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Today's young and affluent are eager to assert their own sense of style and stand out from the crowd. That desire, combined with their Pinterest and Instagram-fueled lifestyles, has led a growing number of Millennials to begin buying art, watches, vintage furniture, wine and other collectible pieces at online auctions.

“We wanted to find pieces for our home that are really individual and have a story behind them," said Sarah Bedford, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mom from San Diego. Bedford uses her iPhone to follow and bid at online auctions.

“I do it when I'm maybe waiting to pick the kids up from school or sitting in Starbucks. It's really exciting but you just need to have a good idea of what you want," she said.

Barnebys, the auction aggregator of 1,600 global auction houses, says wealthy Millennials are transforming the auction world by bidding on high-ticket items on their mobile phones. "These Millennials are more frequent purchasers than the often wealthier and older people who attend traditional auctions," according to a 2016 Barnebys report.

Venerable auction house Sotheby's has also noted the flight to technology. Online buyers spent $155 million at Sotheby's in 2016, up nearly 20 per cent on the previous year. Nearly one in five of all lots sold at Sotheby's in 2016 were purchased online and over half of the online bidders were new to the auction house.

The auctioneer is capitalizing on its appeal to the younger set.

“Our 'Open Friday Night Late Events and Talks' are engaging a younger audience and making them aware of Sotheby's as a cultural destination," said a spokeswoman. “For most of our exhibitions, we will stream Facebook tours of the show featuring a Q&A with our specialists."

Along with discovering art and antiques through social media channels, Millennials are particularly interested in provenance.

“We recently sold a contemporary western painting to a 24-year-old buyer who was fascinated by the fact that it had belonged to Phoebe Hearst Cooke, granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst," said Jeff Moran, senior vice president of John Moran Auctioneers in Monrovia, Calif. His firm uses a “brick-and-click" strategy – allowing this new generation of buyers to bid online. Emphasis is placed on making the experience of attending an auction in person more enjoyable with complimentary wine and artisanal pizza served at events and one-on-one art consultation for prospective buyers."

Many auctioneers, including Sotheby's and Barnebys, have created apps that make online auctions easier to navigate.

iGavel was founded by curator Lark Mason, a regular on PBS TV's Antiques Roadshow.

“It's an umbrella that brings together a number of auction houses and means that, along with other buyers, Millennials who are used to technology can bid with confidence," he said.

How can Millennials - and anyone, for that matter - become savvy auction bidders?

Six Tips to Help You Succeed

1. Remember that an auction estimate is just an indication of what the auction house believes the piece is worth. You might find that in fact it goes for less if fewer people bid for it than the auction house expected. On the other hand, the price of some pieces can suddenly spiral up.

2. Be aware of additional charges before you bid. Auction houses sometime charge 15 to 25 percent commissions on top of the “hammer price" - and some online bidding platforms add even more.

3. Consider delivery arrangements. Will you as the buyer pay for transportation? Is insurance required? What about import duties?

4. Be focused on exactly what you want. “Once you've honed in on what you want to purchase, stick to what you really love – what you're most enthusiastic about," advises online auction house invaluable.com.

5. Act quickly. If you really want something, start bidding straight away - since you probably won't be the only one interested in it. “Remember to buy with your heart! In 99 percent of the cases you only regret the things you don´t buy," said Pontus Silfverstolpe, one of the founders of Barnebys.

6. Set a budget ahead of time. Some collectibles, such as certain sports cars, have shown remarkable increases in value. But overall, experts advise buyers to purchase what they like, at the price they determine they can spend. Enjoy your piece's aesthetic qualities and if it appreciates in value, regard that as a bonus.

The foregoing information is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank for their interest and consideration. Unless otherwise stated, opinions expressed are those of the respective commenters and not necessarily those of City National Bank. The information is provided without warranty and no recommendation or endorsement by City National Bank for the purchase of collectibles at auction is intended or should be inferred. The information and names provided in this article are also for general information from public sources and without recommendation by City National Bank. This article is not a recommendation or endorsement of the services mentioned herein. The market for collectibles is variable and no assurance can be given that an item purchased at auction can be resold at the same or at an increased price and an item purchased at auction may lose value.