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Rules to follow:

Examine the items at the presale exhibition carefully (take along a tape measure and a flashlight). Beware of wooden furniture with legs made of wood that differs from the surface. Chances are someone has put the piece together from two or more pieces.

When an item catches your interest, ask the attendant what price it is likely to bring-usually a pretty good estimate.

If you can narrow your choice to one item of each type, you don't have to attend the auction. Simply decide on the maximum you are willing to pay and place the bid in advance. If a piece isn't bid up to your price, the auctioneer will award it to you the next level of bidding.(Example) If your bid was $250 but the bidding stopped at $175, you will get the piece for $200. On the other hand, if you cannot narrow your choice to one item of each type and you must be physically present at the auction, find out what time the first item on your list will go on the block. Rule of thumb: Most auctions clip along at about 100 items an hour. Hence, if you are planning to bid on Lot 121, you can arrive an hour after the auction is scheduled to begin.

The term "antique" means that an object is at least 100 years old. Most auctions sell chairs, art, and other old items that people are looking for.

It is best to go to an auction during the months of July, August, and December, which are slow months at most auction houses. Your chances of winning will be much better, since there are less competitors.

There is no exchange or refund policy in this kind of bidding. Make sure that you are bidding on something that you really want, because once you purchase it, it is yours. The auction house is not responsible for bidders' errors. When in doubt, take an expert with you to examine the item if it is expensive.

Don't be overeager. It encourages bids from "phantom" buyers, bidding you up. Best not to open the bidding first. Let someone else open the bid, and then you can start participating.

Don't worry about bidding against dealers. They have to buy low enough to handle their overhead and make a profit. Most people are afraid of bidding against dealers, since they assume they will lose.