Saving money and making money at local auctions

ELKMONT, Ala. - On any given night of the week, you can find a neighborhood auction somewhere here in the Tennessee Valley. People buy and sell anything you can imagine at these auctions. Some people go to save money on what they buy. Others go to make money.

They've been doing auctions here at Donna's Barn in Elkmont for about 12 years. Sunday night's auction had everything from boat covers, used basketballs, and yes, even toilet tissue.

“And you can come in here and buy about anything you want to. You don't ever know what's in here,” said owner Donna Hardiman.

And you can usually get it at a bargain price, typically well below what you'd pay in any store. Some come for the bargains. But for others...

“It gives them something to do, and that's the bottom line,” according to seller Floyd Matteson. He added, “You see the amount of space they've got here? They've got the pool tables and everything. They've got a good environment, they've got an excellent cafe. So it just gives you a chance, if you're not looking for something, to at least just come out and have a good time."

You can find anything at these auctions, from appliances to food, clothes and, oh yeah, toys.

For some of the sellers, this is all they do.

“I started selling when I was 7, and for the last 30 years I’ve been doing this as my sole income,” Matteson explained. He makes the drive from Trenton, Georgia each week to sell at Donna’s.

And while Donna does her sales on Thursdays and Sundays, there are plenty of others, like Larry Hilliard at Vintage Lane Auctions in Ardmore. He does his sales on Mondays and Wednesdays and says right now people are looking for Christmas presents.

“And we got plenty of them. We got Christmas sales starting this Monday, Wednesday, all the way up to December the 20th,” Hilliard explained. There will also be plenty of Christmas themed sales at Donna’s every week beginning Thursday.

It's almost a sub-culture of our economy where people buy and sell, trade and even barter. Some make money, some save money. But most everyone goes home with something.

Most of the local auctions have a Facebook presence, but there's also a website where you can learn about local auctions in your area, where they are and when they happen. Click here to be directed to that website. All you need is to provide your zip code to find the auctions nearest you.

If you're going to an auction for the first time, there are several points to keep in mind.

  • Most auction houses DO NOT guarantee what you buy there. Any guarantee would be between you and the seller, not the auction house. So try to examine what you plan to bid on before it hits the auction table.
  • Some auctions charge a "buyer's premium" over and above the sales price. That can range up to 15 percent of the purchase price. Each auction house will post it's rules and policies in plain view.
  • Be careful when bidding! Because the auctions are typically fast-paced, it's easy to get caught up in the moment and bid more than what an item might cost in a retail store. The idea is to save money!