How to Choose an Auction House to Sell Your Items

Fine Art Auction House Advice

With all appraisals, you receive free advice on marketing your art and antiques. Auctions are just one venue we help you explore.

Which type of auction house is always a difficult decision. There are local, national, mail order, foreign and Internet. Some charge as little as 3%; others up to 50% of the sale price. Some houses appear to charge reasonable rates but have outrageous hidden charges for catalog illustrations, delivery charges, insurance and buy-back commissions. One Chicago auction house, that conveniently goes in and out of business, has their fees so set if minor items don’t bring a certain price, you end up owning them money and receive nothing.

Many items sell better overseas (Old Master paintings) while others sell better on the West Coast (Chinese artifacts) and some out East (Currier and Ives prints). Some don’t do well at auction (Erte prints). A few items sell only through one firm (books). One category (antiquities) now requires extensive documents that it was acquired and exported legally. Some collections contain items that should be divided and sent to several different specialist auction houses. An estate executor who just dumps everything into one house is irresponsible.

Many items are seasonal. Some sell better in summer (ship paintings) while other in winter (snow landscapes). Most auction houses will not tell you about any of this. They want your items now and will tell you anything to get you to consign to them.

Will the fine art auction house even catalog your items properly? The big auction firms have experts on staff but small Chicago and regional firms have only a couple of people who pretend to be “Jacks of all trades.” This is why, in the front of their catalogs, they say “are statements of opinion and not to be relied upon as statements of fact.” This is so you can’t sue them for their mistakes.

The art/antique world is filled with stories about auction houses that performed shoddy research and sharp specialized dealers that purchased an item from them, and then re-consigned it, properly cataloged, to the correct auction where it would do best.

Learn how to avoid the famous auction house “bait and switch.” They tell you your item will fetch a high value to get you to ship it to them and sign the contract. Then afterwards, when they think you won’t want to be inconvenienced by having it sent back, they tell you they’ve reconsidered and now believe it should have a dramatically lower value. We’ve helped many collectors, like you, re-ship the item to a more reputable venue. The auction world is filled with firms that have recently been fined and/or have had their executives serve prison terms. (One of their understudies just opened an auction house in Chicago). Just read the fine print in an auction contract. If they say one of your items is authentic and after it is sold, it turns out to be a fake, you have to refund the money for their mistake. (A Wisconsin family had to do this on a blatantly miscataloged Van Gogh sold by a Chicago auction house to get publicity). Don’t be another Chicago auction house victim!

Before sending anything to auction, get an independent appraisal that contains thorough research. Get an auction market evaluation of where and when your art/antiques will do best. Get an idea of your tax liabilities and how to legally reduce them. Upon receipt of your auction proceeds, they send you a W2 IRS form. You must then pay tax on this income. We advise you which firm best meets your needs and how to reconstruct your cost basis to minimize your tax. Our cost basis appraisals are guaranteed to be accepted by the IRS. No auction house offers such independent tax advice. We know how to get low dealer consignment rates and eliminate costly insurance fees. We even help with packing and shipping. We offer advice on placing expensive items in trust to eliminate capital gains tax (as high as 38%). We advise on advantages of overseas auctions to be paid in a stronger currency (British Pound) than the present US dollar. No other appraisal firm offers such complete service. We don’t buy or sell art/antiques. We represent only you. Our appraisals don’t cost — they pay for themselves or we’ll refund your money. Ask the auction house if they’ll refund your packing, shipping, insurance and illustration cost and not charge you a buy-back fee if the item doesn’t sell. You’ll soon see if they really believe in your art/antiques.

Minimum fee $125.00

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Click to visit our page Illinois Bar Association Recommendation.
Click to visit our page Buying Artwork.
Click to visit our page Selling Appraisals.
Click to visit our page “Go Green by Selling in Today’s Economy”
Click to visit our page How to Read Auction Records

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