Thursday, October 23, 2008

Great Values Found at Local Auction Houses

Jacob Greenleaf, painting (1887-1968) Painting is offered at 31 Gallery.

Before I left on my trip earlier this month, a friend called to tell me about an auction in Massachusetts. I agreed to take a look at what they were offering. I honestly wasn’t that excited to so this; I had packing on my mind. I took a look at the offerings on their site anyway, mostly out of courtesy to my friend. But, surprise surprise. There were at least 12 paintings that caught my interest. I ended up leaving bids on 6 of them.

While I was away, I became the owner of 2, one of which is by Jacob Greenleaf, whose work we already own. I have since talked to the owner of Blackwood-March Auction in MA, and we have agreed to keep in touch.

I have found that Local auctions seem to be the most profitable place for me to buy good art. They have every bit in quality that the major houses have, and this is where we can profit.

First, there’s less competition. Maybe it’s because the advertising might not equal that of the major houses. Or, perhaps people just don’t pay as much for items because they figure the quality is less than they might find at one of the major houses. I don’t truly know the motivation behind each person placing great items in local auction houses, but consider this my very educated guess. I do know this, however: High quality items very often turn up at local auction houses because, the truth is, people would rather deal with people they know, not to mention the cost to them is usually less. There is also the intimidation factor many people feel when dealing with Christie’s or Sotheby’s. I’ve experienced it firsthand.

The best way to take advantage of this phenomenon, is to make a listing of all the auction houses within 75 miles of your home. Call each one of them and ask to be put in their database. This will allow these houses to contact you whenever they have an auction. Doing this will give you plenty of time to prepare for your visit to preview, or to decide upon which of their offerings you might want to leave absentee bids after you view their fliers or catalogs.

When you view the auction houses’ offerings, don’t limit yourself to just one type of item. I often find the best items in the sale weren’t the ones I thought I’d be buying. My intentions might have been to buy a painting, but after I studied the offerings, I discovered a Meissen figurine, for example. If this is an auction where most of the people in attendance would rather have stoneware instead of a Meissen, I might just pick up that bargain I was looking for.

I’m telling you, aside from having entree into private homes, these local houses could end up being your greatest asset.

You might be seeing and hearing all bad news on TV and radio, but don’t believe it all. The antique and fine art business is well and healthy!

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