Bidding Strategies for Kolbe & Fanning Sales

Every auction house is a little different, with varying procedures and policies. On top of that, it can seem like every online bidding platform has its own quirks. Here are some suggestions for bidding in Kolbe & Fanning’s auctions.

Third-Party Online Platforms

Our third-party platform is Auction Mobility, and can be accessed at You’ll need a credit card to sign up, because they need to verify that you are who you say you are and to prevent fake bidding. The advantage of using a third-party platform is that many bidders feel more secure not giving the auction house their maximum bid directly, entrusting it instead to a third party. The disadvantage is that while we may have known you for thirty years, they haven’t had that pleasure and need to verify your identity.

Be Aware of Bidding Increments

The bidding platform sets the bid increments. For instance, bidding between $100 and $200 will be in $10 increments. This applies whether you are placing bids directly with us via email, post, fax or phone, or whether you are using the online platform (in advance or live). If we receive a bid of $112, we will have to round it down to $110 to accommodate the bidding increment.

For those using the online system in advance of the sale, please be aware that what you are doing is giving the online platform an absentee bid to be placed during the sale. If there is no bid on a lot and you place the first bid, you will have the opening bid. During the live sale, the lot will open to you and the system will then ask for further bids. If someone bids against you, your absentee bid will be consulted to see if you can bid again.

Just because you have placed an absentee bid for a certain amount does not mean someone else can’t win the lot for that exact amount if the increment falls against you. This often happens when a bidder places an absentee bid that is one increment above the opening bid. If you place a $70 bid on a lot with a $100 estimate that opens at $65, you will have the $65 opening bid, but then the system will look for other bids, just as though you were in an auction room. In a public auction, you wouldn’t bid $65, then bid $70 against yourself. If someone else bids $70, they will have the $70 bid, not you. If you want your bid to have some “breathing room,” bid two increments above the current bid asked, not one.

Bid Live or in Advance?

People have differing opinions about whether it is best to bid in advance or wait until the live sale to place their bids. With busy schedules, it is often difficult to remember when an auction will take place, and you never know how long it might run. Placing absentee bids in advance assures you that you won’t forget about the sale, or get distracted by something, nor do you have to feel stuck at your computer waiting for the sale to proceed through 60 more lots until it gets to the next item you want to bid on. On the other hand, some feel that bidding in advance only gives one’s competition the knowledge of your interest in the lot and the opportunity to “feel out” your bid level by placing small advance bids, possibly driving up the ultimate sale price.

We have found that the best results are derived from a combination of advance and live bidding. Placing advance bids provides the comfort of knowing that your bids are being taken care of, but monitoring the live sale gives you the chance to jump in and raise bids if you are outbid. This can be especially useful if some of your bids on earlier lots have been unsuccessful, freeing up funds to be more aggressive on later lots. After each and every sale, we hear from a customer who simply forgot about the auction and is upset about missing out—all the more reason to place advance bids next time!


We’ve noticed during live sales that some bidders seem to wait until just before a lot is going to close before they place their bid. There is no advantage to doing so, as our auctions are conducted by a live person, not a clock. If we receive a last-second bid, we will not close the lot until other bidders have had the opportunity to respond. If anything, waiting runs the risk of having us close the lot before you expect us to, and we won’t be reopening it—so please don’t drag out the sale unnecessarily by waiting to bid.

Traditional Bidding

Remember that you do not have to bid through the online system in order to participate in our sales. You have the option of giving your bids directly to us and having us execute them for you at the live online sale. Many of our clients do this, sending us bids through the mail, by fax, or (more often) through email or by phone. If you want to do this, please remember that we need to receive your bids by the close of the day before the sale, so that we have time to organize our bids and get them ready for the sale. We will always attempt to buy lots for less than your maximum bids when competition allows. Successful auction businesses are built by establishing trust with bidders, and we are well aware of our responsibility to conduct our auctions with professionalism and discretion.

Read the Terms and Conditions of Sale

Make sure you read the Terms and Conditions of Sale, which include payment information, shipping fees, condition descriptions, bidding increments, and other important details. You can find them at or printed in each sale catalogue.

Please let us know if you have any questions about bidding in our sales. We’re always happy to talk with our clients about any part of the process. To register for the online sale, please go to Good luck!