Tuesday, September 16, 2008

THE INS AND OUTS OF NEGOTIATING AT AN ANTIQUES AUCTION

The ins and outs of negotiating at an antiques auction

Collectors have to understand the ins and outs of negotiating and finance. So when this was sent to me last week, I did the puzzle.

You bought a lot of stuff at the antiques auction and want to pay the bill. As fast as you can, add this in your head (no pencils or calculators):

  1. Take $1,000 and add $40 to it. Add another $1,000.
  2. Add $30. Now add another $1,000. Then add $20.
  3. Add another $1,000. Add $10. What is the total?
Did you get $5,000? You overpaid. (See below)


Fast number calculations can be confusing. Ever hear an auctioneer say: "This ring is set with 20 diamonds that total 5 carats, and you know how valuable a 5-carat diamond is." Why the comparison? Small diamonds are worth much less than one big one. Or: "This is over 100 years old. It belonged to my grandmother and she died at 102." Yes, but did she buy it at birth? Or on her 90th birthday? Always listen carefully when money is involved and don't pay $5,000 for something that should cost you $4,100. Oh, did I mention that I gave a version of this puzzle to my 6th-grade math classes long ago when I was a math teacher?

Any other auctioneer sayings with numbers that you have heard?

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

My favorite is when the Auctioneer says to his counterpart on the podium: "Do you think this is a Tiffany, KPM, or any other desirable company? And, the counterpart on the podium is handed the item by the runner, looks at it and says: I think it is but we were so busy I did not really get a chance to look at everything. I think it is a ...."

Buyer beware.

Anonymous said...

I'm completely lost...
How on earth can you ever get $5,000???

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I am having a dumb day or what. I have added up those numbers with and without a calculator and I keep getting $5000.00 what am I doing wrong?

Anonymous said...

While auction houses can get you in the bidding process, it's also important to notice the percentage they charge for the "buyers premium". Sometimes it can be almost 20% so what you bid isn't what you pay.

Anonymous said...

Sneaky! I can guess about the psychology behind this puzzle, but I'd love to read more about it. Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

"If it's worth one, it's worth two"!

Anonymous said...

One that used to throw me was, "Two times the money" which I learned the hard way was if there were two items, you were not bidding on one price, but rather, the price times two or for EACH piece. I don't think they were trying to mislead me, just my inexperience with the terminology.
B. Crawford

richard said...

Auctioneers figured out many years ago that "times the money" brings a higher price than selling as a lot. For some reason people will bid $10 per item for say 5 items when they might only bid $30-35 if sold as a single lot. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

For those who keep getting $5000 for an answer. Check your final calculation $4090 + $10 = $4100

Anonymous said...

Please! How do you get $4100? I'm going crazy!

Anonymous said...

i regularly attend an auction here in virginia. the merchandise ranges from good to mostly so-so. the food however is excellent! after not getting an opening bid of $50 the auctioneer will drop the asked for bid to $10. when four hands shoot up he will "roll" the bid across the room 10,20,30,40 etc before you can get your hand down. should you complain, you will get a lecture from the auctioneer. other times the auctioneer will be asking for a bid of $50, but when you raise your hand, he will hit you for $60. aggravating? yes. illegal? probably. but the food is good!

Anonymous said...

Is someone ever going to explain this? I'm another one who doesn't understand it at all!

Anonymous said...

Can anyone please explain how the puzzle does not equal $5,000? Where's the trick?

I totally don't get this and I don't feel like trying to relive the horrors of math teachers ideas of fun.

Thanks!

quetzal said...

First of all, you have a very confusing web page - poorly designed. Secondly, I am a well qualified mathematician and come up with $5000 every time. If you get $4100 you know something about English and math that I don't.

Wouldn't you think someone as SMART as you would explain this very apparent trick?

Carl D. Petersen
Harvard, IL

Anonymous said...

Can someone please explain the puzzle for us? Thank you!

Anonymous said...

For all the people still stuck on $5,000 instead of the correct $4,100 -- you "probably" are "thinking" that the $40+30+20+10 = $1,000 because of the way those smaller numbers are spaced between the $1000 figures -- but those four smaller numbers add up to only $100.

4 X $1000 = $4000
$4000 + $100 = $4100

Or you can add the numbers in sequence:

$1000 + $40 = $1040
$1040 + $1000 = $2040
$2040 + $30 = $2070
$2070 + $1000 = $3070
$3070 + $20 = $3090
$3090 + $1000 = $4090
$4090 + $10 = $4,100

Anonymous said...

This is a foolish and stupid example of an auction. The figures do add up to $5000. The question was add up the figures. The poster of this quiz made no mention of a diamond or 102 year old grandmother... just asked us to add up these figures period. I am sorry that Ralph has passed away, but I feel whoever dreamed up this phoney example is just insulting our own lives.

