To novices, auction etiquette may seem bewildering. Best-buys experts Andrea Lubershane and Erik Kanin suggest these steps to becoming a seasoned bidder:

Watch and wait. Get a feel for the action. Be aware of the prices items are getting. If you're looking for something special -- Kanin collects antique kaleidoscopes -- you may have to go to 20 auctions before you buy.

Set a limit on what you want to spend and don't go over it. "If you go over your limit," says Lubershane, "you'll usually regret it later."

If you don't know whether a piece is authentic -- and therefore worth more -- pay only its "use" value to you.

Check newspaper classified ads under "Auction Sales." Get on auction house mailing lists. If you're interested in a certain county or region, subscribe to the local papers for auction notices. Ask auctioneers about future sales they may be working.

Don't boost the bid more than you have to. Many novices here, they say, make "extravagent" bids when they need only raise the ante a dollar or two for cheaper items.

Visit antique shops to familiarize yourself with prices.

Don't believe everything an auctioneer says. In their spiel, "they can build up" an item that has little value. Check it out yourself.

At a farm or country sale, talk to the local people. Often they can tell you about the lamp you're buying. Says Lubershane, they'll tell you something like, "I remember that. Mabel's mother had it on her table for 20 years."

Don't speculate. Buy for your own use and satisfaction. Remember, an "ugly antique is going to look ugly 20 years from now. If you think it's ugly, everyone else will too."

Keep an eye on who's bidding against you. If it's a woman dressed expensively, "you know at a certain point she's going to get it."

Take a picnic lunch. Consider your day an "outing." Don't take things too seriously.