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How to Buy at Auction

Bidders at Lenkiewicz 2008

This guide outlines the process of buying at auction at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood.

Sales Calendar

The first step in buying at auction is to find out when they are!

We hold fortnightly Antiques and Interior Auctions at the South West Saleroom Complex in Exeter, with fine and specialist sales being held periodically during the year.

Our sales calendar is available online or can be picked up at reception in Exeter. Alternatively, you can call us on (01392) 413100 or email us.

If you are a registered web user, you can also sign up to receive reminders of upcoming sales.

We also publish RSS feeds of all of our sales, so if your web browser supports this innovation, you can be notified automatically about them.


The next step is to find out what is being offered in the sales that interest you during the year. Our sales catalogues are always available online.

If you are registered user on our web site, you can login and download the catalogue for any sale.

Our fine and some specialist sales have fully-illustrated colour catalogues. These are available from our offices for a fee (usually £10) or can be downloaded for free in PDF format provided you are a registered web site user.

Condition Reports

Once you have found a lot that interests you, you can obtain a condition report from the specialist concerned. The specialist for each lot is listed online. You can request a condition report by calling the specialist on (01392) 413100 or by emailing them. If you are unsure who to contact, email reception who will make sure it is forwarded to the right person.

If you are a registered web site user, you can also login and very conveniently use the links on each lot page to request a condition report.

Registering to Bid

If you want to bid for one or more items, you must register with Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood in advance (if you have not done so previously). We use a paddle system like many other auctioneers.

We will need your name and address in order to register you. If you are unknown to us, we will also require proof of identity and residence (such as your passport or driving licence). You can register online, by post or in person.

Remember that registration can take a few days to complete if you are not registering in person.

If you will be attending the auction in person, you will be issued with a paddle (usually a wooden 'bat' or a piece of card) with your unique number printed on it on arrival at reception. You use this to bid in the saleroom.


You can bid at our auctions in a number of different ways.

Attending the Sale
If you are bidding in person at either of our salerooms, you show that you want to bid by simply raising your paddle to catch the auctioneer's eye. If you are successful in buying the lot, the auctioneer will record your number as the buyer. When you have finished bidding for items, you can proceed to the Cashier's Office to settle your account before collecting your purchases. You will be able to take your items with you if you pay in cash. The same applies to credit or debit card payments, although you will be liable to a surcharge. If you pay by cheque, you will not be able to pick up your items until the payment has cleared.

Bidding by Telephone
If you have identified a high value lot, you can bid by telephone. You must register to do this before the sale starts so you can reserve a telephone line and a member of the saleroom staff to place your bid for you. Telephone Bidding is particularly suitable if you are unable to attend a sale in person. Telephone Bids are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and may be subject to a minimum estimate value for the lot in question.

Commission (or Absentee) Bid
You can leave a Commission Bid by completing a Commission Bid form and sending it back to us. You specify which lots you wish to bid for and stipulate the maximum value you are prepared to pay per lot on the form. This means that we can act on your written permission to secure an item for you as your representative for the lowest possible price. If you are a registered web user and have already completed the proof of identity and residence requirements, you can simply place commission bids for each lot by using the links on the lot page.

Live Internet Bidding
We offer some of our more important sales using Live Internet Bidding systems. You will need to register to use these services, as directed. You will find tutorials, videos and other guides at these sites to help you bid online successfully. You should be aware that this attracts an additional 4.95% buyer's premium (plus VAT).

After the Sale

If you were not present at the auction, you can check the hammer prices for any lot by checking the online catalogue for the sale. We publish the results very shortly after the completion of each sale. You can also subscribe to our RSS sales feed to receive result details.

If you are a registered web user, you can also elect to receive sale results by email.

Settling Your Account

The price you pay is the amount at which the auctioneer's hammer falls (the hammer price), plus a buyer's premium (a percentage of the final hammer price) and VAT where applicable.

If you attended the auction, you can settle immediately at our Cashier's Office. Alternatively, you can call us to settle your account using a payment card (although you will be liable for a surcharge) or you can send us a cheque by post. We also accept various forms of electronic fund transfers. For more details, see the payment methods that we accept.

In any event, you should settle your outstanding account within three working days. You will not be able to take any items purchased until payment has been cleared.

You will be issued with an invoice made out to the name and address on your Registration Form.

Storage, Collections and Delivery

If you attended the auction in person and paid with anything other than a cheque, you will be able to take your purchases away with you as soon as you settle your account at our Cashier's Office.

If you are unable to take your purchases with you, we can suggest local agents who can arrange storage and shipping of your items or you can do this yourself.

We have negotiated preferrential rates from Mailbox Etc who can arrange wrapping, packing and despatch.

Important Note

You should check out the small print of our Conditions of Sale and Information for Buyers.