How to Have Fun, Excitement (& Trepidation) at an Auction

I love going to an auction.  There is such an atmosphere of excitement.  Expectancy.  A feverish jittery feeling of finding great things, and prayers you will be the highest bidder without breaking the bank.

a group of people at an auction

There is also an element of fear you will get caught up in the bidding war and spend too much. Can you feel it?  Were you imagining that coveted item, and did you just raise your hand with an imaginary bidding paddle?

Those feelings are still wrapped around me like a warm blanket – and that auction was yesterday.  Earlier in the week, I told the Country Boy I desperately needed to get out of the house to do something fun for the weekend.  Little did I know it would be one of my favorite activities!

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A Day at the Auction

On Friday, a friend texted me a notification about an Estate Auction just a few miles up the road.  The Country Boy and I left home early, went to get feed and enjoyed breakfast at the café.  And then we headed to what would turn out to be a great day.

First up, I spotted several boxes filled with canning jars.  Lot #19 had quite few boxes of flats and lids.  I marked that lot on the back of our bidding card, and kept moving. 

My goal?  One of the photos in the ad stated ‘bedding straw’.  I wanted to see if it was hay – or wheat straw.

Now, I have been searching high and low for wheat straw to use in my garden.  Wheat prices are so low right now, that most of the farmers around here aren’t growing it. 

Consequently, my source for wheat straw has ‘dried up’.  (Wheat straw is lighter than hay and doesn’t have as many seeds, so it is better for gardening mulch.)

It took some searching, and a long hike, I finally found it in a shed at the ‘top’ of the property.  I confess to a bit of tunnel-vision.  What I saw in that initial moment was about 6 – 16’ cattle panels, and a beautiful, GLORIOUS, stack of about 35 bales of wheat straw.  Score!!!  But….I couldn’t find tag with a lot number.

bidding at an auction

When the Bidding Begins

I headed back up to the action, and about an hour later, I was at the back of another barn when I heard the auctioneer say, “We are going to go ahead and auction off the contents of the white shed out front.”

My tennis shoes went flying, my bidder’s card clutched tightly in my hands. I wasn’t really listening when the auctioneer stated, “Now this is for the entire contents of that shed.  There’s some good bedding straw up there…”  I was too focused on getting in place to be seen.

“Do I hear Fifty?” And the bidding started.  I competed with one other man, and so far, I wasn’t worried.  I had already done the value calculations in my head.  My card went up.  I nodded my head. 

My competition nodded his. I began getting nervous.  I nodded again. And blinked… so I didn’t catch whether or not the other man bid higher.  As it was, I had reached my maximum with my last bid, so it didn’t really matter at that point.

And then the auctioneer slammed down the verbal hammer…

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“SOLD!  To bidder 150!”

I had to double check my card.  Whoo Hoo!!  Yep.  I was Bidder 150!  A few moments later, as I was telling the Country Boy that I won the bid, the auctioneer’s words came back to me. 


I wanted wheat straw.  What I got was the entire contents of the shed? What did I just do?  My tennis shoes took wings again, and I headed back up to determine what I had just purchased. 

Come to find out, there was not only 35 bales of wheat straw and cattle panels.  That shed was full of lumber, fence posts, a roll of field fencing, a stack of corrugated tin, bee hive boxes, bottoms and queen separators…

(deep breath…) hive box lids, another 15 bales (at least) of wheat straw, ridge caps, tin siding, ridge caps, more lumber, supplies for building bee boxes… (…releasing my breath…), plus more we couldn’t immediately see, as it (whatever ‘it’ is) was stacked underneath other things.

And that doesn’t include the chipper/shredder that the Country boy bought.

shed with hive boxes and lumber

After the Auction

I didn’t know whether to swoon with excitement, or sink to my knees, overwhelmed with the number of trips it was going to take to get all this stuff home.  But I am not tagged as The Farm Wife for nothing.  This is just all in a day’s work for me.   

Going to an auction can be a fun, exciting way to spend a day.  But long before you go, it is wise to save your ‘dimes’ in order to have plenty of money to spend.  And before you bid, you may want to escape that tunnel of vision that focuses only on what you want – and look in that shed a little more closely.

bales of wheat straw

The Auction Action

For the most part, we all think of going to an auction.  Rarely do we consider having one.

There are many different reasons for us to want to sell some or all of the contents of our homes. We may be downsizing.  A loved one may have passed on, and we are left with a house full of treasures. Or, we are just tired of all that ‘stuff’ and want to regroup.

Most people think of having an Estate or yard sale.  But knowing how much work that takes is exhausting before you even pull out a pen and price tags.

Another option is to contact an auction company.  B&W Enterprises is an auction company that will sell the contents of a home – considered an Estate Auction.  (Ask for Ben Dance, and tell him I sent you!)

