What you don't know about auctions -- and should

The Stuff

TLC AUCTIONEER$ goes inside the fast-paced world of auctions.
TLC AUCTIONEER$ goes inside the fast-paced world of auctions.

What you need to know about auctions and the items in them is that auction houses are essentially clearinghouses for pretty much any object that exists in the world. So if you're an avid hookah collector, an Impressionism art collector, a Judy Garland memorabilia hound or in the market for vintage jewelry, a new car, a forklift or even an old lock from a San Quentin prison cell, chances are you'll find it at auction.

So where do auction houses get their wares? According to AUCTIONEER$ expert and entrepreneur, Deborah Weidenhamer, items come from individuals and families seeking to liquidate their assets or collections, trusts, financial institutions, police forces and government agencies, to name a few. Auction houses also host appraisal fairs and go into the field to find new clients with objects to bring to auction.

And, yes, there is a correlation between the types of items available (and the amount of them on the market) and economic conditions. Weidenhamer explains it as, "When the economy is in a downturn, the first thing that we see are business liquidations and typically restaurants that are going out of business first, and then it sort of moves up the food chain in businesses of who goes out next. The reason restaurants go out first is because it's the first thing that consumers can cut is really eating out, and then we start seeing retail establishments that have non-necessary items go out. So boutiques, those kinds of things will go next."

The bottom line? The law of supply and demand applies to auctions. So if you're a foodie who's always wanted a restaurant-grade stove, you could ring yourself a real deal. But before you look up your nearest auction house, find out what an auctioneer's chant is and the psychology of bidding, including the art of the stink eye.