Philip Weiss Auction house in Lynbrook holds regular live auctions...

Philip Weiss Auction house in Lynbrook holds regular live auctions focusing on military and celebrity memorabilia, January 25, 2015. Credit: Aaron Zebrook

Just like the patter of the quick-talking auctioneer, attending an auction is fast-paced fun, even if you're merely watching.

"A lot of people just come and spend the day," says Philip Weiss, owner of Philip Weiss Auctions in Lynbrook and a regular expert on PBS' "Antiques Roadshow." "They just like to see what things sell for."

Four places have auctions regularly open to the public. Admission is free. While watching the bids on the valuable items soar skyward is exciting, there are plenty of lower-priced items, too, up for auction.

Philip Weiss Auctions

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. Feb 15, March 12 and April 9 at 74 Merrick Rd., Lynbrook

INFO 516-594-0731,

Philip Weiss Auctions has sold some of the most expensive items ever at auction, including an 1869 stamp, rare because the image, showing the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was upside down. The stamp went for $1.2 million.

It's also the auction house that sold one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's felt hats in 1997 for $9,500 and the rare Honus Wagner baseball card for $791,000 about six years ago, says Weiss.

"We have a terrific sale on Feb. 15," he says. "We will have comic books and sports memorabilia." Among the finds will be a "Batman" No. 1 comic book in good condition that Weiss says should get more than $100,000 in bidding. The March 12 sale will be a toy auction, while the April 9 event is an estate sale with fine art, porcelain and jewelry.

South Bay Auctions

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. preview, bidding at noon, Feb. 7 at 485 Montauk Hwy., East Moriches

INFO 631-878-2909,

Jean-Paul Napoli's family has been running this auction house for more than 30 years, with much of the sales coming from the big estates, mostly here on Long Island.

Expect some important artwork at Saturday's auction, including Neil Williams abstract art and a Walter Granville Smith painting of Bellport docks. Midcentury furniture will be sold as well, including a baroque shelving unit once belonging to the Helena Rubenstein estates. "The part I love is going into these old houses and finding these treasures," Napoli says.

Thos. Cornell Galleries

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. preview, 3 p.m. bidding Feb. 7, 79 W. Main St., Patchogue.

INFO 631-289-9505,

Thomas Cornell was an auctioneer in Manhattan before opening his auction house in the former Swezey's department store 15 years ago. The business auctions contents of estates, with an emphasis on antique rugs and furniture, says Cornell's wife, Rosemary.

"We get dealers, decorators, collectors. People furnishing their first home, people redesigning an existing home," she says.

Buyers must register with a credit card and show a driver's license in order to bid, although these steps are not required for those who just want to watch.

Baker's Country Style Auctions

WHEN | WHERE 6 p.m. every Friday at 4770 Sunrise Hwy., Bohemia

INFO 631-648-9371,

COST $5 for auction catalog

Auctions here are not based on any particular category or estate sale content, but typically include old records, model cars, antiques, comic books, toys, and trains. Bids range from $20 to tens of thousands of dollars, he says.

"Sometimes a vendor will auction a whole table [of items] and see how it does," says owner Al Baker. "It's like spinning the wheel in a casino."

There's a $5 fee for the color catalog, which lists all the items that will be put up for bid that night, says Baker, and which also includes entry to the antique and collectible shows held every Saturday and Sunday, with more than 50 vendors.


Auctioneers offer a few tips for first-time visitors:

BE A SPECTATOR. Watching the auction is exciting, and the auctioneer will give a bit of history about each piece. Many collectors come just to see what is out there and what is selling.

RESEARCH. If you're there to buy, focus on the piece that you are really interested in, says Weiss, and learn as much as you can about that item.

ASK QUESTIONS. Auction house representatives are all experts on their collections and will be helpful in bidders' decision making.