a bidders card at the auction

Tips for the Bidder at an Auction

  • If at all possible, attend the preview. Photos on a website or in a catalog don’t show you the condition an item is in.  Some items may be able to be repaired, but know your abilities to do so before you buy.  If you find a Lot you want to bid on, write it down.
  • Be aware there is a buyer’s premium at all auctions.  This is how the auction company makes their money.  In addition, you will also have to pay local taxes.  Most auctions post signs explaining the percentages of the premium and the taxes charged.  Add this amount to any bid you will be making.
  • Determine the payment terms before bidding.  Some auctions will take cash, credit card or checks, but some do not – especially if your check is considered ‘out of town’.
  • Know how long you have to retrieve your item.  Most auctions ask that you take your item as soon as possible after paying, to prevent someone else from walking off with your purchase.  Please note that auction houses do not take responsibility if this happens. If you are not required to remove items immediately, or by the end of auction, be aware there may be a storage fee.  Know this before you buy.
  • Get your bidding card or paddle as soon as you get to the auction.  Double check the location of the lots you want before the bidding starts.
  • KNOW how much you plan on spending on any given Lot BEFORE the bidding starts.  Auctions are fast-paced, and you can all too easily get caught up in the sport of bidding.  Pay close attention (those auctioneers are fast-talkers for a reason!), and STOP when the bidding has reached your limit. 
  • Be confident and sure of yourself.  If you want it, don’t be shy.  Raise that paddle or card.  Watch the other bidders with one eye, and the auctioneer with the other. 
  • Keep your hands down!  If you do not plan on bidding, a raised hand still indicates to an auctioneer that you are.  If you need to wave to a friend, step away from the bidding area and walk over to them to speak.
  • Wear comfortable clothing, appropriate for the weather.  And bring a folding chair.  You may have long stretches of time between bidding for Lots you want.  Get comfortable in the meantime, and enjoy the action going on around you.
  • Stay calm.  Showing excitement is an alert to other bidders, and may cause the price to rise. Don’t give anyone any unnecessary advantage.  You want your Lot to go as low as possible! Do not offer your highest bid first.  Offer the minimum, then gradually increase as the bidding rises.  Then STOP once you have offered your maximum, or if it is exceeded before you can offer it.

a chipper/shredder at an auction

Tips for the ‘Seller’ at an Auction

  • Make sure your items are in working condition, clean, and present themselves in the best light possible.  If you are selling equipment, be sure to do some general maintenance on them prior to the auction – greasing bearings, adding oil and gasoline, giving it a good power wash, if possible.
  • Advertise! Take photos of each item and Lot.  Make sure they are in focus. Add understandable descriptions that clearly defines the items.  Either mail fliers or post them in shop windows.  Leave a stack with the shop owners.  If you have a website, advertise it there.  If not, place an ad on other online auction sites, such as Craigslist, and others.
  • Be at the auction, so you can answer questions, if necessary.
  • Create a schedule.  You want your auction to be successful, but you also want it to be entertaining, with an ease of flow.  Know where the auctioneer should begin, and where the ending point needs to be. 
  • If you have an outdoor or Estate Auction, remove any hazards. Mow the lawn, clean out flower beds, trim low hanging limbs, clean the house (if bidders will be allowed inside), etc.  Presentation is one of the most important aspects of any sale.  A clean area will allow the bidders to feel more comfortable, and hopefully be willing to spend more!
  • Hire a Professional!  An auction company, such as B & W Enterprises can easily help you navigate all the ins and outs of hosting your own auction.  Do check the company for a current license, as most auctioneers are required to have them.

take a picnic lunch to an auction

Here is my Tip for Going to an Auction

Auctions are usually a full day excursion. You arrive early in the morning to view all the items up for bid.  Once the auction starts, you want to stick around for your Lots to come up.

Some may come up early in the day.  For others, you may have to wait several hours or almost to the end of the auction. 

Around midday, you may find yourself getting hungry, but you don’t want to spend your bidding money on food.  This is when a picnic lunch comes in mighty handy!

To be able to jump and run if your Lot comes up for bidding, you want to pack easy to eat meals.  Here are a few suggestions that are easy to eat, but just as easy to put back in the hamper and get your bidding paddle ready!

  • Sandwiches – Since a day excursion is usually for fun, go ahead and make it a fun sandwich!  Use a hoagie roll or croissant for the bread.  Add lettuce, condiments and meat or veggies.  But here is a tip – if you want to serve your sandwich with tomatoes, slice them and store them in a separate bag.  This keeps the sandwich from getting soggy.
  • Chips, pickles and relishes.
  • Make a batch of brownies or your favorite cookies and take them along.
  • Snacks –

    • Trail mix is easy to make.  My favorite is a mix of Honey Roasted Peanuts, Raisins (Or Craisins) and Banana Chips or other dried fruits
    • Make your Own Party Mix
    • Fresh Veggies, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • Cheese, Crackers, and Fruit (strawberries, grapes, and apples go great with this!)

  • Take plenty of water.  As a ‘sweet’, consider adding a jug of sweet tea, lemonade or juice
  • Don’t forget to pack plates, glasses, utensils – and to make it a touch more festive, add a fun tablecloth!
  • Always take a bag to toss your trash.  You can either dispose of it on site in a trash barrel, or put it in the back of your vehicle until you get home.

a bid card with #116

Are you Ready for Action at the Auction?

If you are a buyer, auctions are one of the best places to find great items for great prices.  If you are a seller, you can remove a heavy burden from your shoulders in allowing someone else to do the work.  Auctions really are a win/win, and a fun and entertaining ‘sport’ to attend!

“Next up!  Have you seen this fine item?  You don’t want to miss out on taking this home with you. Don’t stop to think now! We left common sense behind a long time ago!”

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.


  1. Oh, My! A whole shed full of stuff! I’d for sure be overwhelmed! I hope you’re imaginative, and like bees!

    Did you get the canning supplies? They are super hard to find these days!

    I don’t think I’ve been to an auction before–certainly I’ve never bid at one. I think that takes guts and fast thinking.

    Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!

    1. Hi, Laurie! To be sure, I was overwhelmed. I did miss out on the canning supplies – they went for over 3x the cost in the stores, and way above my bid limit. But fortunately, we are beekeepers, and I think I sent the Country Boy’s mind into shut down mode with all the projects I want to create with the wood! If you have never been to an auction, consider going – you don’t have to bid, but the fun and excitement is well worth the time! Thanks for reading my post!!!

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