Most local auction rooms sell collectors’ and dealers’ postcard cast-offs, as well as bulk lots of liquidated property, business clearances, collections from people who have died or given up collecting.
The good news is specialist postcard dealers rarely get to know about these sales so there’s always a good chance you’ll find plentiful lots worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars selling for just a few dollars.
* You’ll find some auction houses selling complete rubbish stock in bundles which no one can resell; others promote rubbish lots mixed with one or two quality items, usually to confuse bidders and create a bidding frenzy. Yet others sell quality items only, usually complete collections or entire business stock from people who have given up collecting or selling or they’ve died or gone out of business.
* Know how unscrupulous dealers operate. Most dealers know what they are doing and the dishonest few will remove quality items, the process is called ‘picking’, from anything they buy, and bundle the rest back into auction. The best they sell themselves, often on eBay.
* Visit as many auctions as possible that deal regularly in big bundle items. Many auction houses have special collectibles sales every few months and can be a wonderful source of low cost, high profit goods. Try to get some back catalogues and look for realisations of prices fetched at previous auctions. You could, for example, obtain a past year’s Spring and Summer Postcard Sale catalogue and a subsequent list of realisations, namely prices achieved. You can sometimes get these catalogues from auction staff, some may still be available to print from the auction company’s Internet site. Compare lot numbers from the earlier catalogue with actual finishing prices listed in the later catalogue. You’ll get a good idea of how close the auction company’s estimates were compared to finishing prices. Being able to confidently predict finishing prices means you can budget on the day and in emergency you might even consider placing commission bids without having to visit in person.
* Try always to turn up on the day, not only to view but also to bid. Opinions vary and it’s not unusual for an auctioneer to describe something as ‘old’ which in collecting terms is better called ‘modern’. You can’t afford to bid on items you haven’t viewed, you must not trust another person’s opinion, irrespective of their standing in the postcard world.
* At offline auction try to check lots immediately before bidding starts. This is because lots are sometimes tampered with, often mistakenly, usually deliberately, and what you viewed yesterday may be totally unlike the lots you’ll buy today.
– items since stolen or damaged.
– items moved between lots so a lot that contained rubbish yesterday is packed with high value collectibles today, and all the postcards you wanted are no longer part of the lot you’re bidding on.
– higher priced items are often concealed behind less valuable items so all most people see is rubbish and low value pieces and they probably won’t bid.