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LIVE ONLINE AUCTIONS - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

You may also want to review the GENERAL AUCTION GUIDE

General Information

Introduction
Do I need a fast computer?
I have questions about a specific item?

Registration

How can I participate live online? Where do I register?

Bidding Live Online

How do I bid?
Absentee and Live bidding - some comments
Potential Areas of Confusion
The Auction Computer Clerk

After the Auction

I won an item. Now what?
Can I pay by credit card?
When will I receive my poster(s)?
Shipping, Handling and Insurance?
Do you ship overseas?
Are there any taxes that I have to pay?

Introduction
In May of 2000, we began broadcasting our live poster auctions in San Francisco via the Internet. Poster enthusiasts all over the world have the opportunity to participate live in our sales via computer. Contrary to absentee bidding, you can place your bids in real time via the Internet when the live event is taking place. You don't have to be at the floor of the auction house to bid live - you can participate right from your computer!
 
In order to help you understand the exact process of live bidding, we encourage you to read through the information provided below. Live Auctions have some obvious and some not so obvious differences from regular online sales (such as Ebay). Our 2-year experience with live auctions has been excellent. Our clients have embraced the option of participating live from their home computers. But there are some subtle differences between absentee and live bidding and between live bidding and bidding by telephone, fax or in person. We want to make sure that all participants understand the exact bidding process.
 
Invaluable.com and Ebay Live, our online auction partners, have added a great Bidder Demo that explains the live online bidding process. You will learn how to register for a sale, place bids, and see exactly what happens when you bid live. Click here for the online demo. 

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Do I need a fast Computer?
No, not really. Click here to see if your PC or Mac meets the minimum system configuration requirements for live bidding. These requirements apply only for live bidding – you can browse the catalog, search for lots, and place absentee bids with almost any system configuration.
 
I have questions about a specific item in the catalog
If you have questions about any of the posters or poster lots offered in our sale, please contact us by email, phone (925.673.3343) or fax (925.673.3355) and we will try to help. If possible, we will be happy to provide additional details about the condition of a specific poster, send you additional images by email or simply answer your general questions about the auction. But please do not wait until the last minute! The closer we get to the auction date, the busier we are. We will try to respond to all inquiries but encourage you to contact us at least 2-3 days before the auction.

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Registration
To bid online in our poster auction, you need to complete two registration steps:
1. Register with Invaluable.com or Ebay Live, if you haven't already. Only registered users can participate in Live Online Auctions.
2. Sign up for our auction. Each time you want to participate in a Live Auction, you have to review and agree to the terms and conditions governing that specific sale. Once you agree with them, you are ready to participate in that event.
Make sure to review our Terms and Conditions of Sale.

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How do I bid? Logging and bidding live
On the day of the auction, a computer participant can open the live auction window through Invaluable.com and choose to either just "view" the sale or "view and bid." (Some people choose "view" to make sure they don't accidentally press the "bid" button). When you "enter" the auction, a pop-up window (through Java) will open and allow you to participate in the sale. You see the current lot number, a description of the item and a large image. Since images are loaded in the background, a computer bidder can easily follow the sale even with a 56 k modem connection to the Internet. The computer screen will reveal to you at what stage the bidding is and what  bid amount is required. All you have to do is click the "Bid" button. On the computer screen, both Invaluable absentee and live bidders are shown as "live" bidders. All other absentee and floor bidders are shown as "floor" bidders.
 
A tip: if you have never participated in an Invaluable Live Auction sale, you may want to visit any ongoing live auction and just view that sale (no prior registration necessary) to see what this looks like.

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Absentee and Live Bidding - Some Comments
There are three ways to bid in our auctions: by fax/mail order bid, by telephone (limited) or live.

Absentee Bids: who wins?
Absentee/Order Bids may be sent to us directly or be submitted via Invaluable.com. All bids submitted to us directly are entered into our auction database and will then be executed by the auctioneer on the day of the auction on behalf of the absentee bidder at the lowest possible price. Absentee bids ALWAYS have precedence over live bids. In case of multiple, identical absentee bids, the winner is the person whose bid first reached our office.

