Have a family heirloom that you think might command a hefty price at auction? Why not try one of the many high profile New York City auction houses to obtain a great new home for your art, antique or other treasure?
This article will explore the myths and facts of selling at a New York City auction house and help you break through the mysterious aura that surrounds the fast-paced New York City Auction world. Read on and soon you'll hear the auctioneer shout "Sold!" on your treasure!
MYTH #1: High-end auction houses will only consign whole estates from famous people or important collectors.
FACT: Anyone can contact an auction house and ask for a free auction estimate of an item -- Whether you have one oil painting or a houseful of antiques! The auction house will ask you for photographs, provenance and as much information about the piece as possible.
MYTH #2: You have to be present at the auction in New York to participate and bid.
FACT: Most of the large auctions throughout the world are streamed live via the internet. You can register as a bidder at a Sotheby's auction held in Manhattan (or Paris or Hong Kong for that matter) from the privacy of your living room in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Bidding at these auctions is done in "real-time" and you have ample opportunity to view the catalogue and details of the items before the auction begins.
MYTH #3: New York Auction houses only want items in perfect condition.
FACT: Auction houses, especially the high-profile companies like those in New York City employ specially-trained staff to restore, repair or rejuvenate certain items that they accept for auction. Also, many times items are auctioned off "As Is".
Five items of jewelry from the estate of a famous woman writer from the 1920s were included in a 300-lot jewelry auction in New York City. Diamond and platinum watches, pearl and sapphire bracelets and other pieces in the sale had missing stones, broken clasps and other signs of age and wear. The auction house repaired the clasps but sold the bracelets without replacing the missing stones.
All of this imperfection adds to authenticity, history and provenance. The wear and tear tells a story. It can also delight the buyer who may be able to win a bid for much less than if a piece was in pristine condition.
MYTH #4: Even though you may not get the best price, it will be much easier and less trouble to sell your art or antiques locally, since it will be too expensive to ship anything to New York.
FACT: Let's say you have a set of rare Chippendale chairs and you live in Phoenix. If a New York auction house like Doyle or Christie's wants them in their Americana Sale, the nominal cost of shipping will be simply subtracted from the total price when the chairs are sold. Or, you can try to negotiate to have that cost borne buy the buyer of the chairs. The auction house will help you sell your treasures at the highest price for the least amount of distress! Many auction houses have affiliate trucking services that crisscross the country (and the world) to keep shipping costs as low as possible for the seller.
MYTH #5: Auction houses will try to buy your antiques (substitute art, jewelry, cars, property) for much less than they are worth, then make a big profit on your items.
FACT: Auction houses do not usually buy items from people who want want to sell them. It is true that some auction houses will buy whole estates outright to obtain just one or two choice pieces they know will bring out a big crowd and yield top dollar. However, most auction houses will simply enter into a consignment agreement with you.
For a percentage, the house will store, market and sell your property at auction after providing you with a free estimate of what they believe your item can realistically bring at auction. In addition, you will be asked to leave a "reserve" price, a bottom-line amount you are willing to accept for your piece on the auction block.
All of the major houses in New York City, Sotheby's Christie's, Doyle, the new Keno Auction and some of the other respected auction houses in the New York Metropolitan area, like Philip Weiss Auctions on Long Island or Wilner in New Jersey, will fairly appraise your item and give you as much information as they can. Each consignment transaction is written up in contract form, a copy of which you must receive before you leave your treasure in their hands.
The next step after the consignment contract is to photograph the piece for the catalog and advertising purposes. The auction house will then advertise the auction in the appropriate media. Next is the auction itself. Some auctions take place during the day, some in the evening and some over the course of a few days.
Once the auction is over and your treasure has found a new home, a check is mailed to you for the total price, minus the auction house's commission and any other charges you negotiated in the contract (shipping, etc.) Checks are usually mailed within 45 days of the auction.
The auction world for objects of art in New York City is an old one, nearly 200 years old and revolves around a fast-paced game of treasure-hunting, bidding suspense and buying and selling at record prices. It may seem to be an impenetrable place of glamour and money, but that's just the magic of auction night,the public culmination of research and hard work.
Now that you are armed with the basics of how to approach a New York City auction house and you know the steps to usher your treasure through the process, take your photos, make your calls and send your emails. Soon you'll be part of the exciting high-end New York City auction world. Once you consign a piece of your history to a New York City auction, you will want to do it again and again. So, happy auction-hunting and Bid Lively!