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An expert guide to buying art and antiques from online auctions.
3 Mins

Buying art or antiques at auction

Helen Marvel
Helen Marvel

If you collect a particular item, style or period, it’s far easier to find what you’re looking for online, browsing from the comfort of your sofa, rather than spending your valuable spare time scouring second-hand shops and often leaving empty handed.

You may feel nervous about buying art or antiques from an online auction, without getting to physically see the item, but there are simple steps you can take and processes in place to protect you.

Study the details

Most lots contain a comprehensive description and enough imagery for you to know what it is you’re going to bid on, so check through these. If there are any imperfections or restoration work, these should be explained here. If any specific information is missing that you want to know, you can contact us and we will speak to the vendor for you. We have many, many excellent vendors who have been listing their goods with William George for years and they are passionate about their items and keen to help provide as much detail to potential buyers as possible. So, if in doubt about anything, please do just ask. Remember, once you’ve placed a bid you’ve made a commitment to buy so you need to be armed with all the details before you start.


Most of our auctions are live for at least two weeks, so you have plenty of time to do your homework and decide what your bidding strategy is. Take your time to research the item you have your eye on and take a look around to see what kind of prices similar items have been fetching and what it is likely to be worth.

Know your limits

Unlike at a live auction where you could easily get carried away in the moment and exceed your budget, timed auctions allow you to set a maximum and stick with it. You can see the starting bid and won’t know the reserve but decide what you are happy to spend on the item in question and bid within your comfort zone. If someone places a higher bid we’ll let you know and you can then consider whether to increase or let it go.

Be aware of the fees

To decide your maximum bid you may want to add up the additional costs that you’ll be looking at on top of the  price of the actual item you’re buying. The buyer’s premium is the most important figure. This is automatically added to your bid and is very clearly displayed. You will also have VAT on the buyer’s premium, which again is shown when you bid. The last cost is delivery but you may choose to collect in person, so this doesn’t apply to every sale.

What if there’s a problem?

Once you’ve paid us, we hold your fund for 14 days before they go to the vendor. This gives you the opportunity to receive your purchase and make sure you’re satisfied that it matches up with the description and meets your expectations. If there was to be an issue, we would freeze the payment until a resolution is found and everyone is happy.

We hold regular auctions of rare, unusual and beautiful art and antiques, so why not check out what we have for you to start bidding on right now?