way. Don’t just rush into the catalog. Day 2 and 3 of auction can present many pleasant opportunities. Best of all, our online catalog makes searching subsequent days easier than ever with the ability to search by keyword, manufacturer, caliber, and numerous other parameters.
There you are, collector friends. I know some of you are very experienced auction goers and may have heard about one or two of these before. If you’ve attended an auction in person, I can guarantee you’ve seen a few in practice! You won’t win every item you bid on at auction, but hopefully the remaining tips will give you an edge that you can use for years to give you a leg up on the competition and build an outstanding collection. Good luck!