Anonymous said...

The point of this exercise appears to give you examples of ways you can be misled in purchasing at auction, not just a math question. Both are examples of mistakes buyers can unintentionally make. These may or may not be deliberately done by the auctioneer. The point is to make the buyer wiser.

Anonymous said...

(PEOPLE THIS IS WHAT THE PROBLEM IS TRYING TO PROVE!!!!)The point of this exercise appears to give you examples of ways you can be misled in purchasing at auction, not just a math question. Both are examples of mistakes buyers can unintentionally make. These may or may not be deliberately done by the auctioneer. The point is to make the buyer wiser. WHO EVER LEFT THIS GETS IT.

Anonymous said...

drzoeglThis is for quetzal-
Since 4090 + 10 is clearly 4100 (unless my gradeschool math serves me wrong)...
Maybe those working for the Kovel's webpage are
SMARTER than you think- 'cheap' shot', by the way, complaining about the webpage so soon after Mr. Kovel's death...hope you're not trying to win friends or influence people!
Some of us thought the math puzzle fun!
How 'bout those antique auctions, anyway!

Anonymous said...

SORRY FOLKS-IT DOES ADD UP TO 4100. ADD 40+30+20+10=100. ADD UP 1000 WHICH IS MENTIONED 4 TIMES. TOTAL=4100. NOW FIGURE HOW MUCH YOU'VE LOST THRU THE YEARS.
M.J.PAUL r-r

Anonymous said...

Hell, I graduated from college with a M.S. in Physics, and I don't get it. There is a missing $1,000 some where. Plain and simple. RJS

Anonymous said...

VERY GOOD. $1000 PLUS $10 =
$1,010.

Anonymous said...

I FINALLY got it. Took me about 10 minutes. My sympathies to the Kovel family and the entire Kovel team.

depglass said...

I FINALLY got it, took me about 10 minutes. My sympathies to the Kovel family and the entire Kovel team.

Anonymous said...

The phrase an auctioneer uses can be something that lightens up the room. At Hanzel Galleries, I would treat most of the pieces in our Fine Arts and Antiques sales from a serious and professional side.

In our more general "walk around" sales ~ the items stayed in place and I was on a portable stand and pushed up and down the aisles ~ I would occaisionaly (but not regularly) be creative:

"And this is an interesting piece..."

"Hmmm... haven't seen one like this before"

And I did occaisionally "combine" lots if they were smalls and from the same consignor:

"OK, lot #1234 didn't sell, so if you buy lot #1235 you get it for FREE!"

The buyer usually left it behind for donation to charity.

John Hanzel

Julie said...

I got it and had to have someone explain how one could get $5000. Grouping numbers is great in some circumstances, not all. Think I understand politics better now that I understand how some people didn't get this. :-)) So sorry about Mr. Kovel. Keep up the great work though! Love your blog!

Anonymous said...

Our local auctioneer announces every piece of glass as either depression glass, milk glass, or pressed glass, even if it was bought yesterday at walmart. He also announces every lamp as "an oil lamp conversion", even if it's only 3 years old. Hey, some of us even fall for it sometimes!!

Anonymous said...

$1000 + $40 = $1040
$1040 + $1000 = $2040
$2040 + $30 = $2070
$2070 + $1000 = $3070
$3070 + $20 = $3090
$3090 + $1000 = $4090
$4090 + $10 = $4,100

Anonymous said...

Take $1,000 and add $40 to it.

= $1040

Add another $1,000.

= $2040

Add $30.

= $2070

Now add another $1,000.

= $3070

Then add $20.

= $3090

Add another $1,000.

= $4090

Add $10. What is the total?

= $4100

Q.E.D.

Smerk said...

Some people paid a lot of money for a college education and they can't add. "I am a well qualified mathematician and come up with $5000 every time. If you get $4100 you know something about English and math that I don't."
Uh ... I didn't go to college and though I did get 5k initially, I realized immediately my error when it was pointed out that the answer is not 5k. (I kinda understand the physics M.S. person, physics folks can be airheaded)

Anonymous said...

Speaking about the value or how the auctioneer can demand a price. What I have noticed the most is when the crowd is not bidding the auctioneer can make one comment, like, this was someones grandmothers or your missing the boat here. Next thing you know something that isn't worth five dollars is selling for ten times its value. People are very vulnerable. Sad but true. All I can say is knowledge is the key, don't believe everthing you here, and most of all follow your instincts, and your list. I always make a list of the items I want to bid on but at times I deviate (because of an auctioneers comments) from the list. Always a big no, no. You make the list for a reason, as I said before follow your instincts.