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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Reservations About Auction Reserves?

Author: Ed Duer, Hourglass Antiques

Just a comment or two on the use of reserves. As a dealer who sells quite a few items via the internet auction circuits, I am aware that reserves are a necessary and important tool. So as not to lose money, if an item is selling during an auction crash, or if the item gets overlooked by the buyers, we must in some cases use reserves.

But, I have a problem with reserves that are set far above the minimum bid. I believe a reserve should be set at no more than 3 times the opening bid, in fact twice the opening bid works very well in most cases.

It is very discouraging to make numerous bids, hoping to get the item for a fair price, only to reach your limit and still not make the reserve. After a half hour of re-bidding on 2 or 3 items, a buyer becomes fatigued and usually will NOT go on to other items. He or she just wasted a great deal of their bidding time.

I have seen items started at $10- and the bids reach $6000- with the reserve still not met. Just as when you use the search engines, you will usually not go through more than 2 or 3 pages before you quit. If a buyer needs to get say $500- for an item, and he starts it for $200-, the bidders will generally be able to have an idea of what the reserve will be, and decide whether or not to take the time to bid. The buyer will view and bid on many more items, to everyone's benefit.

I also think the auction site should be set up to allow a bid that does not reach the reserve, to advance to the maximum that the buyer has bid. If an item is starting for $10- and the reserve is $100-, why increase bids by $1- or $5- each? It wastes time. Instead as in the above case the reserve is $100- and the buyer bids $75- the bid should be taken right to $75- 1 bid versus 10 or more.

The proxy bid will still protect the buyer. If he had bid $150- he would have the item for $100- unless another buyer bids more. I sometimes start items at the price I need to get, without a reserve so the buyer doesn't have to guess at what he will have to pay. It can scare the buyers off if the item is a high priced article, but usually works well for low to moderately priced items. If we make it easier for the buyers to bid, than everyone wins.


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