Absentee bids placed with Invaluable.com are unknown to us until the day of the auction. If someone places an absentee bid with Invaluable.com, we have no access to the bidder or the amount of the bid. This information is kept secret. As a result, absentee bids placed directly with us have precedence over absentee bids placed on Invaluable.com.

Example: Multiple, Identical Absentee Bids
A poster has a reserve of $500. We receive only one absentee bid by mail on this item for $500. An Invaluable user also leaves a bid for $500 on Invaluable for the same item. When the lot is called, the auctioneer open this particular poster at $550 on behalf of the absentee mail bidder. If nobody else bids $550 (the next increment), the absentee bid for $500 is the FIRST and WINNING bid. At that point, we have NO WAY of knowing whether the Invaluable bid for $500 was an absentee bid or a live bid and when it was placed! All the computer clerk at the auction sees is that someone online (live OR absentee) is willing to bid $500. Since the auctioneer already opened the lot with $500 on behalf of the absentee mail bidder, the computer clerk enters the $500 bid as a floor/absentee bid and asks for $550 from the internet. But nobody else wants to bid $550. Thus the poster is sold to the absentee mail bidder for $500.

Why is this important?
It is important, because a person who left an absentee bid with Invaluable may feel that he/she should have won the item! The problem is that we have no way of knowing about the Invaluable bids until the auction begins. In fact, we do not learn about a bid on a specific item until we open said lot.

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Potential Areas of Confusion
Absentee bidding is of course, irrelevant to those who participate live in the auction. As a live bidder, you have the advantage of controlling your bid and deciding to increase your bid by that one increment that may decide the winner. Live online bidders have the same advantage as telephone and floor bidders, but Invaluable's auctions may sometimes be perceived to work in strange ways. Here is how the Invaluable apparatus works:

Example: Multiple Absentee Bids
Again, a poster has a reserve of $500. Bidding increments are $50 at this point. An Invaluable user, let's call him FRANK, is the first to leave an absentee bid on Invaluable for $1000. Now a second Invaluable absentee bidder, let's call him SAM leaves a bid for $600. Common sense might suggest that these two bids would be weighed against one another and that the starting price for the lot would be $650 - one increment higher than the second highest bid. But since FRANK was the first to leave his absentee bid, he would win the item for $600! His bid came first! Invaluable absentee bidders will be beaten by the exact amount of their own bids in the event that an earlier, higher Invaluable absentee has already been placed.

Example: Invaluable Live Bidders vs. Absentee Bidders
The live bidding process works exactly the same way. To continue the previous example, let's say a floor bidder SALLY now bids $650. The auctioneer accepts her bid. The computer clerk enters $650 as the leading floor bid. The Invaluable computer system immediately responds with a bid of $700 (FRANK's absentee bid). Again, the computer clerk does not know whether this was an absentee bid or a live bid, but it was submitted and the clerk accepts it. FRANK is the high bidder again at $700. Finally, TOM enters a live bid through Invaluable and enters $750. The auction clerk sees another bid on his computer: $750. The clerk accepts the bid and the new high bid is $750. But strangely, FRANK continues to be the high bidder! Why? Because, as is the case with the Invaluable absentee bids, FRANK'S absentee bid gets priority status over TOM's newly entered live bid. So no matter what happens online, FRANK will win the bid against any and all Invaluable live bids up until $1000. In fact, every time TOM submits a new bid, his bidding amount just ends up being the new high bid on Invaluable showing FRANK in the lead! (until $1000 is reached).

Where is the problem?
A bidder like Tom may be confused (and probably very upset) when he sees that every time he leaves a higher live online bid, he is outbid by someone else at exactly his bid amount! It looks like the auction clerk is constantly accepting someone else's bids and ignoring poor Tom altogether! The truth is that the auction clerk cannot tell who is actually submitting a bid online. The auction clerk is merely informed that there is a bid. He has no way of seeing whether this is a live or an absentee bid or who is submitting the bid.

