Getting the most out of online auctions


The Savvy Picker travels around the Southeast looking for vintage merchandise to stock her brick-and-mortar and online shops. And she is returning to the North Georgia Mountains next week! But while she is waiting to tour more Georgia shops (and find great merchandise), she’s discussing online auctions in this installment. Keep reading to check out her hauls and pick up a few tricks of the trade. And don’t forget to check in next month to see what she finds in North Georgia. 

While I love traveling and discovering great items in shops, every now and then, I decide to shop from the comfort of home through online auctions. Why would I do this when there are so many great finds out there to be seen in person? There are basically two reasons:

  1. I am looking for something specific.
  2. I have found a large volume of desirable items listed in the same auction.
This antique Italian Cupid was an online find. (

In my online shop, I consistently sell Japanese and Chinese antiques. Therefore, when I run out of inventory, I occasionally search online auctions for quality items to fill this niche.

Where to start

CTBids, HiBid, or Ebay are good places to start if you are looking for something specific that you haven’t been able to pick up locally. All three sites have search bars, making it easy to bop by and do a quick search for specific things.

These antique wooden chests were all acquired from the same auction. (

Since I am always looking for Blue Willow to sell in my brick-and-mortar shop and Japanese collectibles to sell in my online shop, I usually do a quick search for these items, among other things.

A search on the CTBids site will yield photos of all available items in your desired category nationwide. Then, it is up to you to discern which ones are the practical ones to bid on. Are the items shippable? Is the auction close enough to drive to for pick up? Are there enough desirable items in the auction to make it worth the drive if pick up is required?

For me, if the items are small enough to be shippable and close enough to ensure shipping won’t be astronomical, I will bid. I will also bid if I think I can win enough items to make the drive to get them worth it.

Watch, wait, bid

About two weeks ago, I hit the jackpot on one of these searches. I typed “Japanese” in the search bar of the CTBids site and discovered an online auction full of beautiful Japanese and Chinese antiques, including the boxes and cupid pictured above. This auction required pick up from a location two hours away from where I live. This meant I needed to go big or stay home. After scrolling through the items offered, I knew I was going big.

Speaking of big, look at these huge Chinese Rice Wine Vases I scored at this auction! See the Coke can between them for reference. 

Once the GO BIG decision was made, I put a watch on all items I was interested in, so I could watch them for a few days to make sure the prices didn’t get too high. I also set an alarm on my phone to remind me to bid.

By the time bidding day came, I had researched the items I was interested in and made a list of the highest amount I was willing to bid on each one. I do this to keep myself from getting caught up in the bidding and spending more than intended.

Thus prepared, when the alarm sounded, I commenced to bidding, winning… and, of course, losing.

This hand-carved swan is one of the items I won. (

Hubby’s haul left behind

By the end of the night, I had amassed enough stuff to make it worth the two-hour drive. The problem was that my husband got caught up in bidding on items he wanted too. So, the following Saturday, when I strapped the cartop carrier on my car, hit the road, and started loading up some amazing antique pieces….it all wouldn’t fit!

Let’s just say it was a lucky day for the young lady who was parked nearby. I put everything that didn’t fit into my car into hers, and she drove away smiling with a bunch of free stuff. (But just the stuff my husband bought – ha!) Luckily, I drove away smiling, too, because enough awesome stuff DID fit into my car.

That’s the way to do auctions!

TSP Takeaway

Who should visit online auctions: People looking for very specific items.

Score of the day: Antique Chinese Wine Jars

Predicted profit on Wine Jars: $1,000 – $1500

Re-seller takeaway: Bid on auctions where you want multiple items. It saves on shipping if you need shipping, and if you have to pick it up, it makes it worth the trip.

The Savvy Picker and her car and cartop carrier will be returning to North Georgia next week. If you have a suggestion for a great place for her to shop, make sure to note it in the comments on the Facebook Page beneath this article.

Click here for more great reads and finds. For additional tips on tracking vintage treasures, visit The Savvy Picker website.

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