A beginner's guide to buying teddy bears at auction

18 December 2008
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Advice on buying bears at auction. ...
A beginner's guide to buying teddy bears at auction Images

Buying vintage or collectable bears at auction has many advantages.

Foremost among these is the opportunity to gain invaluable experience by handling and examining a large number of precious old teds at the pre-sale viewings.

It is also great fun to rub shoulders with other bear enthusiasts, many of whom are very experienced and are usually willing to share their knowledge with novices. 
However, buyers should proceed with caution if price alone is their motivating factor in bidding at auction because there are many pitfalls for the unwary.

For example, the addition of buyer’s premium and VAT to the hammer price can make a bear a lot more expensive than the purchaser expected.

Then there is the danger of getting caught up in ‘auction fever’. Incautious collectors, swept away in the excitement of the sale, can find themselves going significantly over budget. 
Another potential problem for the inexperienced is that they are reliant on the accuracy of the catalogue descriptions.

While salerooms that hold regular specialist sales of teddy bears can generally be relied on to describe bears with a reasonable degree of accuracy, those that sell the odd bear here and there can – and do – make pretty horrendous mistakes.

Although these are genuine mistakes, made without a deliberate intention to mislead buyers, the default setting of most auction buyers is to trust the catalogue description and it takes a degree of expertise to recognise these errors. 
However, having purchased some of my favourite bears at auction, I know that a part of my pleasure in owning them comes from remembering the thrill of bidding for them.

These are the golden rules I stick to whenever I bid at auction. If you follow them, you shouldn’t have any problems.

teddy bear image•    Examine: carefully view any bear you are considering bidding for. Check that it matches the catalogue description and look for restoration or damage that has not been mentioned. Make sure the bear looks ‘right’ for its age and make – for example, are the eyes correct, does the stuffing feel right?

(If the bear is part of a non-room auction, ie online, obtain a full condition report from the saleroom/vendor before leaving a bid, and check returns policy in the event that the bear fails to live up to expectations.)

•    Budget: decide how much the bear is worth to you and set yourself an upper limit based on that. Remember that the buyer’s premium and VAT will be added to the hammer price. Buyer’s premiums differ from saleroom to saleroom so make sure you know in advance how much it is.

•    Bidding: when bidding starts for your item, don’t let yourself get carried away. If bidding paddles are issued at the sale, raise yours firmly to indicate you wish to bid, otherwise gesture with your catalogue or even a raised arm.

Stop bidding if your upper limit is surpassed, and if the auctioneer persists in prompting you to bid again, give a firm shake of the head to indicate you are out. If you are the successful bidder, give the auctioneer your paddle number or name, and make a note of the hammer price on your catalogue.

•    Payment: several days before the auction you should find out which payment methods are acceptable to the saleroom. If debit and credit cards are accepted, find out if an additional charge is levied for using them.

Once you have finished bidding, take your paddle to the cashier and then carefully check the invoice you will be given – make sure the lot number and hammer price shown on it correspond with your catalogue record. Once you’ve paid in full you can go and collect your bear.


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