July 2, 2012

Tips for bidding at auctions

Auction house owner offers tips for bidding

By STEVEN HOWELL, Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Going once ... going twice ... SOLD!

Auctions are great places to find a bargain. But for those new to the auction experience, there are some rules to follow. Here’s a bit of etiquette for enjoying the thrill of an auction.

Steve Brodi knows auctions like the back of his bidding hand. He’s been in the auction business and the owner of Bridge Street Auctions since 1989.

Every week, new merchandise comes in from various consignees and estates. And every week that same merchandise goes out the door one by one at auctions. His Bridge Street gallery warehouse is usually packed to the rafters with everything from fine china to dorm-room refrigerators, bins of dollar-store knick-knacks to handmade rifle racks — you name it, he’s put it up for bid.

Brodi and his team sort through everything that comes in. The merchandise gets categorized by big-ticket items, finer objects of some value and everyday bric-a-brac. It then gets photographed and posted to his website,, for perusal. 


Bridge Street Auctions holds two auctions a week — the ever-popular Box Lot Bonanza at 6 p.m. Fridays and a Sunday morning auction of finer items and furniture.

“And no two auctions are ever the same,” Brodi said.

What exactly is a Box Lot Bonanza?

“Stuff,” Brodi quipped.

For example, one bin had a demi jar with no cover, wax figurines, candles, some Halloween decorations... Total sale?

“I’ll probably get $1 for that box,” Brodi said.

Dozens of such bins wait for bid every week.

Can bidders see what’s inside?

“That’s where the fun comes in,” Brodi said. “We display it a little bit, but you never know what’s inside.”

Bins have fetched from $1 into the hundreds of dollars. About 50 to 75 bidders show up every week for the bonanza. And no matter how big or small the stack, Brodi won’t quit until everything is sold.

The finer items in Brodi’s inventory — those placed on a long line of wall shelves — and all of the furniture on site is sold in the weekly Sunday auction, which starts at 10:30 a.m. About 100 to 200 folks show up for that auction every week. Potential bidders can preview the items ahead of time.

“You can come in Friday afternoons just to browse,” Brodi said.


So, potential bidders have done their previews and research, and the auction is about to begin. What’s next?

“Don’t feel intimidated,” Brodi said. “There are a lot of myths to the auction.”

For example, scratching your head or nose during an auction and unknowingly placing a bid on something you didn’t want to bid on.

“That’s the stereotype you see on TV,” Brodi said. “For us, that doesn’t happen.”


First, potential bidders need to register. Entrants then get a paddle with a number to use during the auction. As soon as a bidder successfully wins an auction, the items become their responsibility.

“At an auction, the point of sale takes place when the auctioneer says ‘sold.’” Brodi said. “So you need to take care of the item from that point on.”

Brodi suggests that bidders bring bags and boxes to pack up their stuff. And advises against leaving unwanted bin items on site.

“If you buy it all, you take it all,” he said.


If a person sees an item they like during a preview, they shouldn’t ask Brodi to sell it on the spot. That’s just not fair to people who can make it to an auction but not a preview, he said.

“But you can make a phone bid or a proxy bid.”

If a person can’t make it to the auction but saw something on the website they wish to bid on, they can call during the auction or place a bid range on the item, and Brodi will place the bid on their behalf.


And if consignees can’t come to Brodi, he’ll come to them.

“We also do on-site estate auctions,” he said.

On-site estate auctions are usually held on Saturdays. Brodi says attendees should bring their own bags and boxes and even their own chairs in case the auction goes on for a while.

“And dress appropriately for the weather,” he said.

On-site auctions are held year-round and are often outdoors, so bidders should be prepared for hot days, cold days and rainy days.

Brodi’s biggest auction tip of all?

“You have to have a good time when you’re here.”