Recently, in regard to ebay sniping, Treefrog suggested, if you decide beforehand the maximum you want to pay and firmly adhere to it, you can prevent emotions driving you into competitive bidding wars. Davnea commented, "but when you're sitting there with the seconds counting down, it's all too easy to get carried away and put in an over-the-top counter bid in a knee-jerk reaction. I'm sure that we've all done it at least once."
Many of us have regretted overbidding, and will do so again, because it's impossible to eliminate emotion from collecting, when that's what drives it. When competing at auction with fellow collectors for a coveted machine, parts of the equation that have to be measured are:
1. How much do I want it?
2. How much can I afford to pay?
3. What is its market value?
The first is answered by a subjective response. Emotion based, this may wax and wane considerably as you contemplate the item, responding to its charms and observing its defects. What's more, you're probably influenced to some degree by other collectors' responses to it.
The second question is more objective. How much you decide you can afford will be conditioned by 1 & 3, but current assets determine a practical limit.
The last question is generally the trickiest. If the answers to 1 & 2 are high, you might simply ignore 3 and happily bid until you win. Most of us are not in a position to do that, or if we did, wouldn't be in that position for very long! We need the answer to 3 to ensure we're buying sensibly and that, if forced to sell in the short term, we could recoup most of the cost.
Market value for common machines is fairly well established, but the rarer stuff poses the problem. The auction result may help resolve it, but that's too late for a prospective buyer. No collector will honestly tell you what they think it's worth, unless they're uninterested in buying, in which case, they're probably not the best guide. For these reasons, as a sudden reveal of interest, the bidding affects the bidding, and the adrenalin kicks in. Briefly, we get a peek at where the market stands, but it's a dangerous moment to reassess how honest you've been in your answers to 1 & 2. I'm sure I'm not the only one to do so, and wake the following morning with a touch of Winner's Curse.
The two extremes are:
1. Holding the paddle over your head until you win or your top bid is reached.
2. Signalling your bid with a subtle twitch that only the auctioneer can see.
1 is favourite with auctioneers, because it makes their job easier, especially if they want to bounce some bids off the wall! Maybe the technique is used by some established collectors to dishearten other bidders: "look, if I'm bidding, you guys might as well pack it in." However, prominent collectors may be wise to veer towards technique 2. Somebody once complained to me, having won a machine that proved very difficult to restore, "I thought it was a good one, because I saw you were bidding on it"!