Gaps in the Auction Protocol
But the biggest problem is that Invaluable's auction protocol does not even show that TOM ever participated in the sale. His bid is automatically rejected by the Invaluable computer system! The auction protocol will only list FRANK as the bidder at the various stages of the bidding process and as the final winner of said item.

We (and several other auction houses) have complained to Invaluable about this issue and have asked that all participants be incorporated in the protocol for a sold item. Invaluable has not made any changes.

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The Auction Computer Clerk
There is only one computer clerk on the auction floor communicating with the internet bidders (via a computer). The screen he is looking at merely shows "Internet Bid for $ xxx." The computer clerk has to accept or reject (in case the floor bidding is already further along) that bid. The clerk does not know whether the bid is an absentee or a live bid. He also does not know WHO is actually bidding on a specific item. This information only becomes available once the bid is accepted! Finally, the computer clerk is merely receiving ONE bid on this screen! There are never multiple online bids that he can choose from.

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I won an item. Now what?
All winners will automatically notified both by Invaluable and us. We require that you email us your contact information (name, address and telephone number). In response, we prepare and email your bill. We will calculate your total and will give you several choices with respect to insurance, packing/packaging and shipping (see below). Payment is expected within 2 weeks of the close of the auction.

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Payment Options
We do not accept credit cards for auction purchases. But: you may use a service like BidPay.com to purchase a money order using your credit card. Bid Pay charges a percentage fee for this service.
 
We do accept regular US checks, cashier's checks and US money orders.
 
Overseas buyers may purchase a US dollar check from their home bank and mail it to us. This is the least expensive payment option. You may, of course, use an online service, like BidPay.com. If you wire the money directly to our bank account, we charge a flat $30 wire fee for all foreign wires and $10 for all domestic wires. This flat fee is the minimum service charge that we pay our bank for incoming wires.

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When do I receive my poster?
Your poster(s) will be shipped to you after we have received your payment. All California residents will need to pay 9.25% sales tax to the purchase price and the buyer's premium (unless you have a valid CA Resale License).
 
If you are a new client and decide to pay with a personal check, we will wait for your check to clear. If you pay by money order or cashier's check, your purchase can be shipped immediately.
 
We prefer to ship posters on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday so that FedEx or other carriers may not have to store and hold the poster longer than absolutely necessary. If you need us to expedite your shipment, please contact us. 

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Shipping, Handling and Insurance
Shipping charges depend on the size and weight of the poster and the tube as well as your physical location.
 
Shipping within the USA
We generally ship via the United States Postal Service but are happy to use FedEx or UPS, if you prefer. If you have your own FedEx or UPS account, we will be happy to use your account number. When we ship via the US Postal Service, we use thick tubes for better protection and add a delivery confirmation or signed delivery service. Insurance is optional.
Overseas Shipping
We try to minimize the cost of shipping for all clients. Overseas shipping can be expensive. When we invoice you, we generally give you a choice between different US Post Office options. But the US Post Office has certain restrictions on size/length of tubes to foreign countries.
 
Example:
A 2-3 pound package to Belgium or Germany with one poster (40 x 24 in.) would cost approx. $35 (7-14 days) or $40 (3-5 days) + insurance + the cost of a thick tube (approx. $4-8).

Insurance
Insurance is optional. We use both the carrier a well as a private insurance company for all insured packages.
 
Please visit the US Post Office online for exact insurance prices. We will quote you the price for insurance when we email you your invoice after the auction.
 
Tubes
We usually sent posters in thick, protective tubes. These costs between $4 and $8, depending on the size.
 
Taxes
All California residents will need to pay sales tax on top of the the purchase price and the buyer's premium (unless you have a valid CA Resale License).
 
There are no taxes for foreign buyers. When we ship overseas, we must declare all posters for customs for their full purchase price. We understand that the VAT is be very high in some European countries. Based on our experience, our overseas clients generally have no problems with Customs when a package is sent via the US Post Office. FedEx and UPS seem to have stricter regulations and agreements with the customs offices abroad.

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