You can buy valuable art and collectibles in all kinds of places—galleries, hotel ballrooms, even roadside tents. Knowing how different auctions operate can help you acquire the best pieces at fair prices or at least, protect you from overpaying.
Consignment auctions: Major auction houses acquire consignments from dealers, private owners, estates, institutions and companies. The auction categories may feature certain genres and price ranges. An item typically carries a reserve price, which is the minimum at which each sells or else be withdrawn. The auction house may host the sale on its premises or at a convenient location. You must register to bid.
Charity auctions and cruise-ship auctions: Charity auctions are organized to raise money for some good cause. Featured works may not always be of the highest order; it’s more about the social scene. But take a close look at the wares—these events often seem to be about getting rid of works the patrons have no use for or perhaps they are hoping for a tax break. Some liner companies, such as Princess, organize auctions as cruise events. With Internet available on most ships now, it’s possible to research the works in advance of the auction. Before you buy on board, you might want to read a cautionary article in The New York Times.
Estate auctions: These involve selling off everything in an estate, property or business, either because the owners want to clear out the place or settle bills. The auction takes place on the property itself or at an auction house. Most items do not have a reserve price, and you may be able to find art at very low prices.
Online auctions: Art, collectibles and antiques are placed for sale online. You can buy and sell directly on WorthPoint in the WorthPoint classifieds. To post items for sale become a WorthPoint subscriber. Also check out the online auctions with WorthPoint’s auction house partners including igavel.com and proxibid.com. For a list of auction partners, visit WorthPoint’s home page.