Kya deLongchamps offers 10 starter tips to get what you want from online auctions without losing your shirt.

It’s easy to become swept away in an over-caffeinated moment and to end up paying 20% buyers’ premium on a dusty old thing you already bid too much for at auction. 

Creaking it into the back of the car, it starts — the regret, the spotting of damage, the disappointment. 

Online buying is also dangerously seductive, luring the most seasoned buyer into expensive mistakes. 

Develop some discipline with our 10 essential tips:


Find out everything you can about your chosen area of collecting, or that single object that’s about to seize your wallet. There’s generally a window, even if it’s a short, frantic Google search on your phone, between viewing and pulling the trigger. Longer term, become an expert in your own field.

Refresh and deepen your knowledge by joining an online community, regularly checking sales prices and auction results. Buying online, you will be more likely to follow recommended dealers with nothing to hide.

No private deals

Don’t buy privately, if you don’t know what you’re doing. A seasoned dealer has seen it all in terms of the dance of the transaction, the pitfalls, and potential developments in the trade.

It’s well worth paying that bit more for his or her eye, network and negotiating skills. Forming a relationship, they can source pieces you are looking for in the coming years from places you simply cannot get to. Look for membership of a professional body, including the Irish Antiques Dealers Association,


Buy perfect vintage or new things. Some antique objects are not depreciated by a little wear and in the cases of the rarer thing by significant damage. Vintage, relatively young objects from the 20th century made in greater numbers, can rarely withstand a ding, scratch, absent part or fading without losing half their value.

Toys in original boxes are a strange bird, but more valuable than ‘played condition’. A.F on a catalogue means ‘as found’. Pay attention.

Of the time

Buy things that speak their time. Styles and revolutionary changes should be written up in the pieces you buy. Art deco should be all but doing the Charleston, Georgian should have superb lines — unmistakable 18th century flair, and mid-century will hum with post war excitement.

Be wary of things offered to you that seem uncomfortably out of step with their era. Fakes and reproductions dog just about every genre of antiques — research, research, research.

Paper trail

Buy pieces with a paper trail. This may in many instances be only the written receipt of a reputable, respected dealer. This will include a date, a full description (not just ‘antique jug’) and the dealer’s stamp/signature as a expression of their faith in the authenticity of the piece.


Signatures matter. ‘From the studio of’, ‘in the manner of’, ‘attributed to’ does not carry the authority of a fully signed piece of artwork with provenance from the seller.


Understand this is a market. Prices go up as well as down, so if you’re looking for a sure bet, antiques are a poor investment for most mid-range buyers. Focusing on best examples gives you a better chance of increasing what you lay out.

Fan base

Invest in things that already have a following. This may seem a bit cool, and yes there are many unappreciated and talented artists and makers, but the market goes where the popular interest is.

Comparative prices

Don’t overpay unless you’re willing to take the fall. Know the comparable figures realised on the current market for that family of thing. Most price guides take their numbers from top London showrooms which can be misleading. It may take many years for something to appreciate and return a transaction where you over-spend.

Quality antiques

Buy attractive, quality pieces. If you recoil from it, what do you think anyone else will do? Cynical buying as an amateur is a mistake in almost every case.

The audience you can get for an object as being beautiful and functional the more likely it is you will get a return on your buck.


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