Home > Selling at Auction > How to Set a Reserve Price in an Auction

How to Set a Reserve Price in an Auction

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 7 Jun 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Auction Reserve Value Bid Highest Bidder

In auction terms, a reserve is the price a seller sets on an item. If bidding doesn’t reach the point, the seller isn’t obliged to sell the item. It’s a way of ensuring items of value aren’t sold too cheaply and if you’re a seller, it’s a powerful weapon in your arsenal. The winning bidder not only has to meet the reserve price, he also has to have the highest bid.

When to Use the Reserve

If you’re selling an item at auction, you’ll use the reserve if you’re submitting an item that has value that you want to realise, but you’re not sure how people will bid on it. It could be a painting by an artist not known to many, a piece of jewellery, an antique, anything which might end up selling for a large amount (a reserve is also an excellent way to combat organised low bidding). You can use a reserve in both in-person and online auctions.

You will pay the auction house for using the reserve, but it’s a lot better than having something of worth falling under the hammer for far less than you’d anticipated (which has happened before and certainly will again).

If your item is entered in an auction where bidders will know its worth, you might not need the reserve, although it might still be worthwhile to invoke it. You often find it at art auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s for instance, involving work by famous artists which are liable to go for high sums.

Obviously, you wouldn’t use a reserve for commonplace items – there has to be some value to the thing.

Tips for Using the Reserve

Do your research before offering the item at auction. Learn how much similar things have sold for before. Set your reserve accordingly. It shouldn’t be too high or you may end up taking the item home and out of pocket for the listing and reserve fees. Conversely, don’t set it too low or you might not reach the amount you’d hoped. If anything, you’re better erring on the slightly low side and hoping bidding pushes the price higher.

Be sparing. Unless you’re dealing exclusively in high-ticket items, you won’t often need to bring in the reserve.

The more you know about your item, the more effective your reserve will be. If you can supply provenance for a picture or antique, as well as a detailed description, the more likely people will be to bid.

You do have the option to sell to the highest bidder if the reserve isn’t met. In some circumstances (say, if the bid is very close to the reserve) you might want to do so; otherwise, though, it becomes pointless to even have a reserve.

If the Reserve Doesn’t Work

There are frequent instances where goods don’t reach their reserve price. If it happens to you, examine the reasons. Did you set the reserve too high? How far did the bidding go? Or was the auction perhaps inappropriate for what you were trying to sell?

Don’t be discouraged. Enter the item in a different auction, perhaps something more specialised or possibly with a slightly lower reserve. If it fails to sell again, you might have to rethink your strategy – it might not be worth what you believe it to be.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Having agreed a reserve price with an Auctioneer, the hammer went down 10% below the price I had agreed with them. Whilst they paid me the minimum I would have got for the item at the reserve price, do I have any recourse given I could have taken my item elsewhere to achieve a better outcome as they did not seek my permission to sell below the reserve?
Rodney - 7-Jun-18 @ 3:24 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • ExploreAuctions
    Re: Consumer Law and Auction Goods
    Gwendo - Your Question:What are my options on dealing with this matter.Our Response:You would ha
    3 September 2018
  • Gwendo
    Re: Consumer Law and Auction Goods
    What are my options on dealing with this matter.
    31 August 2018
  • Gwendo
    Re: Consumer Law and Auction Goods
    I just won a 6×3m gazebo on an online auction and it was advertised as "6×3m garden gazebo in black. But when I unpacked it was…
    31 August 2018
  • Geoff
    Re: How to Bid at an Auction
    I left AutoBids on the Saleroom with a UK auctioneer both of which were sold in the room at the value of the bids that I submitted. The…
    30 August 2018
  • Petetheheat
    Re: Consumer Law and Auction Goods
    Won an auction for a caravan on well known auction site, but seller refused to honour sale and sold to a third party who had not…
    21 August 2018
  • Lar
    Re: Auction House Commissions
    Recently went to an auction at an auctioneers, I won the bid. The bid was £20 how much should the bill be? Bearing in mind the…
    1 August 2018
  • Krony
    Re: Consumer Law and Auction Goods
    Put a bid in for a van at auction. Received confirmation of bid. Auction was Saturday at 2. Van apparently van did not go…
    30 July 2018
  • Taylor Hothersall
    Re: Selling Collectibles
    I have an The lord of the rings series 4 The fellowship of the ring The two towers The return of the king Original 35mm filmcel Triple…
    18 July 2018
  • Bronko
    Re: Auction House Commissions
    I've got a few brand new watches in boxes and 5 year's guarantee I've never been to auction and can't work out the percentage of the…
    26 June 2018
  • Jay
    Re: Auction House Commissions
    I run a local auction company and I only charge 10% for both buyers and sellers.
    14 June 2018