Every Thursday, Clars holds a valuation event from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. You may bring up to five items with you to be appraised. If necessary -- for very large items, for example -- you may bring pictures instead.
Clars employees will give verbal valuations on your pieces and discuss the possibility of consigning them at a future auction. In general, the items that you wish to consign must be worth at least $2000 overall, or $500 for a single piece. If your pieces qualify, the person who valuated your item(s) will help you proceed with the consignment process.
Clars keeps a portion of the selling price of each item. This percentage ranges from 10% (for items selling for at least $7,001) to 39% (for items selling for under $100).
Clars' auctions happen one weekend a month as a three-day event. Depending on what you want to buy, you will likely find yourself going to the auction house on at least two days: Friday for the preview and either Saturday or Sunday for the auction itself. The less expensive items sell on Saturday and the rarer, more valuable pieces sell on Sunday.
Pick up auction catalogs at the table just to your right as you enter the building. These will give you more information about each item, including a brief description of each lot and an estimated selling price. The opening bid is typically half of the low estimate. For example, if the estimate is $50 to $100, the opening bid is usually $25.
The building is divided pretty clearly into two separate areas. The area to the far left of the main doors is the Saturday side. The main area on the right – which you walk into when you enter the building – holds the pieces to be auctioned on Sunday.
On the Sunday side, you can expect to see fine art by listed artists, beautiful jewelry, and antique and modern furniture. Other items may include sculptures, Asian arts, rare pottery, sets of fancy antique dishes, and even bottles of fine wine.
The Saturday side holds the less expensive – but no less interesting – pieces. You will find plenty of striking art here, some of which sells for as little as $25. There also tends to be a lot of vintage and antique furniture. If you're in the market for a beautiful rug, there's a good chance you'll find several to choose from here. The shelves on the side and back of this section hold assorted items sold in lots rather than as individual pieces.
The preview is held from 1 to 6 p.m on Friday. During these hours you can browse through both Saturday's and Sunday's items. Clars employees wander through the building during the preview; don't hesitate to ask one of them if you have a question about a lot.
The doors open at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Bidding starts at 9:30 and goes as late as necessary. During the auctions, you can still walk around to examine and view the lots that have not yet been sold.
When you arrive on Saturday or Sunday, register for a bidder number at the window to the right of the building's main entrance. The auction usually starts near the front of the building and works its way back. Expect the auction to move at a pace of approximately 130 items per hour on Saturday and 100 items per hour on Sunday. To be safe, get there early in case the auction moved quickly or registering for your bidder number takes a while.
When you win the bidding on a lot, hold up your bidder card so that the auctioneer can see your bidder number.
After the Bidding:
Wait for at least a few minutes after your final purchase before you try to pay for your item(s). Transmission of information to the front desk is not instantaneous; they almost certainly won't have the information about your lot if you excitedly run over to pay as soon as the bidding on your item is done.
Pay at the main counter near the front doors, directly behind the table that holds the auction catalogs.
After you pay, wait for a Clars employee to escort you to your items. You will not be allowed to pick them up or remove them without this accompanying employee.
The price you bid is not the final price you will pay. Clars adds a buyer's premium of 18.5% to each lot that sells for under $70,000 (and 10% for lots selling over that price). Additionally, unless you have a resale license on file with Clars, you must pay sales tax on your purchases. In other words, count on spending about 30% more than your final bid price. If the absolute maximum you are willing to pay for an item is $150, you should bid no higher than approximately $115; the buyer's premium and sales tax will make up the difference.
If you've never been to an auction before, relax – the auctioneers at Clars don't speak a mile a minute like the stereotypical auctioneers you might see on TV. Instead, the auctions move at a brisk yet relaxed pace, making it easy to understand what's going on.
Do not touch items that have already been auctioned. After all, they now belong to a new owner.
Do not move items from one lot into another. If there are two shelves of assorted dishes, do not mix and match; put each item back on the shelf where you found it.
Bring your own packaging material, boxes, bags and similar supplies. Clars does not offer these, and you don't want to be stuck carrying a lot of 30 vintage teacups to your car two at a time because you do not have a box.
You may place an absentee bid if you are unable to be present for the live auction. Absentee bid cards are located on the same table as the auction catalogs.
If you have any questions, ask! The employees are very friendly and willing to help.