Vintage Treasures – Going to an Antiques Auction!

“One man’s Junk is another man’s treasure”

While our previous 1990’s bungalow might not have had many old pieces (apart from that second hand table and chairs and a cast off 2 seater sofa that we inherited from our family when we first moved in and which were definitely not antiques 🙁 ), it has really only been since we built our present home that our real love of all things ‘old’ has developed.

We bought this chair (and another matching one) in a terrible state at auction and had them re-upholstered – ended up costing around €180 each!!

We chose to furnish this house with a mixture of antique and new pieces, many of which we bought through on-line Ebay Auctions and also at House Clearance Auctions

I don’t doubt that these Auction Rooms are the haunts of experienced antiques dealers looking for that hidden gem which perhaps those of us with untrained eyes might not spot but don’t let that put you off going. It’s amazing the bargains that are to be had plus with an auction there is the buzz of taking part which I think might get a bit addictive!!

Whether your love is for the Georgian or Victorian Era or something more contemporary such as Mid-Century (very on-trend at the moment) then you can be lucky and find that one thing you have been seeking to suit your style, and pocket at a local auction.

Our Sideboard purchased through Ebay – we bought this from a seller in England. Paid around £500 and then had it couriered over (A lot easier than you think to do!)

Auctions take place all over the country and are advertised in local press or you can check on-line for one close to where you live. We attend those which take place at Matthews Auction Rooms in Oldcastle, Co Meath and have signed up for their Auction notification email so always know when the next sale is taking place.

Auctions are not limited to just furniture – you can expect to find a vast array of jewellery, cutlery and tea sets, memorabilia, household decor pieces such as rugs and lighting, kitchenalia, garden items and there are generally lots and lots of books (great for filling up new book shelves and offered in ‘job lots’ so very reasonably priced) You never know your luck and might just pick up a First Edition!!!

This chair ended up costing us €18 at an auction last year – it will eventually be reupholstered but for now it’ll do as is. The Victorian Mirror came from a local antiques shop and was around €90

If you decide to visit a local Antiques Auction, here are my top tips:

  • Sign up for auction emails for a Sale Room close to you so you will know when it is taking place
  • If they don’t provide an on-line catalogue of what is being sold (this is so useful as it means you won’t have a wasted trip if there is nothing which takes your fancy !) then the auction rooms are generally opened for a few days before the actual sale or from early morning on the day of sale. The catalogue will usually include an estimated selling price for each entry in the sale but note the actual selling price could be higher or lower depending on interest on the day
  • If you are looking for a piece of furniture, make sure to measure your space at home before leaving and take a small tape measure with you to the Auction Room – buying an item which you later discover is too big/small cannot be returned unless you decide to re-enter it in for auction again yourself!! Also, know your room colour scheme, particularly if buying an item which is fabric covered – I seem to spend my life with a handbag full of paint colour cards and fabric swatches 🙂
  • On arrival, you will register and be given a catalogue detailing every item for auction and also a number which you will use if bidding (we’ve all seen those episodes of Bargain Hunt!!)
  • Have a browse through the auction room – you may be looking for a specific item but you might also find something you hadn’t expected. Mark the items you like on the catalogue so that you will know when they are coming up for sale. You don’t need to stay for the actual auction itself, as you can let the Auctioneers know what items you are interested in and what your maximum bid is. They will take it from there.. if you are successful, you will be contacted just after the sale and generally payment needs to be made immediately. Please note that buying an item at auction incurs an Auction Fee to the purchaser – check with the Auction House before bidding to find out how much this is.
  • Please remember that many of the items at auction have perhaps come from old houses and may not be looking their best. For instance, upholstered chairs can look very shabby and maybe a little smelly! Don’t let this put you off if the size and shape are perfect. You can probably buy this chair at a fraction of what it would be in a Furniture Shop and once you have it reupholstered with fresh materials in your own choice of fabric, it will be as good as new!!
  • If you decide to stay for the auction (and I recommend you should at least once) try to find a seat as early as possible with a good vantage point to the Auctioneer. However, these people are eagle eyed and if you are making a bid, they will see you 🙂
  • THIS IS IMPORTANT!! Decide on a maximum amount you are happy to pay for the item you are bidding on. It is very easy in the throws of an auction to get carried away and end up paying more than you can afford for a piece so hold your nerve. If however, you have been looking for a particular item for some time and know that they are rare then use your own judgement. You never know, one more bid might just win it!!
  • When the piece you are going to bid on comes up for sale, you need to be quick to either raise your hand or the number given to you when you registered. Bidding is quite frantic but it’s great fun to watch (and take part in!!)
  • Once you are finishing bidding on the items of your choice, you do not need to remain for the end of the sale and can fix up for what you owe with the Auction House staff. You can then take your item away 🙂


If you prefer to do your bidding from the comfort of your own home then you could register with an Auction House and once you receive their on-line catalogue can place a bid with them noting your highest bid through their website.

Just a word of warning though – catalogues will give a brief description of the item for sale and may highlight noteworthy flaws or damage but there is no comparison to seeing the item in person!

Sellers on Ebay tend to include lots of photos of what they are selling so you get a good idea of the condition of what you may decide to bid on (Again, bear in mind what you are looking at could be well over 100 years old so isn’t going to be pristine – I feel if you can get over this then the character far outweighs those flaws). As I mentioned earlier, we bought much of the furniture in our house on Ebay and have very rarely been disappointed.

I would highly recommend a trip to an auction for any home owners out there and I promise you, you will enjoy it and may even be bitten by the bug 🙂

Happy Bidding!!

Our Dining Room Table & Chairs bought on an On-line Ebay Auction in England and had shipped to Ireland

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