Auctions and Sales

Never been to a “real” auction? We share the following insider tips and hope they will stand you in good stead.

  1. Know auctions. A lot of people only attend auctions for the first time while intending to bid on something specific. If you intend to become a buyer and collector, you should instead attend more auctions, sit in and observe the process. This will help you “mature”, in a sense, and teach you not to worry about scratching your head at the wrong moment.
  2. Know the terminology. An “estimate price” is just an indication of what a piece is worth; it is not, however, the “market price” or the actual price for which it will sell. “oil on canvas” is not the same as “crayons on cloth”. Knowing the terminology can save you a lot of scrambling around helplessly during the auction.
  1. Find out information about the painting. Who is the artist? Is the piece signed? What size is it? What does it depict? Is there any wear and tear?
  2. Actually go see and examine the piece. Although serious damage will be mentioned in the item description, no auction house accepts liability for buyers who didn’t look twice before raising their numbers. If you are planning on investing in a piece of art, you should at least know that it really is what you picture.
  3. Auction Houses like savvy bidders. A savvy bidder is a serious bidder; Should you come in requesting to view a piece, or come to the pre-sale exhibit with this intention, you will be welcomed.
  4. Make sure you know what total you’ll be paying, and read the Terms Of Sale. Hammer prices usually do not include commissions, which can be anywhere between 15 and 25 percent. There are further charges for online auctions and for any shipping costs.
  1. Be guided by your feelings. There is nothing more wonderful than loving a piece of art and displaying it proudly on your wall. Equally, nothing is worse than morosely looking at a frame and wondering what on earth you were thinking and how long you have to wait for “that thing” to appreciate. Art is a great investment, but if all it adds is zeros to your bank account, sell it further and buy something you actually love, too.
  2. Respect your financial limit. It is easy to be caught by the heat of the auction and go too high, creating no end of issues for your wallet and possibly the auction house. Bids are binding; the best way to have a good bidding experience is not to get carried away by the excitement or even the love of art.
  1. During the auction, an auctioneer is impartial. Nevertheless, cultivating a proper, respectful businesslike relationship is the goal here, for both parties: the ones that want to keep being invited to auctions, and the ones that want to know what to keep an eye out for, for a valued customer.
  2. Any auction house will tell you that the ideal buyer pays by the rules: he pays the full amount within the time frame outlined in the terms of sale, and collects his or her piece in good time, etc.
  1. Some people swear by “sniping” auctions, while others like to establish their dominance early. At the end of the day, your strategy is your own and must be developed personally, over time.
  2. Don’t be afraid to scratch your head. With so many TV shows showing people winning mysterious boxes because they waved at a cousin at the wrong minute, a lot of people like to hold their breath at auctions. Don’t. Enjoy this enriching experience to the fullest extent possible.