We all enjoy auctions – the competition, the chance to bag a previously unheard of artistic treasure that you can retire on… We all start off not knowing what to do, however, so if you’re new to the auction scene, this (in no particular order) is how you can make a go of it.

You should always have a good look at the lots you’re interested in before you make a bid. If you’re bidding online or over the phone, ask for a condition report.

When you look through the catalogue, watch out for phrases like “in the style of”, or “after the such-and-such era”, as these are disclaimers used with replicas.

Don’t sweat it if you lose out on a lot – chances are there’ll be another one along at some point.

Don’t ever worry about asking auctioneers for advice, they can be as enthusiastic as you. Some specialist auction houses, like Belfast’s Ross’s Auctioneers, have experts on hand to offer help.

Make sure you know what the buyer’s premium is; premiums range from 18% to 25% and you may also have to pay VAT.

Restored items will always be of lower value. Also, if you’re buying something that needs restoration, factor the cost into your bidding.

Realistically, restoration is only acceptable if the item is very old indeed or is very rare. If an item is neither, don’t bother unless you want it for sentimental reasons.

Watch out for “marriages” – furniture made from several different pieces of other items. They’ll be cheap, so look closely.

If you’re investing, or you plan to make a profit, build a collection in a narrow field and sell it all in one go through a specialist.

To make a success of your collection, stay within that particular field and become something of an expert in it; you’ll be surprised how rapidly this will happen!

Always get a receipt. Always.

Silver items are usually great investments and silver is a hard metal to fake. Unlike gold.

Speaking of which – if a gold item has no hallmark, don’t bite it, or try any old wives’ tales to verify it, take it to a specialist lab to be tested.

Don’t just look at the painting or print, look at the frame as well, as occasionally the frame is worth more!

If you’re planning to invest in antiques, then look at current trends – trendy items will always cost more, but they may lose value as interest fades. Look at what’s up and coming and concentrate on that.

If you don’t know much about a particular item, style or era, leave it alone until you’ve done your homework, as you can make very expensive mistakes.

Remember that you’ll never stop learning about antiques. Chances are that once you’ve learned all you need to know about one era or range, another will catch your eye and you’ll start on that.

Make friends with auctioneers and porters – they have all the expertise, after all. The porters also get up close and personal with the items, so they can let you know if there’s something you’re missing.

If you’re serious about investing in jewellery, then you should invest in a diamond tester – they’re not cheap, but then neither are schoolboy errors!