Buying Help

How to Bid

There are many ways you can purchase items from one of our auctions:

In person

If you come to our live auction, you'll have a chance to look over the lots before we start. Each bidder is given a card with a bidder number. When you see an item you want to bid on, simply hold your card or hand up so that the auctioneer can see it. As the bidding continues, the auctioneer announces the current price and asks if anyone is willing to raise the bid to the next increment. Don't worry! We watch closely to see who is bidding so that all interested bidders stay in the running. And we speak clearly and plainly, so you'll be able to easily follow the bidding.

Once the bidding is complete, we announce the bidder number and the "hammer" (this term comes from the traditional use of a gavel by early auctioneers), or final, price. And NO, we won't mistake your scratching your head as a bid!

Bid LIVE on Bidsquare

We offer live bidding on so you can view and bid each item in real time along with the bidders attending our live auction. This technology continues to develop and Cowan's is on the cutting edge.

Email, US Mail, or Fax

You may bid by email, US mail or fax by completing and submitting an absentee bidder form. However you send in your bid, tell us the maximum amount you are willing to pay. A member of our staff will execute your bid for you when that lot goes up for sale. If the bidding is competitive, we will keep you in the running until your maximum is reached. If you are the successful bidder for an item that does not reach your maximum, we will NOT charge you the full amount.

Absentee and telephone bidding is offered as a service to our customers, and prospective bidders shall not hold the auctioneer or his staff responsible for any errors or failures in executing bids!

Absentee bidding

Absentee bids are accepted via mail, phone, fax or email. We also accept bids directly on our website. Such bids will be posted with the time and date of arrival, with ties being awarded to the earliest bidder.


All absentee bids are executed competitively by a member of the auction staff. We will try to purchase the lot you are interested in as cheaply as possible. We do not open bidding with your top bid, rather we will bid up to the amount you have left only if necessary. We do not accept "buy bids." In the event of a tie bid between a floor and absentee bidders, the floor bid will be honored.

Download Printable Absentee Bid Form

Telephone Bidding

You can arrange in advance for us to call you when a particular lot comes up for sale. A phone reservation may be placed directly on our website. We can estimate the time we will be calling (we usually sell 100 lots per hour), but to be sure, you should plan to be at the number you give us at least a half hour before the estimated time. We will make every attempt to reach you at the number you provide, but there is nothing we can do if your phone has a caller block, if the number is incorrect, if the line is busy, or if there is no answer.

When we reach you, a member of our staff will relay the asking price as the bidding proceeds, and you can tell us whether or not you want to stay in. If you are the winner, you will be informed at the time the hammer price is determined.

Bidding live via the telephone is available on a first come, first served basis for those lots with a low estimate of $500 or greater, and is restricted to those bidders outside the 513 or 859 area codes. In order for us to efficiently serve the needs of those who wish to bid by phone, please note the following:

  • If you reserve a telephone line on the absentee bid form, please indicate that you wish to bid via this option by checking "I WISH TO BID BY TELEPHONE" for the lots for which you wish to be called.

  • We strongly advise you to also leave an absentee insurance bid for the lots for which you wish to be called. After nearly every auction we receive a call from someone who forgot the auction date, gave us his or her office number when he/she was actually at home, or somehow missed our call. By leaving an "insurance bid" that will be executed ONLY if we cannot reach you, disappointment can often be avoided.

  • Make certain you leave the number where you wish to be reached on the day of the sale. Since our sales tend to occur on Saturday, do not leave your office number unless you plan to be there! If your phone is equipped with caller id, make sure your phone will accept calls from incoming callers who do not identify themselves. We have had several instances where we received a call block and could not reach a potential bidder.

  • We sell about 100 lots per hour, so plan your day accordingly! We will make every effort to find you, but we cannot be held responsible for missed calls.

  • Do not wait until the last minute to reserve a phone line.

Bidding Increments

The auctioneer reserves the right to reject any bid for any reasons. The following increments are used at the auction. If you leave an absentee bid, please make certain that your bid(s) fall within these increments.

PLEASE NOTE: We will automatically reduce your bid to the closest increment if your bid falls outside the published range of increments

For Bids falling Between

Bidding Increment









5001 and up

500 or at the discretion of the auctioneer

Buyer's Premium

(a) Buyer’s Premium for “Antique and Modern Firearms” and "the World at War" auctions. The Auctioneer will collect and retain from the Buyer, as additional commission, a premium equal to 15% the Sale Price of each Lot up to and including $200,000, plus 10% of the amount by which the Sale Price exceeds $200,000.

(b) Buyer’s Premium for “Decorative Art”, “American History”, and “American Indian and Western Art” and any other specialized auctions. The Auctioneer will collect and retain from the Buyer, as additional commission, a premium equal to ​20% of the Sale Price of each Lot up to and including $200,000, plus 15% of the amount by which the Sale Price exceeds $200,000.


Invoices will be mailed to all successful bidders within 72 hours after the close of the auction. Successful bidders are expected to pay for their purchases immediately. If payment is not received within 10 business days after the mailing of an invoice, absentee bidders authorize Cowan’s to charge their purchases to their credit card left on file with their absentee bid.

IMORTANT NOTE: A surcharge charge of 2% will be reflected in the final purchase price for the use of Visa or Mastercard.


Cowan's is happy to provide a shipping estimate in advance of the auction - please contact us at to use this service, or call us at 513-871-1670 (ext 219).

Shipment generally occurs 7 - 14 days after payment has been received. Payment with a money order or bank draft expedites this process. We prefer to ship via UPS or Federal Express, and unless absolutely necessary, will not ship to a P.O. Box. For this reason, please provide a street address for our shipper. It will expedite your receipt of your purchase.


Successful bidders are required to pay for all shipping, insurance and handling charges. Your purchases are valuable, sometimes irreplaceable, and important. We cannot, and will not skimp on making certain they reach you safely. You should be aware that for larger and/or valuable items, shipping charges can be substantial.

If you have a FED EX or similar overnight delivery account, we will be happy to ship via these services. Simply supply us with your account number, and we’ll expedite your shipping. Because we will still incur handling and packaging expenses for this service, you will still be charged a handling and packaging fee.

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