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Article by Editorial | 27th September 2018

Click with Confidence

If you love the idea of seeking out intriguing antiques, but struggle to find the time to visit specialist auction houses and antiques shops, then why not buy online?

Browsing for antiques has never been so accessible. The internet has given us access to antiques from all over the world – not just our local dealers – and going online means that not only can you now shop globally from the comfort of your sofa but with search facilities on the net so good you can easily home in on exactly what you’re looking for.

More and more vintage and antiques dealers are selling online and internet marketplaces such as1stdibs, Proxibid, The-saleroom.com, and sellingantiques.co.uk are all doing really well. Plus, nearly all the big auction houses have their own online bidding services.

All sounds ideal doesn’t it? But as with anything, there are pluses and pitfalls to buying antiques and collectables online. Follow our tips and you’ll be able to click with confidence.

Falling for a fake

Many people are concerned about falling for a fake. Failing to plan is planning to fail or so the saying goes, and this is definitely the case when it comes to buying antiques online. It is vital to make sure you know exactly what you are buying by doing your research before bidding or agreeing to buy.

Look at as many examples as you can online and in person at antiques centres and fairs. Request extra photos from the dealer – it’s your money after all and you’re perfectly entitled to ask for more information.
Most sellers will also provide their contact information in their auction listing. Also, make sure you understand return policies and all the other vital details.

Choose online sites that monitor and vet their sellers as these are the most reliable when it comes to avoiding fakes as members of these sites must follow a code of practice that includes providing accurate information about provenance, restoration or alteration. They should also offer the right to a refund.

Check out Lapada.org which represents almost 600 UK and European dealers and has a large database of items for sale, along with Bada.org which represents 350 British dealers and has around 10,000 items for sale.

Too good to be true?

As with everything in life, if something looks too good to be true price-wise, it probably is. To be sure of buying authentic antiques or 20th century collectables buy via a reputable online dealer. It may sound obvious, but only purchase items that have clear, detailed descriptions and photographs. And always make sure the marketplace and seller use reputable delivery companies. Compare like for like offerings from online dealers – this means you can shop strategically and choose dealers who offer provenance and who have been vetted.


You can only negotiate if you are buying directly from a dealer, most other sites won’t allow this. Most dealers will have a little wriggle room and can offer up to a 10% discount but don’t count on it. This isn’t a boot fair and the sellers have spent a lot of time sourcing, photographing and researching their items. You are paying for their knowledge and time, so please be respectful.

Total cost

Before bidding or clicking to buy, be absolutely sure on the total price. There will be delivery costs, buyer’s premium – at some auction houses this can be as high as 20% of the hammer price – and who pays for return postage should you wish to send the item back? All these factors can add considerably to the cost of your item.


Protect your identity and your cash. Look for secure payment solutions such as Worldpay or PayPal as systems like this ensure that all transactions are secure.

Live auctions

Before you can bid remotely at a live auction you first have to register. Most auctions are streamed live and you can bid via The-saleroom.com on any device such as smart phones or tablets from anywhere in the world. If you find the thought of that too stressful, you can leave an absentee bid but, of course, you may be outbid when the live bidding begins.

Bear in mind that broadband speeds vary so don’t leave it until the last few seconds to bid – you may lose out, however most of the bidding does happen at the end though so you have to walk a bit of a tightrope on this!

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